RENTON, Wash. -- "Perfect pitch! Perfect pitch!" Brian Schottenheimer shouts to Russell Wilson and the other Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks during organized team activities, emphasizing what he wants to see as they practice tosses to running backs.
"We need a great fake!" he reminds the group later as they work on play-action dropbacks.
One minute Schotteheimer is bouncing up and down in excitement after Wilson nails a throw into the end zone, the next he's crouching in a two-point stance over an imaginary A-gap, ready to bear down on Wilson as an oncoming pass-rusher would.
Coach Pete Carroll wasn't kidding when he said Schottenheimer, his new offensive coordinator and de facto quarterbacks coach, would be in every drill with Wilson. It's that hands-on approach that is partly what drew the Seahawks to Schottenheimer, and it's what they think is needed for Wilson to take the next step as he enters his seventh NFL season.
"I told him I was going to coach him hard just because I love it, I love the quarterback position, I love bringing that energy," Schottenheimer said, "and I think we're off to a good start."
There's a lot riding on the success of the Wilson-Schottenheimer partnership.
It will go a long way toward determining the Seahawks' trajectory as they try to rebound from a 9-7 season that left them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
It's also a crucial time for Wilson specifically. He has two years left in his contract, which means he'll be in line for an extension next offseason that likely would top $30 million on average. That price tag would be more palatable for the Seahawks if they believe Wilson is still ascending. But Wilson will want to make sure he's comfortable with the new offensive arrangement before committing another chunk from the prime of his career to Seattle.
By all indications, so far, so good.
"For Schotty and I, it's been great just to be able to study a lot together, to talk a bunch," Wilson said. "He's in the meeting room a bunch, and on the field he's very passionate. He's done a great job of putting everything that we know already and also adding some stuff that he knows at a high level and mixing it up and adding some new stuff. We're staying on top of it and the best thing is, more than anything, he's a great teacher."
When Carroll hired Schottenheimer in January as part of the massive overhaul of his coaching staff, he wasn't picking the hottest candidate with the shiniest résumé. Far from it. Carroll looked past the underwhelming results that Schottenheimer-led offenses have produced and saw in the 44-year-old several things he wanted in his next coordinator.
One was pliability. Carroll wasn't interested in a wholesale scheme change, figuring that Wilson and others had spent too much time in Seattle's offense to start over with an entirely new one. Carroll has cited Schottenheimer's diverse background as important for someone who would have to adapt to what Seattle has done offensively. Both have estimated that the Seahawks' "new" playbook is 70 percent of what they've already been running and 30 percent of what Schottenheimer is incorporating.
Carroll also wanted a coordinator with a deep background in coaching quarterbacks. Schottenheimer served as a position coach for Drew Brees during his formative years in San Diego and more recently for Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. In between, during his two stints as an NFL offensive coordinator -- with the New York Jets from 2006 to 2011 and the St. Louis Rams from 2012 to 2014 -- he remained heavily involved with the quarterbacks.
Schottenheimer doesn't have the title of QB coach in Seattle -- Dave Canales does after being moved over from receivers coach -- but he might as well.
"I love coaching the quarterback position," he said. "I've always done it that way. It's just something that's my passion. I wasn't a very good quarterback, so I've learned that I'm better coaching them and showing them the way to do things rather than doing it."
Schottenheimer's best shot
Schottenheimer's hiring was met with skepticism thanks to a track record as an offensive coordinator that, based on the bottom-line results, no one would consider impressive. In nine seasons in that role, his teams haven't ranked better than 11th in total offense. They finished 20th or worse seven times. Their record was 71-72-1. But context, as always, is key.
The starting quarterbacks he's had to work with in New York included Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens. His lone season with Brett Favre in 2008 came amid challenging circumstances as Schottenheimer had to scrap his planned offense at the last minute in favor of one better suited to Favre once he was acquired a month before the opener. With the Rams, Sam Bradford missed 25 games because of a pair of ACL tears. His absence forced Clemens and Austin Davis -- who's vying to return as Seattle's backup in 2018 -- into starting roles.
This might be Schottenheimer's last best shot as a coordinator. He's never had a quarterback like Wilson.
And Wilson has never had a coordinator like Schottenheimer: an installer of the offense, a playcaller and (essentially) a position coach all in one. The Seahawks' previous offensive arrangement had Darrell Bevell calling the plays, offensive-line coach Tom Cable in charge of the running game -- effectively making him a co-coordinator with Bevell -- and Carl Smith coaching the quarterbacks.
That worked well enough to produce some of the most prolific offenses in franchise history, but the hope is that the new setup will be more streamlined, including as it pertains to communicating with Wilson.
"There's no space between something happening and Russ getting critiqued, and Russell has really responded to it," Carroll said. "I think he enjoys the challenge of it."
'The best version' of Wilson
Carroll's repeated mentions of Schottenheimer challenging Wilson have contributed to the belief that he wanted more of an authoritative voice in the quarterback's ear, someone to coach him harder than he had been coached. For the mild-mannered Bevell, Seattle's coordinator for Wilson's first six seasons, that may have not been in his nature.
"He absolutely can [challenge Wilson]," said Damien Woody, a current ESPN analyst who played for Schottenheimer in New York. "I remember when he was with the Jets and we had Mark Sanchez as a rookie, he used to coach Mark Sanchez really hard, like he would get on him really hard. He has a lot of energy. He's a positive, glass-half-full-type guy, but he will get on you, he will ride you and try to bring out the best in you."
It's one thing to give an earful to a quarterback like Sanchez, a pup at the time. It's another thing to do it to Wilson, a Super Bowl champ and a megastar on and off the field.
"Russ isn't hard to reach because he continues to come back at this job ... with tremendous energy and openness and willingness," Carroll said. "He doesn't think he's got all the answers. He doesn't want to think that way. He knows he needs to be curious, he needs to be open to the new, he needs to be receptive to how he can get better because he cares so much about being great. He cares so much about that that he's going to take in everything that he can."
Wilson is by no means in any sort of disrepair.
Statistically speaking, he's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history and played at an MVP-caliber level for much of last season while carrying an offense that had virtually no rushing attack.
But there are parts of his game that could use work. For as often as he's been under siege while playing behind offensive lines that struggle to pass-block, there are times when he could stand to be more decisive in the pocket. Wilson (and the Seahawks' offense as a whole) had an inexplicable habit last season of starting games poorly, yet he was better than any quarterback in the fourth quarter.
The feeling inside the Seahawks' headquarters is that Schottenheimer, with his hands-on approach and emphasis on the details, can coax better and more even play out of Wilson.
"Schotty is challenging him to keep moving and keep growing as a quarterback," Carroll said. "You look at all the years that he's been playing, but still there's always been more growth. There's always more to learn and understand, and Schotty has really kind of opened the door to that for Russell. Hopefully we're going to see the best version that he can put out there this time around because he's been challenged even more than ever.
"It's an exciting relationship that we're watching unfold."