With the Seattle Seahawks hiring Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator to replace Darrell Bevell, talk of nepotism and coaches being handed a job because of their last name or relationships is once again a topic that is ripe for discussion. But the Seahawks connections to Schottenheimer go beyond nepotism and to what appears to be one of Pete Carroll’s core concepts regarding building his coaching staff - he hires coaches with whom he has either worked with previously or someone he trusts has worked with.
That may not seem abnormal, but Carroll does not appear to believe in anything more than one degree of separation when it comes to hiring a coach. As we saw earlier, Carroll’s entire staff can either be traced back to Carroll through a single layer of separation in the form of either a member of the Seahawks coaching staff or front office on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
For example, while Carl Smith has been Pete’s quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks since 2011 after serving two prior stints as a coach under Pete at USC and with the New England Patriots, their relationship goes back decades.
In 1980 at the age of just 28 Pete Carroll became the defensive coordinator for the NC State Wolfpack, a position he held for three seasons through 1982. In his final year in that role, NC State happened to have an offensive coordinator by the name of Carl Smith. While Carroll and Smith both went their separate ways after that lone season, they would reunite in New England in 1997, and for 11 of the past 20 seasons for which Carroll has been a football coach, Smith has been one of his assistants.
Similarly, the connections to Schottenheimer go back far, far beyond serving as the quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts where former Seahawks Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Mark Glowinski and Troymaine Pope have all spent time recently.
Most fans probably recognize Brian Schottenheimer from his last name and the work of his father, or for younger fans, potentially from his time as the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets or the formerly St. Louis, but now Los Angeles Rams. However, Carroll’s one person of separation from Schottenheimer can be traced all the way back to Schottenheimer’s freshman year of college.
What readers will find most often is that Brian Schottenheimer played college football at the University of Florida under the old ball coach, Steve Spurrier, and that is correct. He arrived on campus for the Gators in 1993, and played from 1994 until 1996. So, if he was on campus in Florida in 1993, why wasn’t he playing? The NCAA had long abolished rules forbidding freshmen from playing by the early 90s, so why was it then that Schottenheimer didn’t play until 1994? That answer is simple - because NCAA rules require athletes who transfer to sit out a season.
Schottenheimer’s freshman year of college was not 1993, it was 1992. During the 1992 season he was the sixth or seventh string quarterback for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. It was the best Kansas football teams in a over a decade, with future NFL players on the roster including Gilbert Brown, Chris Maumalanga and future NFL All Pro Dana Stubblefield, and all three of those defensive linemen have connections to the current Seahawks regime. Brown played several seasons for the Green Bay Packers while Schneider was with the Packers and Maumalanga was with the Kansas City Chiefs for a brief time during Schneider’s time as Director of Pro Personnel. In addition, two of Stubblefield’s seasons with the Niners were played under Pete Carroll, but not even that is the oldest link between Carroll and Schottenheimer.
To get to that link, one must look not just at the players on the 1992 Kansas Jayhawks roster, one must look at the coaching staff. So, here’s a picture of the coaching staff of the 1992 Kansas Jayhawks.
Now, I’m sure you’re all laughing at thinking about the 1992 Kansas Jayhawks having a decent coaching staff, but hold on a second and take a look at the list of names in that second image, it just might surprise you. In that picture of the coaching staff, third from the left in the top row is John Jefferson, a member of the college football hall of fame and four time Pro Bowl, three time All Pro wide receiver. Staying in the top row, third from the right is Dave Warner, who is currently the offensive coordinator at Michigan State. At Michigan State Warner works under head coach Mark Dantonio, who is second from the right in the bottom row.
In the center of the bottom row holding the football is Glen Mason, who some may know from his time as head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, while others may recognize from the work he has done calling college football games following the end of his coaching career. And then lastly, there’s that familiar looking guy in between Mason and Dantonio, and that happens to be Golden “Pat” Ruel. Ruel, as many will recognize, was the Seahawks offensive line coach in 2010 after the unexpected retirement of Alex Gibbs, and has served as an assistant offensive line coach for the Seattle since then. Ruel previously served as the offensive line coach at USC under Carroll, as offensive line coach for the New York Giants under Tom Coughlin in 2004 and several other stops through the years.
However, Ruel may not even be the oldest connection to Brian Schottenheimer on the Seahawks staff. Taking a look at the bio for Jamie Yanchar, assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Hawks the following tidbit is found.
Interestingly, looking at that and comparing it to the coaching career with Marty Schottenheimer, what is found is that there is a bit of overlap.
This means that Yanchar was volunteering with the Cleveland Browns in the mid to late 1980s, at the time that Marty Schottenheimer was the defensive coordinator and head coach of the Browns. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Yanchar could have met Brian Schottenheimer before Brian even reached high school.
Now, I sincerely doubt that Pete Carroll asked for a recommendation on Brian from someone who met Brian when he was in middle school. However, Yanchar and Brian may have crossed paths again in 2000, when Yanchar worked in the strength and conditioning program at USC and Brian was the tight ends coach for the Trojans under head coach Paul Hackett and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson for a single season.
What do these decades old connections to Brian Schottenheimer mean to the Seahawks coaching staff? Frankly, I don’t know if they mean anything, other than the fact that the coaching fraternity in the NFL is small and insulated, and the process through which jobs are gained appears far more likely to be based on relationships and recommendations than performance and merit.
In any case, as the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.