Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Did Fisher Find Fit for Bradford?; Schottenheimer Could Be Most Important Person at Rams Park; RAMS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Did Fisher Find Fit for Bradford?; Schottenheimer Could Be Most Important Person at Rams Park; RAMS

Article excerpt

When the Rams hired Brian Schottenheimer to coordinate their offense and oversee the development of quarterback Sam Bradford, I received an email from a friend in New York. He's a passionate Jets fan.

His two-word message: "My condolences."

I don't tell the story to make Schottenheimer look bad as he begins a new career phase in St. Louis, running the offense for first-year head coach Jeff Fisher. I care about what Schottenheimer does from this day forward.

Considering what's at stake - Bradford's career arc - I believe Schottenheimer is the most important employee at Rams Park in 2012.

I offered the snarky email sample to underline a point: Jets fans were pleased, perhaps even deliriously happy, when Schottenheimer "resigned" after a disappointing 2011 season to end his six-year run as the team's offensive coordinator.

This is fascinating. Is Schottenheimer getting a fair shake? He didn't work in the most stable environment in New York. He endured frequent changes in key areas.

Schottenheimer served under two head coaches, Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan. He had four starting quarterbacks in six years: the injury- prone Chad Pennington, the old and declining Brett Favre, the scrappy journeyman Kellen Clemens and the young and enigmatic Mark Sanchez.

Thomas Jones, Schottenheimer's most productive running back, left as a free agent. So did the Jets' terrific all-purpose player, former Mizzou quarterack Brad Smith.

The five receivers (wideouts and tight ends) targeted for the most passing attempts over the six seasons were Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Laveraneus Coles, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards.

Holmes came to the Jets with considerable baggage after the Pittsburgh Steelers grew disenchanted with his off-field problems. Edwards, who had some good seasons, is still looking for a job this summer after spending the last three years with three different teams.

With Schottenheimer directing the offense, the Jets made it to the playoffs three times in six seasons and twice reached the AFC championship game with Sanchez at QB.

I'm inclined to give Schottenheimer the benefit of the doubt. New York enjoys gnawing on scapegoats, and he was a convenient target. Jets' management wasn't going to fire Ryan after last season's 8-8 fizzle; it was easy to dump blame on Schottenheimer.

That said, I have no reason to be a Schottenheimer apologist, either. Truth is, I don't know what to expect from him.

Schottenheimer's critics can look at his six-year record and find what they need to make a case against him. But Schottenheimer's supporters can study the identical six-season block and find reasons to defend him.

For example: one of the biggest gripes about Schottenheimer was his alleged impatience with running the football. He was accused of being whimsical and pass-happy. But over Schottenheimer's six seasons the Jets led the NFL in rushing attempts and rushing yards.

In New York, Sanchez is generally portrayed as an overrated and underachieving talent with a fragile psyche. If Sanchez is so inferior, then what was Schottenheimer supposed to do about it?

If Schottenheimer takes the hit for Sanchez's mediocrity, then how do we explain the quarterback's outstanding postseason play? Sanchez is 4-2 in the playoffs, with all six games being played on the road. He had nine touchdowns, three interceptions, a passer rating of 94. …

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