Just three weeks after competing against the Seahawks in a playoff game, Shane Waldron is excited to be joining Seattle's side. Waldron, who has been a Rams assistant for four seasons, went through a series of virtual interviews before being named the Seahawks' offensive coordinator last Friday.
"It was a digital interview process with a lot of phone calls and Zoom elements to the process," Waldron said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. "Over the course of several days (Pete Carroll and I) spoke. We had some great conversations starting with philosophy, starting with my history and really taking it all the way through things that he believed in. At the end of this thing, he just wanted to be sure we were aligned in how we view the game, how we view things moving forward."
Here are seven other things we learned from Waldron's introduction to Seattle:
1. Waldron is excited for the challenge of calling his own regular season plays.
After working under Rams coach Sean McVay for four seasons, it's finally Waldron's turn to take the keys of an offense. Waldron has paid his dues with years of NFL experience with the Rams, Washington Football Team and New England Patriots, and he's ready for the challenge of calling his own plays.
"(Carroll) has my back, he's fully supportive of what I want to do and what direction we want to take this thing together," Waldron said. "I'm walking into a great scenario with a bunch of great coaches that have such a solid foundation from coach Carroll right on down through the men on the offensive staff.
"... (Calling plays) is a great challenge, and it's a challenge I've been preparing for my whole life. It's one of those things that I'm ready to get going with and excited to attack that opportunity."
While 2021 will be Waldron's first foray into regular season play-calling, he does have experience in preseason games and practices. McVay often allowed assistants to take over the duties -- an experience that Waldron is now even more thankful for.
"I learned a ton from Sean along the way with that play-calling experience. He's allowed me the opportunity to do it in different settings, whether it's the preseason or scrimmages or practices. So, I've had a little hand in it that way, knowing that that's obviously not the real deal and there's going to be that opportunity here coming up."
2. Some aspects of last year's offense will still exist, but Waldron plans to implement his own philosophies.
The Seahawks are in a unique position with a new offensive coordinator coming aboard. Last season, Seattle had the highest-scoring offense in franchise history and Russell Wilson threw a career-high 40 touchdowns. So while adding a new offensive coordinator signals a need for change, there will still be some similarities to 2020 -- of course, with the added twist of Waldron's philosophies.
"I have a core set of beliefs that I'm going to stick to, but we're going to build this thing together," Waldron said. "The one thing with Russell and the rest of the players on this team, they have a great foundation and have won a lot of football games together. Will there be parts of stuff that carries over? Absolutely, because there's been some great things that they've done in the past.
"For me, I'm more worried about 2021. There's a lot of things in the past that we all learn from and grow from those experiences, but really everything moving forward is going to be about this year and how this group of players fits together and this group of coaches fits together and how we can attack that with a competitive mindset."
3. A balanced attack is crucial to Waldron's offensive system.
Balancing the running game and passing game has long been a philosophy of Pete Carroll's, and it appears Waldron shares that belief.
Last season, the Seahawks ranked 17th in the league in passing attempts and 17th in the league in rushing attempts -- just about as balanced as you can get. Waldron intends to stay balanced, with an added emphasis on the "attacking mindset" and keeping the "foot on the gas pedal."
"We're going to be a balanced offense that's going to have the ability to create explosive plays with that attacking mindset," Waldron said. "We want to be the one with the foot on the gas pedal. There's going to be a wide variety of pieces to this offense, but that mindset will never change with how we get to that. It's really going to be based on the players, because any of these core beliefs don't get off the ground without them.
"The balanced approach is really how I want to view this thing. That's what really blends the ability to play good complimentary football, whether it's running the ball or understanding how the defense is playing in different games. Having that balanced approach that's able to adjust and adapt depending on the style of the game or what the score might dictate in any particular game. The great part about Russell Wilson within this system is he does have the ability to do a lot of different things. Just because it's a balanced attack doesn't mean it's a conservative attack."
4. Analytics will play a role in Waldron's thinking but the game flow still matters.
The analytics movement in sports is often a controversial topic of discussion. When the analytical decision works out, coaches are praised for intelligent thinking. When it doesn't go as planned, coaches are criticized for using numbers rather than their eyes. Under Waldron, he plans to balance the two sides. Analytics will be used, but he understands that each game script is different and no two moments can be judged the same way.
"Like anything, this game is always evolving," Waldron said. "You always have to have that ability as a coach to adapt to new technologies and new ways of looking at things and approaching it with an open mind.
"My philosophy with the analytical approach is that I think there are some great things that have really opened up our eyes as coaches as to what some approaches can be in different scenarios. But I also think there are certain scenarios in the game, there's that great balance of what do the analytics tell you to do versus what's the feel of the game from a personnel standpoint that might lead you to some different decisions. I think there's always a collaboration on those decisions and I love using the analytics as a starting point and then be able to make smart, sound decisions based on the flow of a football game."
5. Pete Carroll and Waldron did not have a relationship prior to the interview process.
Oftentimes in the NFL, coordinators are hired based on past relationships with the head coach. That'snot the case with Waldron. In fact, he never even had a conversation with Carroll prior to the interview process.
"I've always just respected him from afar or the opposite sideline," Waldron said. "I've never had a chance to really interact with him before Seattle reached out to start this interview process. My first experience going against coach Carroll wasn't a positive one. I was fortunate to work with Charlie Weis at Notre Dame as a graduate assistant when he was in his USC days and he got the better of us a couple times there. That was the start of my appreciation from him as a head coach and as a person."
Carroll definitely has the bragging rights over Waldron based on those early meetings. USC went 3-0 against Notre Dame while Waldron was in South Bend, punctuated by a 38-0 victoryin 2007.
6. Russell Wilson and Waldron are already getting to know each other.
The Seahawks have seven months or so until the 2021 regular season kicks off, but Waldron is already communicating with his star quarterback. Waldron emphasized how important it is to get to know his players on a personal level, especially considering how many hours coaches and players spend together each year.
"I have a great chance to get to know him as a person," Waldron said. "We talked a lot about our families. Just really getting to know each other more as people because I do think the football part of it will be an important part of it when the time's right, but our conversations have really centered around just who we are as people. You're in a room with some guys for a lot of hours every day when the season gets rolling. That compatible personality, he seems like he has this unrelenting desire to be better, be the best he can be, so I think when we started talking about those things it was some really fun conversations."
"He's a guy that any time in any situation in the game when I've been on the opposite side of the ball, you peek up and say 'Man, this guy can explode and create a game-winning play.' He's the type of quarterback, which I love, I don't think there's any scenario that he's entered in life where he thought he was going to fall short. He's got that mindset that he's going to be the best."
7. Waldron keeps up with all levels of football to stay creative.
Waldron knows better than anyone how important all levels of football are. He played at the Division III college level and has coaching experience in high school, Division I college, the NFL and the United Football League. One benefit of experiencing all the different levels is that he's seen so many different types of offense and it allows him to be more creative.
"You always need to have a pulse of the league, not just the league but college football and high school football," Waldron said. "I have a belief that you can see some of the most creative football at the high school level and then it trickles up to the college level and then to the pros because you're talking about some scenarios where the playing field isn't always equal. In pro ball, everyone is so close. The margin for error is so small and everyone is so similar in their abilities. So, being able to bring out the best of their abilities is a huge part of that."