In his nearly 20 years as an NFL assistant coach, Brian Schottenheimer has coached Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck.
Yet the long-time quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator had this to say Thursday about Russell Wilson, with one Seahawks regular-season game then the playoffs remaining in Schottenheimer’s first year as Wilson’s play caller.
“I think he’s the best I’ve been around, deep-ball thrower,” Schottenheimer said.
The coach made that declaration four days after Wilson threw one of his most exquisite passes of his season, late in the win over Kansas City that clinched Seattle’s place in next week’s playoffs.
In the face of a linebacker blitz up the middle Sunday night, Wilson lofted a rainbow that perfectly dropped over the shoulders of receiver Tyler Lockett and Chiefs cornerback Charavaris Ward. The soaring ball landed precisely onto Lockett’s hands along the left sideline. The 45-yard gain despite good coverage moved Seattle from its 34-yard line to the Chiefs 21.
“That was unbelievable,” Schottenheimer said.
“Then of course, Tyler’s ability to make the catch.”
On Wilson’s next pass, Doug Baldwin stretched with his right arm and tipped the ball to himself to get Seattle to the 1-yard line. Chris Carson ran it in from there for the clinching touchdown of the 38-31 victory.
“And (for Wilson to) come right back and Doug to win man to man and make the catch down the boundary,” Schottenheimer said. “Those were huge plays, game-changing plays.
“They do it every day out here in practice, so it’s the practice carrying over to the game field.”
The Seahawks (9-6) enter Sunday’s season finale against Arizona (3-13) and tune-up before a trip to Dallas or Chicago for a first-round playoff game next week with 10 turnovers in 15 games. If they don’t commit one on Sunday the Seahawks will tie an NFL record shared by the 2010 New England Patriots and 2011 San Francisco 49ers for fewest turnovers committed in a regular season.
Schottenheimer took over for fired Darrell Bevell as the Seahawks’ play caller in January. He said he didn’t know about tying the turnovers record.
He does know coach Pete Carroll has a unique emphasis and practice of limiting turnovers in Seattle.
“That was in place long before I got here,” Schottenheimer said. “So I think it starts with Pete, starts with the organizational belief and it goes to the players doing things fundamentally the right way, the way they carry the football. They believe in it, getting the ball on their right arm, stuff like that. Russ obviously makes really good decisions, that certainly helps.
“It’s just something we do, something we believe in. It’s been working out good for us.”
Way more than good.
Wilson has tied his career high with 34 touchdown passes and just six interceptions through 15 games. Half of those turnovers came in the first two games of the season, Seattle’s losses at Denver and at Chicago when it was throwing 73 percent of the time.
If they don’t commit a giveaway Sunday, the Seahawks—now the best running team in the league—will set an NFL record for fewest turnovers (five) from weeks 3 through 16 of a season.
“Everybody talks about it. Every team I’ve ever been on talks about it. I think we go above and beyond in terms of the way we teach it the way it’s talked about in front of the room, offense, defense,” Schottenheimer said of the Seahawks’ focus on limiting turnovers. “It’s truly a team philosophy, rather than me just standing up there offensively, it’s talked about with the entire group. That’s probably a little bit different.
“So I think we take it a little bit farther maybe than other places I’ve been. It’s easy when the emphasis starts at the top in what you believe in.
“Of course, once you’re doing it and you’re having success and you’re winning, that certainly helps.”