O’Neil: Seahawks’ choice of Shane Waldron means offensive changes will be about more than run game
Jan 27, 2021, 12:48 PM
So much for the old-and-stubborn storyline that was being invoked to explain Pete Carroll’s desire for his Seahawks’ offense.
That went out the window sometime between the news the Seahawks were talking to Buffalo assistant Ken Dorsey and were intrigued by Green Bay quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy. By the time it was reported the Seahawks were planning to hire 41-year-old Shane Waldron as their next offensive coordinator, it should have been pretty clear that Carroll wasn’t looking to turn back the hands of time on his offense, returning to a simpler era when men ran the ball and 3 yards was sufficient provided it was accompanied by a cloud of dust.
Nope, Seattle’s coach went and got himself someone who has been coordinating the passing game for a well-regarded offense, copping a coach from a division rival to boot.
How Waldron’s arrival will impact Seattle’s offense is an act of faith at this point. With Russell Wilson, he will be working with a better quarterback than he had in Los Angeles in Jared Goff. He will also be calling the plays, which is something he did not do in Los Angeles as head coach Sean McVay does more than just oversee that offense.
The hiring of Waldron does tell us something about what Carroll was looking for, though. Or more tellingly, what he didn’t seek out. He did not turn to his past for a vision of what Seattle would be on offense next season. That’s not a criticism of the guys he has worked with but more a piece of evidence that Carroll isn’t looking to recreate the running game the Seahawks had in the days of yore as many had speculated when the team parted ways with Brian Schottenheimer. Some went so far as to wonder if Schottenheimer walked away after being told the team needed to run the ball going forward, and from the beginning, that never really made sense.
First of all, coaches don’t tend to walk away from quarterbacks the caliber of Wilson unless they’ve got a better job lined up, especially when the coach in question has previously been given Mark Sanchez as a franchise quarterback. But it’s also important to remember that Schottenheimer did not come to Seattle as an agent of offensive revolution. In fact, when he was hired to replace Darrell Bevell in 2018, the move was not greeted with much enthusiasm from those who believed that Russell Wilson’s arm should be responsible for a larger chunk of Seattle’s offensive production
Schottenheimer’s greatest coaching success to that point had come with the Jets under Rex Ryan when they built one of the league’s best rushing offenses and played for the conference championship in back-to-back seasons.
Now in Schottenheimer’s three seasons as offensive coordinator, the Seahawks did start to throw the ball more effectively on early downs and early in games. That was especially true for the first half of 2020 as the Seahawks built big leads and scored more than 30 points in seven of their first eight games. The offense passed that 30-point threshold just once in the final eight regular-season games, though, as teams adjusted to Seattle’s clearly established predilection for deep passes.
After the Seahawks’ season ended in a playoff loss to the Rams, Carroll pointed to the need to run the ball to make defenses pay for keeping a second safety deep to protect the back end. And when it was announced that Schottenheimer wouldn’t be back the following day, some assumed that Schottenheimer disagreed with the role the run should play in Seattle’s offense going forward. Now, it’s worth noting that those people who were assuming that Schottenheimer disagreed with the emphasis on the run were the very same people who worried he was too beholden to that part of the game when he was hired, but that’s beside the point.
The hiring of Waldron shows that this change atop Seattle’s offense was about more than the run game. In fact, it might not have even been mostly about the run game.
That’s not to say he doesn’t care about it. The Rams have featured one of the more versatile and explosive run games in the league in his four seasons with the staff. But the Rams’ ability to utilize a broader array of players in the passing game is something to pay attention to because it was more than just Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp who got the ball in Los Angeles. It was also tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett and receiver Josh Reynolds. The Rams had five players who caught 40 or more passes last season; the Seahawks had two.
Carroll wasn’t looking for the same old running back game he has had, he was seeking an approach that would utilize the full array of playmakers that he sees on his offense. If he was seeking to take a page out of the past for Seattle’s offensive future, that’s where he would have looked to find a new offensive coordinator. Instead, he sought out someone new to come up with a plan for what the Seahawks can become.