The way everyone around the Seahawks has talked about Shane Waldron’s actual and potential contributions this season, the new offensive coordinator has risen in importance above any of the new player acquisitions. He’s developing a bit of a rock-star aura.
“I don’t know about that,” he said, laughing. “Far from that. Maybe Eddie Vedder out here, but not me.”
The Portland native so far is a little low on brashness and outrageousness. But if he delivers on what he was hired to fix, he’ll at least be entitled to jump solo on the hood of a Super Bowl parade bus and swig Fireball, as Marshawn Lynch did on a memorable frozen February afternoon in 2014.
It is Waldron’s charge to finish healing whatever it was last season that came between between coach Pete Carroll and and Russell Wilson, which led the Seahawks quarterback to publicly voice his unhappiness by hinting he might like to play elsewhere. Despite a 12-4 season that included 459 points that was a team record, the fracture cost OC Brian Schottenheimer his job after the offense dwindled into mediocrity and a 30-20 playoff loss to the Rams.
The Rams’ sixth win in the previous eight games against Seattle was also the first Seahawks’ first home playoff loss of the Carroll/Wilson era. Sensing a trend, Carroll poached Waldron, 41, the Rams’ passing game coordinator, to do unto the Rams what he had done unto the Seahawks — even though Waldron had never been a coordinator at the college or pro levels.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life and I’m excited to get the opportunity,” Waldron said Wednesday, his first in-person meeting with the media since he took the job. He gave props to Sean McVay, the Rams coach who for four years had the most recent hand in grooming one of the NFL’s more well-regarded assistant coaches.
“He had such a great trust in his coaches and his preparation,” Waldron said. “Being around him, and how fast he can see the game, how quickly he’s able to react to situations — I feel like he was always one step ahead of the defense, one step ahead of the game. Being able to learn that, and learn how his mind operated, he did such a great job.
“I thought it was so great to be around him because he let me do so many different things to prepare for this role that I’m in today.”
McVay and Waldron in January were one step ahead of the Seahawks all day. They coaxed a win out of a four-fingered backup QB in what would be his finale with the Rams. Jared Goff threw for a measly 155 yards, yet beat Wilson & Co. on the road.
It was a shock to the Seattle system. Wilson completed just 11 passes, threw a pick-six and was sacked five times. Two days later, Schottenheimer was gone after three seasons. The post-mortem included the criticism that the Seahawks had no counter to the deployment by the Rams and others of double-teams of WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
TE Gerald Everett, who came from the Rams in free agency, figures Waldron’s use of pre-snap motion will cure some of the Seahawks’ predictability.
“It definitely makes us unpredictable,” he said. “Something that Seattle struggled with last year as an offense was teams started to be able to key in on DK and Tyler and double both of those guys. It just left nothing for the offense to gain. There’s a reason why I’m here, and there’s a reason why Shane is here.”
Regarding Wilson, Waldron’s sense of purpose was keen.
“Biggest thing we’re trying to do here is limit the times that we’re on the ground,” he said, “but also not limit the explosiveness that can be created with some of these off-scheduled plays.”
For any fan worried about Wilson’s level of commitment after the controversy over his remarks, Waldron has seen no evidence.
“Being around Russell, it’s been nothing but awesome,” he said. “I mean, this guy is non-stop ball. He wants it all day, every day. Starting from the time you walk in the building till the time you leave, he’s ready to keep taking in more and more information. He wants to learn everything he can about every part of the offense. He remembers everything from Pop Warner all the way through last year.
“It’s been a great chance to get to know him, and what a great competitive mindset he has, now that we’re out on the field here.”
Naturally, Carroll is beaming about Waldron’s fit.
“He has seamlessly just taken over,” he said. “He’s pictured himself in this role. He assumed the position very comfortably. He’s really good in front of the team.
“One of the real assets that Shane has is his understanding of what’s goes on across the board. He’s knows the running game up front, he knows pass protection up front from a lineman’s perspective, he’s coached tight ends a long time. He doesn’t have to turn it over to (line coach Mike Solari). he can fill in and make sure he’s
expressing that emphasis we need on stuff. That’s a big asset.”
If Waldron pulls off successfully directing Wilson in McVay’s offense, Pearl Jam will need to make room on stage.