At some point Thursday night, Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will look across the field to the Rams sideline, and when he does, he will see not only a lot of players who he coached during his four years with the Rams, but also the head coach, Sean McVay, who helped jump-start Waldron's career by bringing a then offensive quality control coach with him from Washington when he became the Rams' head coach in 2017.
Under McVay, Waldron went from tight ends coach to passing game coordinator, and this offseason he became the Seahawks' offensive coordinator. And now Waldron will test his offense against his former boss' team in a game that is significant for all of the obvious reasons when it comes to the NFC West standings, but that won't be any different for Waldron despite who is on the opposing sideline.
"There's a lot of great relationships I have with people out in L.A., but as far as the game goes, I think there's two separate worlds I'm living in right now," Waldron said. "It's a football week for me. I'm excited to be in a Thursday night game, a Thursday night setting, divisional game. Just like last week, it was an important game. No difference this week as we approach this one coming up quick."
Yet even if Waldron is treating this week like any other this season, he does acknowledge that McVay and the Rams played a big role in him ending up an NFL offensive coordinator. But when it comes to coaches, friendship comes with a competitive streak, so no matter how appreciative Waldron is for what McVay has done for his career, he also still really wants to beat his friend and mentor.
"It's a great friendship," Waldron said. "He's meant so much to my coaching career. He's helped me tremendously, really helped me get to this position where I'm at now. I have a ton of appreciation for him. There's that part of it where we are such great friends and I have so much respect for him and what he's done for me personally, but then there's also that competitive part where that friendship also leaves and that competitive nature when you're going against each other. I'm sure I'll talk to him plenty throughout the course of the year like we've done in the offseason or earlier in this season, but this week is not about that. It's about the teams competing and the players that are going out there to play."
Talking to reporters in Los Angles this week, McVay noted that Waldron had a big hand in building the Rams offense since the two of them came to L.A. together in 2017, and said he's pulling for Waldron and Seahawks run game coordinator Andy Dickerson, who came to Seattle from L.A. with Waldron, to have a lot of success with the Seahawks, just not this weekend.
"Shane's great," McVay said. "Shane and I have a great relationship, I loved working with Shane. Shane was an instrumental, foundational piece of everything that's gone on since we got here as a new staff in 2017. We were together in Washington. I'm pulling for him to do well except when we play these guys. I've kept up with him, I'm familiar with what they've done—as I would anyways—but you're especially interested because it's one of your buddies. And Andy Dickerson is there as well. We still keep in regular touch, I'm really happy for the success that he's had, except for on Thursday this week."
McVay also noted that Waldron "certainly has his own spin on things in Seattle that you can see," particularly finding ways to highlight the strengths of players like Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
"Like any good coach does, tailored the system to his players' skillsets," McVay said.
Yet even if the current Seahawks offense isn't an exact copy of L.A.'s, there's a reason Pete Carroll wanted to bring Waldron to Seattle.
"We have a lot of respect for what they do, obviously, so much that we brought it here," Carroll said.
And ultimately, what Carroll likes about both Waldron's and McVay's offenses ties back to a pair of offensive coaches that Carroll has long respected, Bill Walsh and Mike Shanahan. Shanahan and Carroll just missed working together in San Francisco—Shanahan left to become the Broncos head coach in 1995, the year Carroll was hired as the 49ers' defensive coordinator—but both are students of Walsh's West Coast offense, and Carroll in particular likes the spin Shanahan put on that offense, which he in turn passed on to McVay when they worked together in Washington.
"I'm very clear on what I think is important in the game in terms of approach and having an awareness of how run and pass fits together and how offense fits together with defense," Carroll said when asked what he was looking for when hiring an offensive coordinator. "Also, the understanding of how important the ball is to your play—to take care of it for your team. I start off with those big thoughts making sure the basics are touched and get those things knocked out. If you guys have watched the guys that I've hired over the years and how it's worked, there's always been a connection to Mike Shanahan. Mike Shanahan was one of my favorite coaches, back in the day, and his understanding of the ball and how he put together the West Coast offense that came out of Coach Walsh's system and how he evolved. Some guys evolved one way and some guys evolve another way. (Mike) Holmgren went from that same system, he went a little bit different with how he put together his running game. Mike, I always thought he had something special there, so I've been connected to guys from the background of that system for a long time if you guys can put that lineage together. I thought Shane (Waldron) and a couple other guys form that same background were guys that I was really excited about as well. Shane was the best right guy for our situation, for everything that we were trying to get done."
The Seahawks and Rams face off for the first game of the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Rams.