Coming Full Circle; Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer Returns to St. Louis, Where He Got His First Coaching Job on the Staff of Dick Vermeil; NFL PREVIEW

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It's a stretch to say that Brian Schottenheimer wouldn't be here today without Dick Vermeil. But it was, in fact, Vermeil who gave Schotteneheimer his start in coaching 15 years ago.

"I used to broadcast the Kansas City Chiefs' preseason games, and I would always go to their training camps and spend three or four days," Vermeil said. "I always spent a lot of time with Brian getting to know him as a kid when he was deciding what he wanted to do in high school, going to college, and everything else. But he always knew he wanted to be a football coach."

Vermeil stayed in touch with young Schottenheimer as he finished his high school playing career at Blue Valley High in suburban Kansas City, then played quarterback in college at Kansas and Florida. So when Vermeil returned to coaching with the Rams in 1997 after a 14-year hiatus, he placed a phone call to Marty Schottenheimer, who coached the Chiefs for a decade from 1989-98.

"And I said, 'Can I take your son? I'd love to bring him in and break him into my program,' " Vermeil said.

Marty gave his approval, and fresh out of college, son Brian joined Vermeil's first Rams staff with the entry level job of offensive assistant.

"I had such respect and admiration for Brian, and I know where his passion was," Vermeil said. "Of course I had great respect for his dad. I wanted to surround myself with those kinds of people, and help 'em grow and help our whole coaching staff grow. Because I had an older staff, and you can develop young people to come on up and take over it."

Not only did Vermeil have an older staff, he had a legendary staff. Vermeil and assistants Bud Carson, Jim Hanifan, Frank Gansz, Mike White, Jerry Rhome and Dick Coury averaged 61 years of age in '97. They were known variously as the Over the Hill Gang, the Magnificent Seven, or Dickie V's Dream Team.

Enter young Schottenheimer, age 23 at the time.

"I think I would've been in awe if I hadn't been around coaching my whole life," said Schottenheimer, who was a ballboy when his dad coached in Cleveland, and then graduated to holding his dad's headset cords during games in Kansas City.

But that staff in St. Louis was something else.

"You've got these legendary coaches," Schottenheimer said. "I mean to sit there and listen to Bud Carson put in a 'fire zone' is something I'll remember the rest of my life. But more importantly, I remember how great those guys all were to me - a young coach wanting to break in. They got it, and they went out of their way to help me and to give me some insight."

Schottenheimer soaked up everything he could from that astute group.

"He worked with everybody on the offensive staff," Vermeil recalled. "He worked with Jerry Rhome and myself. He helped out wherever he could. But we had him work more specifically with the quarterbacks."

Picture that: Schottenheimer working with "Pretty" Tony Banks. Schottenheimer, now a ripe old 38, doesn't remember a ton about that '97 season.

"Except I didn't sleep very much," he said. "Doing breakdowns of games, running the scout team, doing the (practice) cards, things like that. Whatever they needed, I had to do. All the getting meals and food, and just kind of being a gofer. But it's the only way to do it, and if you want to learn this business you have to start in that position."

The following season, Schottenheimer joined his father's staff in Kansas City. Five more coaching stops followed, and now he's come full circle, back at Rams Park as offensive coordinator on Jeff Fisher's first Rams staff. Fisher considered other candidates, but Schottenheimer was his first choice.

During the hiring process, Fisher liked Schottenheimer's communication skills, his offensive philosophy and his background.

"His offense is multiple, and probably the most important is his experience," Fisher said. …

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