ST. LOUIS – Austin Davis was an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss when he joined the St. Louis Rams three years ago. He arrived at the same time as Brian Schottenheimer, who became not only his offensive coordinator but his quarterbacks coach.
Schottenheimer, as everyone knows, has since moved on to take the same jobs at Georgia, where he and head coach Mark Richt will select a starting quarterback this month: Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Greyson Lambert.
Davis, who started eight games last year for the Rams, knows Schottenheimer well enough to be posed the question: What does he look for in a quarterback?
“Protecting the football is important. It’s first and foremost in an offensive system,” Davis said. “A guy that understands football that can run the system, in and out of run-game checks. I would say a cerebral player who understands the game. I wouldn’t say, with what they’re gonna try to do, that you have to have the most talented guy in the world. You have to have a guy who protects the ball, makes good decisions, and can throw the ball accurately.”
So does that point in favor of Bauta, known for his command of the offense and accuracy, over the gunslinging Ramsey, or Lambert, who at times had interception problems last year at Virginia?
Not necessarily. Schottenheimer has coached a gunslinger before: Brett Favre was his quarterback in 2008 with the New York Jets. The Jets also led the NFL in interceptions thrown that year, with Favre accounting for 22 of the team’s 23.
The least interceptions (14) the Jets threw under Schottenheimer was in 2010, and that year the Jets went 11-5 and made the AFC championship. So in that year taking care of the ball, and letting the running game (led by LaDainian Tomlinson) take over.
As for the Rams, the stats bear out Davis’ assessment: They took care of the ball, even while not putting up a lot of points. The worst season was last year, when the Rams threw 16 interceptions, tying for 10th in the NFL. (This was the year the Rams first went to No. 2 quarterback Shaun Hill, then to Davis.) The other two years the Rams were in the bottom half of the league in interceptions.
A few more insights on Schottenheimer’s history, based on my visit to St. Louis:
He will run the **** ball
Nick Chubb need not worry. Schottenheimer has coached under defensive, ball-control head coaches (Jeff Fisher and Rex Ryan), and will not come to Georgia trying to light it up.
“He’s well aware that Chubb’s probably his bread and butter,” Rams general manager Les Snead said, adding: “He’ll do some play-action pass.”
Which means he’ll fit right in with Georgia head coach Mark Richt’s philosophy.
The Rams ranked in the middle of the NFL in rushing yardage each of Schottenheimer’s three years, but he had some great years with the Jets: They led the NFL in rushing attempts and yards in 2009, and were fourth in rushing yards in 2010, and ninth in 2008. Those years Schottenheimer had Thomas Jones and then Tomlinson at running back.
Snead, who knows the SEC terrain well as a former Auburn player, offered up this about Schottenheimer’s approach at Georgia:
“He’s going to bring the element of a little more, I guess you’d call it broader set of play calls. You won’t put the NFL playbook into a college playbook, obviously. So I’m sure he’s figured that out. He’s definitely been a guy who – when he was here we were a team that liked to run the ball. When he was with the Jets they liked to run the ball.”
Personally speaking …
Tight end Jared Cook, entering his third year with the Rams, mentioned that Schottenheimer manages personalities well. He explained:
“You know how receivers are kind of the prima donnas, they always want the ball, they always want to be front and center? Then you’ve got your running backs. You’ve got so many different personalities in guys who always want the ball, who always want to be out in front. He does a good job in dispersing it, bringing guys together, that way everybody can eat collectively, everybody succeeds collectively, to make sure that everybody’s happy.”
Meanwhile, what about Schottenheimer’s own personality? He’s struck many so far as laid-back, but perhaps that’s just in comparison to his predecessor. Mike Bobo was known for using his vocal cords very liberally on the practice field and during games in the press box.
Davis, having worked under Schottenheimer for three years, was surprised when told that his former coach hadn’t been very vocal so far at Georgia.
“I don’t know if I’d call him laid back,” Davis said. “He’s passionate about football and loves what he does. He may be in a different role there, in a different situation, I don’t know, but I think he’s willing to show the passion when he needs to.”