Is Schotty the Less Predictable Play Caller in this Game?

A sizable portion of Seahawks fans bemoan Brian Schottenheimer’s predictable playcalling. If you have ever seen the term, “RRP,” or “R-R-P,” that stands for “Run, Run, Pass,” and it is likely accompanied by some angry emoji. It may come as some surprise or comfort that Schottenheimer may not top the list of predictable playcallers. Scott Linehan, of the Dallas Cowboys, has some tendencies that are even more pronounced than Schottenheimer’s.

People tend to focus on the very basic of run versus pass as a play call. If you stay at that level, Seattle is much more predictable than Dallas.

Given that rushing tends to yield fewer yards than passing, you would expect the Seahawks to be near the bottom of the NFL in first down yards. They actually rank 14th at over 6 yards per play in neutral script situations.

Dallas falls further down the list at 21st, with about 5.6 yards per play. Interestingly, it is not the run plays that are the biggest issue for the Cowboys. Elliotts averages over 5 yards per carry on first down, and is the third leading rusher in the NFL on that down. Chris Carson is second.

What drags the Cowboys down is a total lack of interest in throwing the ball downfield.


The chart above shows Dak Prescott’s passing tendencies by direction, depth, and down. The one to focus on right now is the top-right. Dallas throws more than 15 yards downfield only 10% of the time on first down. That drops to 9% if you look at the first three quarters and eliminate no-huddle situations.

See how that compares to the Seahawks passing tendencies.

The left is the Seahawks since they moved to a run-heavy approach in week three. The right is the Cowboys after they added Amari Cooper. I picked that timeframe just to see if adding a receiving weapon had changed the tendencies. It did not.

It may surprise many Seahawks fans that Seattle throws intermediate or deep throws on 28% of their first down pass attempts. That is roughly triple what Dallas does.

Not only that, but Seattle throws left, right, and center. Dallas has yet to even attempts a deep middle throw on first down this season.

If you are gameplanning for the Cowboys, it seems like playing heavy in the box to limit rushing yards comes at little risk of a pass getting behind the defense.

Even beyond first down, the Cowboys pass the ball within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage 86% of the time. Seattle is in the 70s. This visualization shows the average depth of target for Prescott and Wilson this season.


You can see how Prescott has a much higher peak 3-8 yard range. His average depth of target overall is 7.5 yards. Wilson, by comparison, is almost two full yards higher at 9.4 yards. That might not sound like much, but it is a massive difference.

You can also see a smoother distribution of pass depth from Wilson than from Prescott. That makes for less predictability. That is not all.

Here is Prescott’s passer rating by direction and depth of target.

Dude does not throw left very well. He doesn’t even throw middle that well. That 158 rating is on just 5 pass attempts. So basically, you need to defend the deep right part of the field. Roll your coverage that direction, sit on all the underneath patterns, and tackle well.

Since I’m betting you want to see Wilson’s comparable passer rating chart, here ya go.

As you can see, Wilson is far more consistent across depth and direction. Given he also is given more chances to throw at different depths on different downs, maybe Schottenheimer isn’t the most predictable play caller in the world.

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  1. Brian – thanks for taking on the Shotty predictability myth with some great analysis. The criticism of Shotty is unfair. What do Seahawk fans want unpredictable failure or predictable success?

    I get that were not particularly creative offensively at a time when the Rams, Niners and Chiefs are considered to be fashionable. I get that we seem to be RRP and that is predictable (mostly debunked here by your analysis). And, I understand that we can seem to check it in late in halfs/games when we run on 3rd and 20. Can be frustrating at times.

    But Shotty has done exactly what he said he’d do – run the ball. And, more importantly, run the ball when the opponent know your going to run the ball! He deserves credit for: 1) bringing back a very effective play action game, 2) giving receivers the latitude for in-play decision making (see Lockett’s historic season) and 3) being able to effectively communicated with and criticize Russell Wilson. The result? Success.

    We’ve got the 2nd best offense in Seahawk history with Russell throwing more touchdowns at an incredibly efficient pace. We have made the playoffs via the need for a higher scoring offense to off-set a young, average-talent defense (as you predicted would be necessary pre-season). AND, we can run the damn ball whenever we need to – even when the defense knows we’re gonna run (addressing the most scarring memory we all have as Seahawk fans).

    Success. Is is somewhat predictable? Yes, although apparently less than people think and less than even the Cowboys. Is it lethally effective? Yes.

    Get off Shotty and give the guy the credit he deserves.

  2. Great article, Brian!

    Should be a good game tomorrow, and even with home-field advantage for Dallas, I like the Seahawks to take it with a patented 4th Q drive for the win by Wilson.

  3. So now that we have watched the game who wants to defend Schotty now? He tried to run the ball through the teeth of the Dallas defense for four goddamn quarters even when he could see they were going nowhere and when they actually had some success throwing the ball. He gives up on 2nd and long or 3rd and long in fucking playoff game? That is 100% unacceptable. So yea lets stop with defending Schotty already.

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