Shane Waldron's Bears Offense Seeking Out Its Own Identity

Analysis: The Bears offensive coordinator has a chance with this personnel group to set up an attack capable of succeeding in many ways, unlike last year's attack.
Shane Waldron, right, questions Caleb Williams about a matter during stretching at Bears offseason practice.
Shane Waldron, right, questions Caleb Williams about a matter during stretching at Bears offseason practice. / David Banks Photo | USA TODAY
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Bears offensive coordinator Shane Waldron sits in a position much like Caleb Williams.

In fact, in many ways Bears quarterbacks have earned greater acclaim over the years than the offensive coordinator.

At least the occasional Jim McMahon, Erik Kramer and Jay Cutler provided some level of arm talent or competency through the years to the quarterback position. When was the last time anyone yearned for the days of a specific Bears offensive coordinator? Ron Turner might have been the only one recognized as competent, with a tip of the cap to Greg Landry.

The list of scorned includes Terry Shea, John Shoop, Gary Crowton, Adam Gase, Dowell Loggains, Mike Tice, Mike Martz and Aaron Kromer, for crying out loud. Very few remember the offensive coordinator when the Bears won a Super Bowl (Ed Hughes), overshadowed possibly by the presence and definitely by the ego of Mike Ditka. 

The franchise has never had the right idea about offensive coordinator. The second official one they hired was one of the greatest passing minds in history, Sid Gillman. Then Jack Pardee forced Gillman to hand it off play after play after play to Walter Payton before he wanted out.

The Bears held their nose and borrowed from their arch enemies with Luke Getsy, and now he's gone after two years. Whether Getsy had the right person running his offense in Chicago will be more apparent as he takes over the Raiders offense this year.

What was obvious was that offense couldn't win without Fields as a running back/quarterback and in the NFL this combination usually means failure, the lone exception being Lamar Jackson. And even he hasn't managed to get beyond the passer in Kansas City.

The Bears have turned now to someone with more experience building versatility into an offense, and Waldron has the chance to make his mark like no other Bears offensive coordinator if Williams delivers.

It's been difficult to put a finger on exactly what Waldron hangs his hat on with this offense from the small percentage of plays media saw during offseason work. One thing is certain: The plan and is for an attack capable of responding to all personnel and any plan deployed by defenses. They want it to be an offense capable of being what it must be rather than one attempting always to dictate to defenses with a running game or with a specific type of passing game. They want the best of all worlds.

Building in Offensive Options

For that reason, Waldron bristles a bit when he hears these comments and comparisons to the offense he had in Seattle or even the offense he came from in Los Angeles before getting his first NFL coordinator position.

"I think we can be the best version of the 2024 Bears, and so comparisons to different teams in different situations, to me, those aren't what we're looking at in terms of saying those are apples to apples," Waldron said. "Those are different scenarios.



"There are different pieces from each scenario that we can pull from. But for us, we're just trying to be the best version of ourselves and we feel like we have good pieces around our offensive structure right now."

Comparisons to his offense in Seattle are natural not entirely because of his background but because of the personnel. He had the three wide receivers like he has now with Rome Odunze, Keenan Allen and DJ Moore. He had two mobile quarterbacks who much preferred to pass first, just like Williams. He had three tight ends in Seattle and with the addition of 40-something Marcedes Lewis to Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett, he has this again.

The running back by committee look is standard throughout the league these days and he had it for a while in Seattle and then didn't have it as well. The extent he uses it in Chicago will likely depend on D'Andre Swift's production and preservation.

"I think for us on offense, we want to be able to be multiple on offense and so with the addition of the wide receivers, having three receivers, two great established vets, we've got other young guys that are up and coming on the roster, as well, it just allows us to continue to be multiple, allows us to on a week-by-week basis see what might be a matchup advantage or something that we can look to lean heavier towards," Waldron said. "And with Cole and Gerald and the other tight ends and KB at fullback, we got a lot of different pieces that we can utilize."



Time to Pull It All Off Is the Key

To make the multiple offense work as planned requires time to throw and space to run.

The offensive line struggled to prevent negative plays throughout Justin Fields' time in Chicago as quarterback. Whether it was silly penalties or sacks, the line couldn't allow the offense the chance for enough positive plays. They were eighth, fourth and second in sacks allowed in three years with Fields starting. Perhaps more telling, the sack percentage for Tyson Bagent's 4 1/2 games at QB was 3.4% and for Fields 10.6%. And the 10.6% represented the lowest in Fields' three years with the Bears. 

When Waldron came to the Seahawks, they gave up the seventh-most and ninth-most sacks in his first two years, then the 10th fewest in his final season. The Bears can't stand for it to take this long for a change in their fortunes, considering the talent they've amassed and the fact they have a rookie quarterback who needs time to throw an develop.

So much of the Bears' failures on the offensive line under Getsy stemmed from how injuries prevented continuity. They've had to endure 19 starting offensive line switches in the 34 games played over the past two years.

"We want five guys healthy," offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. "And hopefully this is the year we do it."

If they can pull this together, the offense will stabilize faster and look less like the "work in progress" that it did in offseason practice. 

Even if they get it, Williams said change will be constant as they improve.

 "Whether it's Game 1, Game 18, Game 21, whatever the case may be, it's always a work in progress," he said. "That's the reason why you may win, play really well one week and then the next week you don't play as well.

"It's always a work in progress and the progress always shows in the work that you had before the season but also throughout the season."

The offense will be as multiple and changing as possible to fit the offensive approach of the coordinator.

"The personalities are jelling, the people are great," Waldron said. "And so with that, the results will come.

"So we'll stick with the process. We'll stick with our daily improvement and that daily grind, and the results will happen."

If it does, Waldron will be in a position few Bears offensive coordinators—if any—have ever found.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.