Last season was a confusing one for fans of the St. Louis Rams. The hiring of Josh McDaniels was supposed to usher in offensive dominance after a season of dull dink and dunk passing. That vision never came to fruition, and most fans, fickle as we are, wanted to see new head coach Jeff Fisher bring back a more conservative approach to the offense. They should get both with Brian Schottenheimer, Fisher's offensive coordinator.
What kind of system Schottenheimer runs has been the subject of some heated debate. On a conference call with the media today, he cited his roots in the Air Coryell system, but emphasized adaptability over all ... and a physical offense that establishes the run and works the play action.
Thoughts on Schotty and the Rams new offense after the jump.
"I've been around a lot of different things," Schottenheimer explained. "We want to try to build things based off of our personnel. We want to have a system that is very flexible."
That system starts up front on the line and on the ground, with the running backs.
"I do believe in this: I do believe number one, you've got to take care of the football," Schottenheimer said.
Taking care of the football can be interpreted in a couple ways, based on my impression of listening to him talk. Most obviously, there's not turning it over. Second, and related to that, using the run game to set the tone for the offense.
"We want to be balanced. We want to have a physical running game, but we want to be able to keep people off balance with play-action and run-action attack," Schottenheimer said.
"In terms of the passing game, I think I talked a little bit about the play-action, run-action attack, and that will be, the term we use all the time, quite honestly, is sameness," Schottenheimer said. "Make the runs and the passes kind of look the same."
It should be fairly obvious now that Fisher believes in beefing up the Rams offensive line, especially as it relates to protecting the quarterback. Both Fisher and Schottenheimer talked of seeing some game tape from the Rams' season, and it's clear in remarks from both coaches that fixing the offensive line is job one.
"It all starts in the passing game with protection. The quarterbacks need to be upright. This is a league anymore where pass rushers are getting bigger, faster and stronger. That's getting harder and harder, but again I think it all comes down to some main beliefs of take care of the football, be physical, protect the passer, and then do what your personnel does best."
We'll see how things look when minicamp opens up, giving us our first look at the Rams offensive structure under the new coaching staff. I did not walk away from the call with Schottenheimer with the sense that they would try to do too much right out of the gate. In fact, fans frustrated by the lack of running in recent seasons could be in for a pleasant surprise this year, in that it certainly won't be ignored.
"It's just a very flexible system that allows you to adjust on game day and adjust during the week and kind of maximize your strengths while trying to attack your opponent's weaknesses," he said.
Whatever his offense looks like, Schottenheimer has his work cut out for him. The biggest tasks will be addressing key personnel needs along the offensive line and at the skill positions. How they handle that chore will go a long way toward making this offense work.