While everyone's attentions remain squarely centered on the enticing availability of former Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher, recent speculation has held that Brian Schottenheimer, currently the Jets' offensive coordinator, is emerging as a leading candidate to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. But don't expect anything to happen soon, as the Bills reportedly have to get through a "couple of weeks" of interviews.
Presumably, Schottenheimer has an in with the Bills because of the well-established relationship between his father, Marty Schottenheimer, and new Bills GM Buddy Nix, who worked together in San Diego. Nix will have a working knowledge of Brian Schottenheimer as a coach not just because of that relationship, but because the younger Schottenheimer worked in San Diego for a time, too - as the Chargers' quarterbacks coach under his father's employ for four years.
Schottenheimer, who turned 36 this past October, has been on the fast track since leaving the college ranks and joining his father's coaching staff in San Diego. He has been talked about as a head coaching candidate as early as January 2007, when Miami considered interviewing him before Schottenheimer removed his name from consideration. That job eventually went to Cam Cameron.
With 13 years of NFL and collegiate coaching experience under his belt, Schottenheimer isn't nearly as inexperienced as most would have you believe. He's been a coordinator for the last four years in New York, joining Eric Mangini's staff in that capacity in 2006, and being retained by Rex Ryan around a calendar year ago at the behest of Jets owner Woody Johnson. (Hey! Meddlesome ownership. Gotta love it.) Schottenheimer was also one of the first coaches to interview for the head job that eventually went to Ryan; he was reportedly very impressive in the interview, which led to Johnson's request to Ryan to keep him on his staff.
Prominent coaching career: 2002-present
While working as San Diego's quarterbacks coach from 2002 to 2005, Schottenheimer got to work with Drew Brees. Under Schottenheimer's tutelage, Brees morphed from a very average quarterback in '02 and '03 (59.5% completions, 6.1 yards per attempt, 28 TD, 31 INT) into one of the league's brightest young stars at the position over his next two seasons (65% completions, 7.5 yards per attempt, 51 TD, 22 INT). When Brees was allowed to leave as a free agent after the 2005 season to make way for Philip Rivers, Schottenheimer left, too, joining Mangini in New York.
In the four years since Schottenheimer became the Jets' offensive coordinator, New York has had varying degrees of success and failure offensively. In 2006, the Jets made the playoffs despite the offense ranking just No. 25 in the league (No. 20 rush, No. 17 pass). The re-emergence of Chad Pennington was a big reason for the team's success that season, and when Pennington split time with Kellen Clemens in '07, the Jets plummeted to 4-12, while the offense was worse, finishing No. 26 in the league (No. 19 rush, No. 25 pass).
In 2008, the Jets traded for Brett Favre, and while a late-season collapse prevented the Jets from earning a playoff berth, the offense improved - hard not to when you're moving from Kellen Clemens to Brett Favre - to No. 16 in the league (No. 9 rush, No. 16 pass). Favre was released after the '08 season, Mark Sanchez was drafted in the first round, and the Jets have been good enough offensively to earn a playoff berth despite the shortcomings of its rookie quarterback. New York's offense is currently ranked No. 20 in the league and No. 31 passing, but their rush offense is the best in the business. Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan gets a lot of credit for that high ranking.
Schottenheimer's reputation with Jets fans
To be blunt, Schottenheimer is not a popular guy in Jets country. Even though it can at least be argued that the Jets have steadily improved offensively over the last four years given the circumstances, Schottenheimer's name is mud. It's gotten to the point where some Jets fans actually have their fingers crossed that he becomes the head coach of the Bills. Take this quote from Gang Green Nation's Week 17 recap, in which the Jets pummeled Cincinnati 37-0 to earn a playoff berth:
Brian Schottenheimer: Stuck with the run game when it was working, called the Tiger formation at all the right times, and gave Sanchez a lot of safe simple screen and slant reads. You know you want this guy as your head coach, Buffalo. Do it! Do it!
Many of the folks over at GGN rejoiced upon hearing that Schottenheimer was a candidate, as well. This reaction is pretty consistent not only from Jets fans, but from Bills fans unenthused about the idea of Schottenheimer coming here.
Schottenheimer's reputation around the league
This, to me, is what matters more than most things at this point, and in particular his past successes. Every coach will have success and failure on his resume, and Schottenheimer has a solid amount of both. The only thing that matters is whether or not Schottenheimer is capable of motivating men and putting together sensible game plans on a weekly basis. Assembling a quality coaching staff is of critical importance as well.
Schottenheimer must at least be respected around the league, because the fact that he's been a head coaching candidate for three consecutive off-seasons despite his young age is indicative of league-wide interest in him as a coaching prospect. With that said, he has no experience as a head coach at any level - that's a quality that Nix himself proclaimed as very important to his search - and as such, he hasn't had much of a chance to prove that he's a motivator, or that he can assemble solid game plans consistently, and for both sides of the ball.
If Marty is involved in the process in some capacity, Brian might have some extra pull when it comes to assembling a strong coaching staff. But his surname isn't going to make players respect him out of hat. Unlike some of the more experienced names being tossed around in relation to this opening, Schottenheimer would have more to prove in this department (motivation) than almost anybody else being considered.
I'll leave you with one last thought of my own before you answer the poll and discuss Schottenheimer as a candidate: if Schottenheimer becomes a head coach anywhere, I'd hate to see him call his own plays. We see this all the time with young coaches - they hit the big time too quickly and think they can "do it all." Josh McDaniels and Todd Haley called their own plays offensively this year, and they're just some of the more recent examples of this behavior. Part of being a good head coach is delegation, because as the head man, you've got enough on your plate managing your players, game planning and running the ship from a more corporate position. Let your assistants handle the finer details. This is something that young coaches like Mike Tomlin and Mike Singletary have embraced, and it's worked well for them. If Schottenheimer gets a lead gig and is able to assemble a quality staff - and there's a strong chance both could happen - he needs to avoid the common rookie mistake and let his coaches coach.