Two weeks after the Seahawks announced the firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer Seattle appears to have found his replacement: Shane Waldron, who for the last three seasons has been the passing-game coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Tuesday night that the Seahawks “are planning to hire’’ Waldron. The report could not be immediately independently confirmed.
But indications Tuesday night were that the search was nearing its end. Seattle had also requested in the last few days to talk to Buffalo quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and had earlier interviewed Oakland running-backs coach Kirby Wilson before apparently settling on Waldron.
The Seahawks had also seen a few other possible candidates land elsewhere, notably former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who was reported to have talked to Seattle but instead took a job as offensive coordinator with the Lions. Seattle also reportedly talked to former Eagles coach and Ferndale High graduate Doug Pederson, but he is reportedly deciding not to coach in 2021.
Waldron, 41, has been with the Rams for all four years that Sean McVay has been coach and worked with McVay on the staff of the Washington Football Team in 2016 before coming to L.A. with him in 2017.
Waldron has seven years’ experience coaching in the NFL but has not been a coordinator at the NFL or college levels.
Waldron, a native of Portland, was with the Patriots in 2008 and 2009 as offensive quality-control coach and tight-ends coach and then spent six years in minor- league football, high-school and college football before returning to the NFL with Washington in 2016 as offensive quality-control coach on the staff of coach Jay Gruden.
He then followed McVay to L.A. and has served as tight-ends coach and quarterbacks coach and the past three years also has been the passing-game coordinator (he was TE coach in 2017 and QB coach in 2019).
The Rams have had one of the more prolific offenses under McVay but also one of the more balanced, an aspect that surely appeals to Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who said at the end of the 2020 season that the Seahawks needed to run it both more and better in 2021. The Rams have finished in the top 10 in rushing and top 10 in passing in three of the past four years.
The Rams last year had the seventh-highest run-to-pass ratio in the NFL at 55.75% (Seattle was 18th at 59.59%) operating out of an offense that features lots of play-action as well as fly-sweep runs using receivers while also finding ways to get receivers open in space for short passes that can turn into long gains — all qualities that assuredly appeal to Carroll.
Like many coaches with the Rams, Waldron saw his stock rise markedly after Los Angeles went to the Super Bowl following the 2018 season. He interviewed for the Cincinnati Bengals’ head-coaching job before Cincy then hired another Rams assistant, Zac Taylor. Waldron was QB coach in 2018.
That same year Waldron had also been linked to the offensive-coordinator job with the Detroit Lions, a position that eventually went to former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
The following year McVay let Waldron call some plays during preseason games in part to prepare him for landing a job as an offensive coordinator.
In 2018, McVay said he had no doubt that Waldron was ready to be an offensive coordinator.
“Absolutely,” McVay said. “I would be extremely disappointed, selfishly, if we lost him but so happy if that’s something that he felt like was the next step for he and his family. But there’s no doubt about it, he’s a great coach and he’s certainly ready if that’s the next step that he decides he wants to take.”
In that same interview, McVay said one thing he appreciated about Waldron is his calm under pressure.
“I think Shane has given us a whole lot more than a passing-game coordinator,” McVay said in a conference call the week the Rams played Detroit. “I think the leadership that he provides, the steady force as far as just a great demeanor, a great presence, (he’s) somebody that I can certainly learn from.
” … He’s a great communicator. He’s got a rare ability to authentically and genuinely connect with not only coaches, but the players and be able to correct in a manner that doesn’t make guys’ guards come up. It’s all about problem-solving and doing it together. He’s obviously done a phenomenal job, really mainly as a leader for our offense, not exclusively to just being a pass-game coordinator.”
Seattle fired Schottenheimer citing “philosophical differences” after a season in which the Seahawks scored a team-record 459 points to rank eighth in the NFL but flailed badly in the second half of the season, bottoming out with a 30-20 loss to the Rams at home in a wild-card playoff game.
Seattle was held to 20 points or fewer in five of its last nine games after scoring 30 or more in seven of the first eight, a stunning about-face that later caused Carroll to say the Seahawks didn’t adjust quickly enough to changes defenses made to combat Seattle’s offense as the year went on — specifically, using two-deep zones to eliminate deep passes.
The Rams’ mix of play-action, short passes, use of the tight end and ability to run a lot of plays out of not many formations — which can confuse defenses by not letting them know if a run or pass is coming — are also all aspects of the Los Angeles offense Carroll is hoping to now incorporate into Seattle’s. That all also surely appeals to Seattle QB Russell Wilson, who said he would have input into the hire, which leads to the assumption he has signed off on Waldron coming to Seattle.
Certainly, Carroll has seen the Rams do a lot of damage to his defense as L.A. has scored 28 or more points against Seattle in six of nine meetings since McVay took over in 2017.
Waldron is a 1997 graduate of La Salle Prep in Milwaukie, Oregon, and then attended Tufts University in Middlesex, Massachusetts, where he was a three-year letterman as a tight end and long snapper.
He then spent three years with the New England Patriots from 2002-04 under Bill Belichick as an operations intern for two years and then one season as an operations assistant before moving to Notre Dame in 2005 as an offensive graduate assistant, spending three seasons with the Fighting Irish under Charlie Weis — who had been the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.
He then returned to the Patriots in 2008 and 2009 before then spending the 2010 season as the receivers coach for the Hartford Colonials of the now-defunct United Football League.
He then worked four seasons at UMass, serving as recruiting coordinator and tight- ends coach for two years and offensive-line coach for two more before latching on with Washington and Gruden — and meeting McVay — in 2016.
Waldron, who is married and has two daughters, becomes the latest of a handful of McVay assistants who have been lured away by other teams, including Packers coach Matt LaFleur and Taylor.
He also becomes the fourth coordinator of the Carroll era. Jeremy Bates served in that role in Carroll’s first year in 2010 before being fired after the season.
Bevell took over and held the job for the next seven seasons but was fired after 2017 when Seattle went 9-7 to miss the playoffs for the only time since Wilson became the quarterback in 2012 and in a season when the running game floundered.
Schottenheimer was then hired with an initial stated goal to revive the running game, which he did as Seattle went from 23rd in rushing in 2017 to first in 2018.
But after teams caught on to Seattle’s pass-happy ways the first half of 2020 and the Seahawks offense hit the skids, Schottenheimer was also fired and Seattle’s offense is now Waldron’s world.