There has been a lot of head-scratching over Brian Schottenheimer’s playcalling both on this site and generally at least since the Alabama game. I’m generally loathe to second guess playcalling decisions. The reason is an analogy a high school offensive coordinator made to me several years ago. In a lot of ways, calling a football game is like playing a round of golf. Think of the clubs as personnel and the shots themselves as the plays. It’s entirely possible to attempt the right shot with the wrong club. Or to attempt to do the wrong thing with the right club. And if you’re like most amateur golfers you’re almost guaranteed to pull the right club and attempt the right shot, but execute it horribly on a regular, maddening basis.
Calling an offensive football game is like playing a round of golf with these myriad possibilities. Except that you have roughly 45 seconds between shots, and you have to decide which club to use and how to wield it while you’re walking up to your ball, have the club in your hand when you get there, and a rules official docks you a stroke if you don’t start your backswing on time. With no practice swings.
There’s a reason Bill Walsh, considered one of the patron saints of the modern football offense, preferred to call plays from the booth rather than the sideline. He felt like it was a clinical environment. Marginally quieter. Without the chaos of the sideline. Calling a football game is art and science, and not everyone is good at it. Mike Bobo wasn’t perfect at the task, but I think even his detractors now have to admit he was a heckuva lot better at it than they gave him credit for.
Brian Schottenheimer might, like Mike Bobo, improve at the job of offensive playcalling if given the time to do so. But given that he’s been doing it for nine years in the NFL I don’t hold out much hope that he’s going to hit on some sort of epiphany fit for a Malcolm Gladwell book. I think the guy is what he is as a playcaller, and that is thoroughly average. Thoroughly average playcallers can produce surprisingly decent results if those calls are executed well.
But therein lies the thing that the Georgia offense misses most about Mike Bobo. It’s not his playcalling. It’s not his gameplanning. It’s Mike Bobo, quarterback coach. If we learned anything from the most frustrating October of the Mark Richt era, it is that the coaches were grimly correct when they said in August that all three quarterbacks were “even.” As it turns out, none of them is ready to run an SEC offense consistently.
That’s not necessarily a knock on Schottenheimer. He inherited these guys, and it would not be fair to expect him to turn any of them into Aaron Murray in a handful of practices. But what’s not unreasonable is to expect some improvement. To see the starting quarterback become more consistent as the season progresses. The Bulldog signal callers have done just the opposite, spinning out in a widening gyre of chaos, self-doubt, and apprehension. Say this for Hutson Mason: by the midpoint of 2014 he had taken ownership of his abilities and his limitations. He was generally comfortable within his own skin, and it showed.
Greyson Lambert on the other hand never looked comfortable against Alabama, rarely looked comfortable against Tennessee, and seemed to complete his collapse against Missouri. Make no mistake, I understand why Schottenheimer the OC felt the need to try to provide a spark by going to Faton Bauta.
But he has Schottenheimer the quarterback coach to blame for needing to do that. One could argue that the solution was to let Lambert play his way out of the funk he played himself into. Again, to use a golf analogy, sometimes you have to be able to grind. To score when you aren’t striking the ball just perfectly. And that’s a learned ability. Hutson Mason, God bless him, developed it. Greyson Lambert either didn’t or wasn’t given the chance to. Either way I think that falls on Schottenheimer.. Until later...