RENTON, Wash. -- After calling plays from the sideline during his first two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and for most of his career as an offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer is now doing so from the coaches' booth.
The move upstairs has presented one challenge: longer walks to and from the locker room during those frantic 12 minutes that make up an NFL halftime. It's usually more of a jog, especially when the offense is getting the ball to start the second half. That was the case during the Seahawks' opener in Atlanta, where the coaches' booths and visitors' locker room are on opposite ends of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
So after the Seahawks put up 38 points in their win over the Falcons, Schottenheimer savored a celebratory treat and took his time getting back downstairs.
"I walked down with my cheesecake and I enjoyed my cheesecake on the way down," he said. "Hey, if they're going to make me run, we got the victory, I'm going to eat my cheesecake slowly walking down. So that was kind of fun."
Everything else about Schottenheimer's move to the booth has gone just fine. From there, he has been pushing all the right buttons for an offense that has carried Seattle to a 5-0 start despite a defense that has given up yards at a historic rate.
The Seahawks are averaging a league-high 33.4 offensive points per game, almost 7.5 points better than their best output since coach Pete Carroll took over in 2010 (25.94 offensive PPG in 2018). Russell Wilson is firmly leading the MVP race, with 19 touchdown passes -- three more than any other quarterback even though Seattle just had its bye -- and only three interceptions. He's in the top five in yards per attempt (8.9), completion rate (72.8%) and QBR (81.8).
The role Schottenheimer has played in his team's success in scheming players open is apparent in this NFL Next Gen Stat: Seattle's pass-catchers have averaged 4.2 yards of separation on receptions, the second most in the NFL behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
"He's been on fire," Carroll said of Schottenheimer. "I think he's done a great job. The changes that we made in the offseason and the adjustments and the work that we put forth in the Zoom season was obviously remarkably effective. I think you've seen this is the culmination of three years of work to get to this point with he and Russ and the coaches and all that. They're just functioning at a really high level.
"Even when we get shut down, we don't do anything in the first half [as was the case in Week 5 against Minnesota], we can rip and put points on the board. It's really important for everybody to know that we can score 21 points in two minutes. We're going to need that again likely down the road. That belief in the truth. I think Schotty is right in the middle of all of that."
Schottenheimer had been mulling a move upstairs for a couple of years. The idea started to appeal to him after the NFL changed its rules to allow coaches to communicate directly with quarterbacks from the press level, eliminating the need for another assistant to relay playcalls from the sideline.
That's where Schottenheimer had called plays for 10 of his first 11 seasons as a coordinator. But with Wilson entering his ninth NFL season and third in Schottenheimer's system, Schottenheimer didn't feel he needed to be on the sideline to hold his hand the way he might a young quarterback or a veteran learning a playbook.
"With where we are with Russ and my confidence level with him and his understanding with the system, it kind of became a no-brainer," he said.
Schottenheimer likes that there's more room in the coaches' booth and fewer distractions. Most of all, he likes the elevated view.
"When you're down on the field and you’re calling plays, you're watching the game and there's certain things you can't see," he said. "Like, if the ball is thrown to the far side of the field, you can't see what happened or did the corner jump a specific route because you're looking 55 yards across the field and there's people [in the way] and you can't see it. When you're up in the press box, you see everything. So that's the biggest benefit. And then of course up there, because you've got space -- we've got more space now, being socially distanced -- but you've got more space to have your call sheet and notes and reminders and things like that.
"The vision is very obvious. You see things so much better. So you're really able to have a great feel for what's going on during the game, whereas sometimes when you're on the field you have to go back and look at the pictures to know what happened."
One of the reasons Carroll was drawn to Schottenheimer in 2018 was Schottenheimer's extensive experience coordinating run-heavy offenses, something the Seahawks wanted to get back to after their run game fell apart in Darrell Bevell's final season as OC.
They did so but are now undergoing an apparent shift. After dropping back on the second-lowest percentage of offensive snaps during 2018-19 and ranking second in rushing yards per game in that span, the Seahawks are fifth in dropback percentage this season. They've fallen to 17th in rushing with so much more of their offense going through Wilson. While they’re running much less often, they're still running effectively -- ranking eighth in yards per carry -- and achieving the offensive balance that Carroll desires.
In other words: Schottenheimer has been having his cheesecake and eating it, too.
"Russ is playing fabulous football, so that means there's some fabulous coaching going on, too," Carroll said. "Russ knows he has his guys around him. Offensive line is just better than we've been, more consistent than we've been. I don't even care about any of the numbers that came out of this [Minnesota] game. We're just better. Look at the connection that he has, that they've developed between the receivers ... That's the result of really good work by Schotty leading the whole thing."