Much to the consternation of LA Rams fans, Brian Schottenheimer is off to a faster start in 2019 than Sean McVay. Show me the lie.
Though the Rams are sixth in scoring and the Seahawks are ninth, seventh in yards compared to 13th for Seattle, we know that we have better, more reliably repeatable ways to statistically measure teams these days. Such as DVOA.
The Seahawks rank seventh overall, third in passing, and 18th in rushing.
The Rams rank 11th overall, 15th in passing, and third in rushing.
We know that running it well is not as valuable as passing it well. Seattle’s passing DVOA is 38.8% (defense adjusted value over average, a way of marking the efficiency and value of each throw) compared to 11% for Los Angeles, which ties Jared Goff’s DVOA with the combined efforts of Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel with the Chicago Bears.
The Seahawks have also not run the ball poorly. They have more games this season with 100+ rushing yards than the Rams do (3 to 2) and LA ran the ball for just 28 yards (!) in their 55-40 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. They scored 40 points but turned the ball over four times, all four mistakes belonging to Jared Goff. (To some large degree, of course.)
Seattle has turned the ball over four times total in four games, with three of those belonging to the lack there of hands from Chris Carson. Goff has thrown six interceptions on the season, which is six more than Russell Wilson.
En total, the Rams are more likely to score a touchdown on a drive than the Seahawks are; 44.7% of LA’s drives end in a score, compared to 31.9% for Seattle. But 19.1% of the Rams drives end in a turnover, compared to 8.5% for the Seahawks. This is perhaps the biggest philosophical difference between a Schottenheimer offense and a McVay offense. Not that Seattle doesn’t want more drives to end in scores, and not that LA doesn’t want fewer drives to end in turnovers, but that both are perhaps adequately satisfied with these results (in general) as long as they have a lot of the good things that they’re striving for.
In the case of McVay, points. In the case of Schottenheimer, protection of the football and efficiency. And these teams aren’t vastly different in scoring: The Rams have scored 14 more points than the Seahawks have through four games. That’s one touchdown for every two games. But LA has turned it over nine times, compared to four for Seattle.
Goff’s three interceptions on Sunday against the Bucs directly led to 21 points for Tampa Bay. That’s the type of result that Pete Carroll would like to see setup for his offensive coordinator tonight at home: short fields (again, worst mark in the NFL) based on turnovers (tied for 4th-most in NFL) that directly lead to Wilson touchdowns thanks in some part to Schottenheimer.
Hired by the St. Louis Rams in 2012 after six seasons as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, Schottenheimer led that team to finishes of 22nd, 17th, and 21st in scoring. In perhaps the three greatest years in Seattle’s franchise history depending on your context (2012, 2013, and 2014), Schottenheimer guided the Rams’ offense to the depths of mediocrity. He then had to rebuild his reputation at Georgia, then as Andrew Luck’s quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis, before finally regaining an OC position in 2018.
Hate him as you may, the Seahawks finished first in turnovers in 2018, and Wilson, legend that he already was in Seattle, has thrown just four picks in his last 18 games, against 38 touchdowns. Yes, since the opening two road games in 2018, Wilson has a passer rating of 116 and has been nearly as efficient as wunderkind Patrick Mahomes.
Jared Goff's last 2 games: 4 touchdowns, 5 interceptions— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) October 3, 2019
Russell Wilson's last 18 games: 38 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
As much as Rams fans (and Rams) must hate to think it, the Seahawks have had a superior offense to LA through the first quarter of this season. They’ve done it with what was considered to be a far inferior offensive line, with only one established veteran receiver of note compared to three for the Rams, with a running back who had far less star power than Todd Gurley, and with a quarterback who received less MVP attention and consideration in 2018 than the guy he’ll be facing off against on Thursday night.
I don’t know what that will lead to tonight or how the rankings will settle in after 12 more games, but so far I have to argue that Schottenheimer is either out-planning Sean McVay, Seattle’s offensive staff is out-coaching LA’s, or the Seahawks players are out-playing the Rams players.
That’s not something that anyone expected, including me.