NFL News & Analysis

What to expect from Brian Schottenheimer as Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer walks down the sideline during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

• New OC in Dallas: The Dallas Cowboys announced that they hired Brian Schottenheimer to be the team's new offensive coordinator on Saturday.

• New play-caller: Even with Schottenheimer installed as offensive coordinator, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is expected to call plays for the offense.

• Limit the curls: One major benefit to the Schottenheimer hire is that it should mean that Dallas moves away from the curl/hitch routes that littered its offense under Kellen Moore in an effort to prioritize hitting receivers on the move.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A few days after parting ways with previous offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Dallas Cowboys finally announced his replacement Saturday, opting to promote Brian Schottenheimer to offensive coordinator after he spent a season as an offensive consultant for the team.

After ranking fourth in points per game in a season where quarterback Dak Prescott missed five games due to injury, the Cowboys surprisingly opted to part ways with offensive coordinator Moore, who appeared — at times — to be in the midst of being groomed to be team's next head coach. Moore was quickly gobbled up by Brandon Staley and the Los Angeles Chargers to run their offense, and the Cowboys must now begin looking for his replacement.

While Moore's Dallas offenses often fared well, especially with a healthy Prescott, head coach Mike McCarthy and the team's executives obviously felt that a change was necessary, as the offense frequently failed to break through during the biggest moments in the playoffs. The straw that broke the camel's back appeared to be the lack of success in the team's two postseason losses to the San Francisco 49ers over the past two seasons — Moore's offense failed to breach even -0.10 expected points added per play in either game — in addition to philosophical differences between McCarthy and Moore.

Now, after parting ways with more than a half-dozen assistants since the season's end and hiring Mike Solari to coach the offensive line earlier in the week, the Cowboys announced Schottenheimer, who spent three seasons (2018-20) with Solari in Seattle, as the team's new offensive coordinator Saturday.

Nonetheless, it's important to note that McCarthy will take the offense's reins as the team's new play caller despite Schottenheimer's presence, per the Dallas Morning News' David Moore, meaning Schottenheimer will have to fill all of the position's normal duties sans play-calling.

What to expect from Schottenheimer as Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

When it became clear that Moore wasn't going to be Dallas' offensive coordinator, Schottenheimer immediately became the favorite to land the gig due to his wealth of offensive coordinator experience and familiarity with McCarthy.

Before spending the 2022 season as a consultant for the Cowboys, Schottenheimer had three different stints as an offensive coordinator (New York Jets in 2006-11, Los Angeles Rams in 2012-14, Seattle Seahawks in 2018-20). While Schottenheimer truly struggled to cobble together competent offenses with the Jets and Rams, posting just one top-10 finish in points per game over those two stretches, his Seahawks offenses ranked top 10 in points per game in each of his three seasons as offensive coordinator. Over his three years in Seattle, the Seahawks' offenses ranked ninth in EPA per play (0.023) and 16th in successful play rate.

Schottenheimer loves to lean on the run and play-action passing games to create effective offense. Over his three seasons with the Seahawks, they ranked sixth in run-play rate (42%) and eighth in play-action rate (28.4%). Additionally, the Seahawks ran the ball on 51.5% of their first downs, which is surprisingly a bit less than Dallas' 57.1% rate in 2022.

Interestingly, Schottenheimer's presence as offensive coordinator could push the Cowboys to make “inside zone” their primary run concept rather than the outside zone variation the team has leaned on heavily in the past (though Dallas employed a steadier diet of man/gap concepts in 2022 than in the past). Schottenhimer's Seahawks ranked third in inside zone rate (41.1% of called runs) during his tenure, while the Cowboys ranked 19th (20.0%) this past season.

Unfortunately, Schottenheimer's offenses were often criticized due to their predictability on account of a lack of creativity as a play caller — those aren't the kind of critiques that will inspire Cowboys fans after the team jettisoned a boy wonder for this retread candidate.

Luckily for Dallas, the predictability of Schottenheimer's play-calling shouldn't be an issue because McCarthy will be calling plays. That could allow Schottenheimer to focus on what he does best: designing an offense that intertwines the running, play-action passing and dropback passing games at a high level.

Cowboys fans will be happy to hear that Schottenheimer's presence should mean a move away from the hitch/curl routes that were so frequently leaned on during Moore's tenure as offensive coordinator. The Cowboys targeted hitch routes the fourth most in the NFL; however, Schottenheimer appears to favor routes where his receivers are on the move rather than a stationary target, as his offenses are littered with drive, shallow-cross, spear and “China” passing game concepts — none of which have a stop, curl or hitch route baked into the basic play.

Overall, Schottenheimer's presence as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator is unlikely to garner much excitement among the Cowboys fanbase (and rightfully so), but as an impressive scheme developer and play designed who struggled with repetitive and unimaginative play-calling, a situation where he can just focus on the Xs and Os may be just what the doctor ordered for both Schottenheimer and the Cowboys offense.

The last time McCarthy hired a coordinator who he had previous experience with — hiring Mike Nolan to run Dallas' defense in 2020 — it went poorly. For the Cowboys' sake, hopefully Schottenheimer fares much better.

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