COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier is known for having the memory of an elephant, and he lived up to it when asked about Brian Schottenheimer’s time with him at Florida.
“He threw the first touchdown pass of the season in ’96,” Spurrier said Wednesday, after South Carolina practice. “Did you know that? You didn’t know that.”
Indeed, the reporter who covers Georgia, where Schottenheimer is now the offensive coordinator, did not know that. And luckily, Spurrier was only just beginning the story.
“Yeah I got mad at Danny Wuerffel and the first-team offense since they were going backwards I think the first two possessions,” Spurrier said. “I said: Schotty, you’re in. But I’m gonna leave Ike (Hilliard) and Reidel (Anthony) in with you. So he threw Ike a hitch and Ike Hilliard dodged about eight guys and went 40 yards for a touchdown.”
A great moment for Schottenheimer, then a senior who had rarely played. And his reward for that season-opening touchdown was to be benched again.
“I said, All right Danny, you and the other guys are back in,” said Spurrier, who wasn’t done expressing his disgust with his first-team offense, 19 years later. “We were playing Southeast Louisiana so we should have gone up and down the field. So I had to yell at Danny Wuerfful. The next week he was pretty good though. He hit 16 out of 17 against Georgia Southern and we got back on track.”
Schottenheimer was a backup his entire three years at Florida, and that touchdown was one of only two in his Gator career. “(He was a good backup player,” Spurrier said.) But Schottenheimer’s main intention, he has said, in transferring from Kansas to Florida was in order to become a coach, like his father and uncle, so he thought he would learn under Spurrier.
Schottenheimer became an NFL assistant coach immediately out of college, and he stayed in the pros for most of the next 19 years, with the exception of one-year stints at Syracuse and Southern California. Then he surprised plenty of people this past January by leaving his job as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator to take the same job at Georgia.
Spurrier was asked what he thought about Schottenheimer coming to Georgia, a rival to South Carolina and Spurrier.
“Oh, I didn’t think much about it. Good opportunity for him,” Spurrier said. “Yeah, I can’t worry about all the coaches all over the place. But it’s a good opportunity for Schotty.”
Brian Schottenheimer, right, signs with Kansas in 1992, with father Marty to his right. Brian ended up transferring to Florida after one year. (Kansas City Star.)
Then Spurrier brought up Schottenheimer’s dad, Marty, the longtime NFL coach – who was fired by the Washington Redskins after the 2001 season so they could hire …. Spurrier.
“His Dad was an excellent coach,” Spurrier said. “You know he won more NFL games than any NFL coach in the ’90s. Marty Schottenheimer was the winningest NFL coach in the ’90s. I didn’t know that until I heard it the other day. He’s gotta be the only guy in history who went 14-2 and got fired.”
But what about Brian Schottenheimer? That’s what many Georgia fans want to know, after what was an admittedly uneven track record during nine years as a play-caller in the NFL.
Spurrier spent two years in the NFL calling plays, and it didn’t go well. It’s gone better for him the past decade back in the SEC. So Spurrier was asked if Schottenheimer would automatically be better going down a level from the NFL to college.
“You’re gonna have to find out. Time will tell. Time will tell about all that,” Spurrier said. “I wasn’t very good I guess going that way (from college to the NFL). When you’ve got a real good team and you’ve got a good running back like (Nick) Chubb you might be a pretty good play-caller. Good players make good play-callers.”