RENTON — The newest Seahawk quarterback, Sean Mannion, was signed by Seattle this week in large part due to his association with the team’s first-year offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron.
Mannion and Waldron worked together with the Los Angeles Rams for two seasons, 2017 and 2018, when Waldron was the team’s tight ends coach and passing game coordinator.
Which means Mannion might have the best assessment of anyone on the current roster of what Seattle is getting in Waldron, whose given task of assuring the Seahawks’ offense doesn’t break down the way it did in the second half last season makes him as important as any addition the team made in the offseason.
“I think he’s just someone who is going to be really steady, day-in and day-out,’’ Mannion said Wednesday. “Which is what you want. He never gets too high or too low.’’
That ability to keep an even-keel was challenged Wednesday when the Seahawks offense endured what might have been its roughest day of training camp, suffering four fumbles and two interceptions.
“Today was a hard day from the offense,’’ coach Pete Carroll said later. “We’ve got to come back and bounce back from this day.”
But you never would have known the offense had been beaten around most of the day by the way Waldron enthusiastically greeted the media after practice for what was his previously-scheduled first time to talk to reporters this training camp.
“There’s my first test right there,’’ Waldron said with a smile of the offense’s struggles on Wednesday.
Waldron, though, knows full well it’s a long camp and a longer season, and not every play call is going to work as well on the field as it looks on the chalkboard. Like with the players, he says a short memory will be vital.
“I think the important part is not letting the emotions overtake what you’re trying to get done. Just having that nice even-keeled demeanor,” Waldron said. “It’s the NFL. Everybody’s good. Defenses are going to make plays from time to time. It’s a matter of really bouncing back and playing the next play. We tell our players that all the time, and I think it’s also our job as coaches to maintain that same demeanor we’re asking them to do.”
Still, the real test for Waldron won’t come until September, when he calls the plays in a regular-season NFL game for the first time in his life.
The 41-year-old Waldron has had play-calling responsibility for a full season just once in his life — in 2011 with Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
During his four years with the Rams — three as passing game coordinator — he got some chances to call plays during practices and in preseason games. But head coach Sean McVay was the playcaller come the regular season.
If that lack of play-calling experience might have scared off some head coaches, though, Carroll has said the total package of what Waldron could bring to Seattle was worth the risk.
Early returns on Waldron have been positive. Players have raved about the team’s renewed commitment to playing offense at a crisper tempo, and at the addition of some of what were trademarks of the Rams’ offense, such as a greater emphasis on the quick passing game, and on presnap motion.
As might be expected, Waldron isn’t giving up much detail on any of that right now, if he ever does.
But no matter how good the scheme, coordinators tend to be most harshly judged by the 60-70 or so play calls they make each Sunday.
Carroll said Waldron will inevitably have a little bit of a learning curve in managing gameday play-calling.
“Shane has called stuff before at their place in L.A. and (in the) preseason for sure,’’ Carroll said. “He seems very comfortable with it. But you’ve still got to get out there and get in all of the situations, and he hasn’t been able to do that yet. We will do everything we can to present the opportunities to get that done. There’ll still be some newness. I don’t know how you can avoid that.”
One thing Waldron said he’s learning is the value of delegating what he can to his assistants, knowing that his own plate is fuller then it’s ever been.
“The challenging part for me is just that day-in and day-out, making sure I’m doing a great job with my time management so we’re nice and efficient when we come out here and we can have a good product every day at practice,’’ Waldron said.
Waldron said he intends to start out calling games from the sidelines but could change course later.
“We’re going to go on the field to start,’’ he said. “Thinking about going in the booth. In my mind, it’s what’s best for our team. We’re going to look at a couple different things in terms of what’s coming up here and make a final decision as the season approaches.”
The good news for the Seahawks is that there will be a preseason this year for Waldron to sort out the gameday play calling kinks, unlike a year ago, when COVID-19 meant the cancellation of all exhibition games.
NFL teams will play three this year. Seattle will also hold its annual mock game Sunday at Lumen Field, which will also allow Waldron to begin getting comfortable with calling games at his new home field.
It’s a moment Waldron — who grew up in Portland and got his big break in 2016 when he was hired as offensive quality control coach by the Washington Football Team, beginning his association with McVay — said he has been anticipating for as long as he can remember.
“It’s been a goal of mine for a long time,’’ Waldron said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be in some places, especially my most recent stop with Sean McVay who did such a great job letting me continue to grow and develop as an assistant coach when I was there and getting some different opportunities along the way to help me prepare for this moment. Like I said, I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life.’’