Once upon a time, Brian Schottenheimer was an up-and-coming offensive coordinator for the New York Jets viewed by many as a head coach in waiting. Now, Schottenheimer might very well be coaching for his job in the final five games of the regular season.
How did we get here? Well, Schottenheimer's employment status is intrinsically tied to the progress of Mark Sanchez, the quarterback who has struggled to raise his game in his third year as starter.
Mental errors have haunted Sanchez in back-to-back losses for the Jets. In Week 10 against the Patriots, Sanchez called a premature time out near the end of the first half that coach Rex Ryan later called "the stupidest play in NFL history."
Last Thursday, Sanchez stumbled again at the end of the first half when he attempted to catch the Broncos napping with a quick pass to Dustin Keller. The tight end was swallowed up for no gain, costing the Jets any chance of a makeable field goal attempt.
"I was frustrated with (that) one for sure," Schottenheimer said Wednesday, according to The Star-Ledger. "He was trying to make a play, we were in a situation where we were calling to clock the ball. He saw that Dustin was uncovered and tried to kind of make a play to throw it out there and thought Dustin could steal a couple yards and get into field goal range.
"What it did was it took our ability to be able to stop the clock on the next play. So again, I think you get that, but the frustration with Mark was just 'Hey, in that situation, kind of trust what is being said to you ...' and he gets that."
Sanchez and Schottenheimer had another communication issue during a Jets scoring drive in the third quarter, when Schottenheimer advised Ryan to call a time out with the play clock about to expire. Sanchez was upset, believing he could effectively get the play off.
"Mark's reaction was like 'Hey, I got it' and it's like 'Hey, calm down.' "
Schottenheimer was candid in saying certain elements of the position continue to challenge Sanchez.
"He has the playbook down," said Schottenheimer, who has been the offensive coordinator in all three years of Sanchez's career. "That stuff is easy for him. He has a good grasp on all the stuff we're doing. It's those little things that he has to work on to improve."
If Sanchez can't get his season back on track, it will likely be Schottenheimer who pays the price. It might not be fair, but such is life for an offensive coordinator in the NFL.