Brian Schottenheimer is saying all the right things. In the middle of a playoff run, he refuses to be a distraction.
Peppered by rumors, Schottenheimer is unfazed.
"The last couple years, I've had some opportunities, and was very interested," Schottenheimer told the New York media. "And for the first time in a real long time, I'm really happy. I love it here; I love working for coach Ryan. I hope I'm here for a long time."
But wait. One caveat. He'll "listen" to other teams. Just like he did for head coaching vacancies in Miami and Baltimore, expect Schottenheimer to be all ears if Buffalo comes calling.
Right now it's impossible for him to rock the boat. After signing a contract extension a year ago and spearheading the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, Schottenheimer must be diplomatic. Has no choice. The Jets are a legitimate contender. He can't turn his back now. That'd be silly.
But whenever the Jets are eliminated, look for Schottenheimer's tone to change. That's the drill anyways. Loyalty in professional sports? Please. The window for coordinators opens and closes every year. This time next year, Schottenheimer could be a footnote. He's human. No way will he ignore a promotion.
At which point, Buffalo must pounce.
OK. So this isn't the glossy, home-run candidate you hoped for. To many, Brian Schottenheimer is an unknown — background noise to Rex Ryan's ego. He isn't even the most famous coach in his own family. That'd be his father, Marty Schottenheimer, the guy Buffalo's current G.M. Buddy Nix sided with in a messy breakup from the Chargers.
But remember, ‘Lil Schotty was there too. Before taking over as the Jets' offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer nurtured Phillip Rivers in San Diego as the quarterbacks coach from 2002-05. He was the one smoothing over the Brees-to-Rivers transition.
Now, in his fourth year as the Jets' offensive coordinator, Schottenheimer boasts the most feared ground game in the NFL. With defenses overcrowding the box — Mark Sanchez's rookie year has been rockier than Emmitt Smith speaking on NFL Countdown — Thomas Jones still rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns. Not to mention Schottenheimer's stealth use of Shonn Greene (540 yards, two touchdowns), Leon Washington (331 yards) and Brad Smith (207 yards, touchdown). No coordinator has maximized his weapons better than Schottenheimer. Especially with Jones. Abandoned in Arizona, then Tampa Bay, then Chicago, the 31-year-old Jones has had an awakening with Schottenheimer calling the plays.
Brian Schottenheimer has led the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack while also developing rookie QB Mark Sanchez.
Of course, Buffalo knows all of this. In its two meetings with New York this year, the Jets rolled to 567 yards on the ground. An embarrassing number that should fire an entire defensive staff on the spot.
Still, it's difficult for most fans to embrace the idea of another coordinator taking charge. Understandably so. All of Ralph Wilson's hires since Marv Levy have been failed coordinators — Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron. Ouch, migraine.
But hold on. It's not always wise to hire a veteran head coach. Let this sink in --- no Super Bowl-winning coach has ever won another Super Bowl with a new team. Ever. The reason? Who knows. Maybe motivation is sucked out of coaches after they've already reached the top. Maybe they can't handle another round of growing pains.
Either way, fans should stop drooling over Bill Cowher and Brian Billick. Neither would embrace the colossal rebuilding this Bills roster needs, instead opting for quick fixes at every turn. Let's be real. The Bills will not be a contender in 2010. Of course, Cowher is a home-run hire. You dial and redial a coach of his caliber until your cell phone bursts into flames.
But in honesty, the Bills need a coach willing to be patient, willing to build this team from the inside out, willing to accept growing pains. That's probably why so many former title winners — think George Seifert (San Francisco-to-Carolina) and Jimmy Johnson (Dallas-to-Miami) — have struggled with new teams.
With Schottenheimer, this mystery is thrown out the window. He is young. An up-and-comer. Ready for total control.
While I'm a big fan of Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, history also suggests that college coaches — in the modern era, anyways — struggle to adapt in the NFL. Steve Spurrier ran the Redskins into the ditch. Same for Butch Davis in Cleveland. Nick Saban bailed on Miami. Bobby Petrino bailed on Atlanta. The list goes on and on. Harbaugh is the energetic-type Buffalo would love, but I'm hesitant. Success rarely translates. The college and pro games are two completely different monsters.
Thanks to his dad, Schottenheimer has lived the NFL grind since birth. There are no surprises. He's a creative, yet consistent play-caller 100 percent ready for the next step. The icing on the cake in Buffalo is the Bills' current personnel. He is the right coach for Buffalo's best asset.
Unlike Alex Van Pelt, he'd lean on Fred Jackson. Nobody knows what Jackson's true potential is because he has been sheltered for three years. Buffalo would be a run-first team without question. Unlike last season, there would be no identity crisis on offense. The Jets run the ball 61 percent of the time. Marty Ball 2.0. He will run Jackson left, run Jackson and run Jackson up the middle. In other words, what the Bills should have been doing all season.
And if Buffalo does draft a new quarterback of the future — as they should — Schottenheimer can tap into his experience with Sanchez. Just call Buffalo Jets West.
Luckily for the Bills, there is no competition. After the Cleveland Browns announced they'd retain Eric Mangini, Buffalo is the only NFL team without a head coach. After being snubbed by countless big-name coaches, Buffalo actually has some leverage. Wow. Go figure. The Team of Desperation is calling the shots.
Nix doesn't need to make a knee-jerk hire. Buffalo can wait and react. So kick back, dig out an old Bengals hat and hope Schottenheimer has a change of heart.
He is the coach best equipped to bring the Bills back.
MISS THE LAST TWO PARTS OF THIS SERIES?
--- Ian Smith says Buffalo should go after offensive guru Brian Billick.
--- And Spencer Timkey argues the Bills must go all-out for Bill Cowher.
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