Brian Schottenheimer was caught a little off-guard, I think, when he answered my phone call Wednesday evening and likely wouldn’t have had he known a reporter was on the other end. But the Georgia Bulldogs’ new offensive coordinator was polite and considerate and, frankly, more interested in asking questions than answering them.
“I’m very excited, obviously,” the 41-year-old NFL veteran said of joining coach Mark Richt’s staff. “A lot’s happened the last few days. I’m heading that way. I’ll be in there tomorrow or the next day and I’m really excited about it. I’m looking forward to being a Bulldog.”
Schottenheimer passed on offering the explanation everybody wants to hear, which is why he decided to leave a long and lucrative NFL career to return to college coaching for the first time in 15 years.
“You know, I’d prefer to wait until we get a chance to visit,” said Schottenheimer, who has been the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams the past three years. “I’m certainly not trying to be rude and I really look forward to getting a chance to have a visit. But since it’s my first day on the job I haven’t really gotten approval from Coach Richt, I’d be more comfortable if we could wait. I’m just fired up to get down there.”
Schottenheimer was more interested in getting answers to questions about UGA, Athens and the surrounding communities. He and his wife Gemmi have a 10-year-old son, Sutton, and a 9-year-old daughter, Savannah. He wanted to know about schools and parks and real estate.
Of the Oconee County house occupied by former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Schottenheimer joked, “That one ought to be for sale.”
The fact that Schottenheimer even entertained leaving the pro ranks had a lot of people scratching their heads on Wednesday. He’s the son of longtime NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer and has coached in the pros for 16 of his 18 years in the game. He had one-year stints at Syracuse and Southern Cal in 1999 and 2000.
And while things haven’t gone swimmingly in St. Louis — see quarterback Sam Bradford’s never-ending injury issues — coach Jeff Fisher gave Schottenheimer a vote of confidence only a week ago.
“I don’t know why he went to college,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told reporters at halftime of the Gamecocks’ basketball game Wednesday night. “Maybe he wanted to go back to college, or maybe it was just a good opportunity for him. That’s an excellent opportunity for any coach. Georgia always has a whole bunch of good players.”
Spurrier is a significant character in Schottenheimer’s life. Schottenheimer left the University of Kansas after one season as a quarterback so he could walk on at Florida and “learn the game” under Spurrier. As a little-used backup behind Danny Wuerffel for three years, Schottenheimer completed 25-of-35 passes for 290 yards and two touchdown and ran for a score for the Gators.
Spurrier downplayed his influence on Schottenheimer.
“Pro football is a different game from what we used to do,” he said. “He was with the Rams this year and they had a great defense. Sometimes when you coach with a tremendous defense, your offense is just, ‘Don’t mess up.’ He’s a good, solid proven coach.”
Schottenheimer told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Fisher didn’t want him to leave. He mentioned something about “the pull of the South” and the SEC. Schottenheimer’s parents and in-laws live in North Carolina and Alabama, so he has kept an eye in that direction professionally. He was a candidate for the head coaching job at Vanderbilt last year and spoke with Nick Saban about coordinating Alabama’s offense a few years back.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch spoke to Schottenheimer late Wednesday and offers some insights in the coach’s decision.
“I’ve not been looking to move on, but I certainly had an appreciation for the SEC, having played in that conference,” Schottenheimer told Thomas. “Going to Florida, I’ve just been a big SEC fan. There weren’t many jobs that I would ever consider leaving where I was. But I’ve also thought about college football for a while. When I found out this was a possible option, I certainly was interested.
“I had a great job, but think I’m also going to a great opportunity. I think we all take a look at each situation, each year in this crazy profession that we’re in and say, ‘OK, what’s in the best interests of me professionally, and also my family?’ And I think when we looked at all the factors together, we just felt really, really good about going down and starting a new chapter, a new journey at the University of Georgia.”
As for Schottenheimer’s work as an NFL coordinator, there is no more comprehensive accounting than the one maintained by ProFootballReference.com. Here is A LINK to Schottenheimer’s chart.