The Morning After: Seahawks Hire Shane Waldron as new OC
My final column after the Seahawks playoff loss to the Rams was a call to change the offensive coordinator. It seemed like a longshot, but one I felt had a sliver of possibility based on Pete Carroll’s comments through the second half of the season. That they made the move to part ways with Brian Schottenheimer was very encouraging. The process they followed to find his replacement added excitement. Yesterday’s report that the team had hired Shane Waldron to be their new offensive coordinator makes for a thrilling start to a critical offseason for Seattle.
Waldron has a strong lineage in the NFL coaching tree. His first job was with Bill Belichick and the Patriots as a quality control coach. He followed then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to Notre Dame, which would seem to indicate he made a strong impression on Weis in a shot time. After some time in college, he was hired back into the NFL with Washington, working for their offensive coordinator, Sean McVay. Once again, he seemed to make a strong impression as McVay brought Waldron with him when he got the head coaching job with the Rams.
Waldron has been a quarterbacks coach, a tight ends coach, and a passing game coordinator. He has not called plays, and lost out on the Bengals head coaching job to another McVay assistant, Zac Taylor, as well as the Lions OC job a few years back to former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell.
We really do not know much about Shane Waldron. What we do know is that he grew up in Portland, he has had staying power with some very smart and powerful coaches, and has been around winning programs in the NFL.
The rest is very much conjecture. What has me excited about this match is the potential to bring elements of the Rams offense to Seattle. It is a simple scheme that looks more exotic than it is. It has a lot of motion and focused on stretching the field horizontally with jet sweeps and wide zone runs and bootlegs.
It has a heavy emphasis on running, and tons of play action off those run looks. I have mentioned multiple times throughout this season that it was arguably the most ideal offense to blend what Carroll wants in balance with the run, and what Wilson’s strengths are in moving the pocket and throwing on the move.
Wilson tends to be more decisive, less likely to take a sack, more likely to take a few yards on a scramble, or just throw the ball away when he is rolled out versus when he is in the pocket. You do not want an entire offense forcing him out of the pocket as that eliminates half the field for the defense to worry about, but getting him on the move more than Schottenheimer did would be a welcome change.
What we have not seen is McVay’s scheme run by a competent quarterback. Jared Goff is no Russell Wilson. It will be interesting to see how Waldron takes advantage of Wilson’s elite deep throwing ability. It should not be too tough, and if he can add more intermediate and short throws, we really have something to look forward to.
McVay’s offense also attacked the middle of the field a lot. That was a weakness for Seattle last season, and a must when facing two deep safeties.
It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has on personnel as the Rams have favored smaller, quicker, route-running experts at receiver like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. DK Metcalf is a different beast entirely. Might this increase the odds of a guy like John Ross finding his way to Seattle to run some of those jet sweeps?
They also featured very fast tight ends in Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Jacob Hollister was the closest match to that style of tight end on the team. Although, he is a free agent I would not expect back. Everett is a free agent as well and may be someone Waldron asks the front office to target.
Another potential Rams free agent recruit could be center Austin Blythe. Or receiver Josh Reynolds.
Waldron brings expertise in McVay’s system, and also brings tons of insight into how a division rival scouted and attacked Seattle. This could be useful both on offense and defense. He knows how they tried to stop Wilson, and has to have a good idea how to counter it. He also saw how teams slowed the Rams defense, like Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers, and have some ideas how to better attack the Rams.
McVay is one of the smartest coaches in the NFL. This was the guy he leaned on most offensively and for a long period of time. That is a good sign. That is all we really have right now is signs.
Waldron has not called plays. We do not know how he adjusts within a game or a season. We do not know how clever he is of a playcaller or how strong of a leader he will be.
Both Carroll and Wilson have strong personalities and belief systems. Bevell was a nice guy who fit in, but did not always command the room or push back against either his QB or coach enough. Schottenheimer was better in that regard for sure, but was not a clever enough playcaller or strategist. Waldron needs to bring more than a McVay scheme to Seattle. He needs to be a strong enough leader to change some well worn habits of headstrong men.
The hope here is that Wilson played a role in this hire and will therefore be more open to the guidance Waldron brings.
This is a big moment for the franchise. I do not think it is overstating things to say the outcome will determine whether Carroll and Wilson get back to another Super Bowl. They need the offense to be sustainably great. It was not this past season. Should Waldron excel in this role, there is a real chance he could become the next Seahawks head coach. It would not surprise me if Carroll would choose to step aside rather than lose him to another team in that situation, especially if they win another ring.
For now, we wait for his first press conference and begin to gather information based on who they target in free agency and the draft. It is a new day in Seattle, and there is reason to believe they have their best fit for OC since Carroll started.