We know that the offensive side of the ball is not where Pete Carroll built his reputation. We know that the defense is his baby, and those shutdown Seahawks Super Bowl teams were largely the result of his expertise in that area.
So you might assume that when Carroll hires an offensive coordinator, he would give over a fair amount of autonomy. With Shane Waldron, though, I get the feeling that freedom is going to have to be earned.
At the end of last season, after the Rams bounced the Seahawks from the playoffs, Carroll was emphatic about his desire to adjust the offense. He hammered home the point that he not just wanted to run the ball better, but more often.
Shortly after, he and then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer parted ways due to “philosophical differences.” The takeaway? The next OC may be calling the plays, but he dare not stray from Carroll’s vision.
Waldron met with the Seattle media for the first time during a Zoom call Tuesday. And he sounded like a coach who had been under Carroll’s tutelage for the past several years. He stressed that his offensive approach was going to be “all about the ball,” echoing a frequent Carroll talking point. He added the importance of having offensive balance, another Carroll tenet.
So will Pete hand over the reins? Glean what you can from Waldron’s response.
“I talked to Pete a bunch about this in the process. He has my back, fully supportive with what I want to do and what direction we want to take this thing together,” Waldron said. “It will be through my direction that this offense will be run.”
Interpretation: Waldron will call the plays, can implement ideas, but can’t stray too far from Carroll’s offensive philosophy.
And that philosophy has come under some criticism lately.
Though the Seahawks scored the most points in franchise history this season, their offensive production dipped substantially in the second half. The struggles peaked in the playoff loss to the Rams, where quarterback Russell Wilson was held to 174 yards on 11-of-27 passing.
On a podcast a couple of weeks later, former Seahawks receiver Brandon Marshall asked current Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf what happened to the offense. Metcalf’s response?
“Teams just started to figure us out. We’ve been running deep in the past — ever since Pete got there. It’s play-action, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, go deep. Teams just said we’re not gonna let you go deep.”
Can’t fault DK for his honesty, but the “ever since Pete got there” line suggests that he thinks Carroll needs to adjust rather than rely on his decade-long approach to the offense.
But that’s all conjecture for now. As is wondering what the offense will look like under Waldron. His answers Tuesday were thorough but short on specifics. It does sound like it will be a collaborative effort, though.
“I have a core set of beliefs I’m going to stick to, but we’re going to build this together,” Waldron said. “The one thing with Russell and the rest of the players that are on this team is they have a great foundation and have won a lot of football games together.”
The question is: What’s the best approach to winning more? It is understandable why Carroll would want to put such an emphasis on running the ball. That’s what his Super Bowl teams did when they had Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
Plus, Wilson had a stretch last season in which he threw seven interceptions over four games, three of which resulted in Seattle losses. That’s going to spook someone such as Carroll into returning to his familiar ways. Does familiar equal better, though?
With receivers Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the lineup, the Seahawks have an unprecedented threat in their passing game. And if you look at the teams who made it to their respective conference championship games (the Packers, Bucs, Chiefs and Bills), all were in the NFL’s top seven in passing yards.
Is Carroll using his weapons properly? Well, even if he isn’t, Waldron likely isn’t going to change Pete’s mind any time soon.
Carroll knows what he wants. He has made that clear. Waldron may have more freedom one day, but for now he’ll be deferring to his coach.