RENTON, WA - Going from a traditional passer like Jared Goff to an elite, well-rounded creator of Russell Wilson's caliber can be quite the culture shock. After helping craft a highly efficient offense conducive to Goff's abilities in Los Angeles, new Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is soaking up the greatness he has at his fingertips with the 10-year veteran Wilson.
"Being around Russell, it's been nothing but awesome," Waldron told reporters during his first press conference of training camp on Wednesday. "I mean, this guy is non-stop ball. He wants it all day every day, you know, starting from the time you walk in the building 'til the time you leave—he's ready to keep taking in more and more information. He wants to learn everything he can about every part of the offense. ... It's been a great chance to get around him, get to know him and just appreciate what a hard worker he is, what a great competitive mindset he has."
With an established superstar under center, you'll be hard-pressed to find an easier landing spot than the one Waldron has as a first-time play caller. Add in two receivers coming off franchise record-setting seasons, a retooled offensive line and a stable of running backs headlined by one of the game's most versatile players at the position—it's a dream scenario for most coordinators, young and old.
"I love it," Waldron expressed when talking about his role in Seattle. "I love it. You know, this has been a goal of mine for a long, long time. And I've been lucky enough to be in some places, especially my most recent stop with [Rams head coach] 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. And like I said: I've been preparing for this moment my whole life and I'm excited to get the opportunity."
Here in the early days of training camp, Waldron is experiencing some natural growing pains as a rookie coordinator. Throughout the team's second practice in pads on Wednesday, the offense struggled to protect the football as undrafted safety Aashari Crosswell intercepted Wilson and backup quarterback Geno Smith on separate occasions.
"Today was a hard day for the offense," coach Pete Carroll assessed. "We didn't handle the ball very well. We had some ball-handling things that we didn't do well. So I don't think this was a great day for us to improve. I think we gotta come back and bounce back from this."
Bouncing back and being adaptable will be key for Waldron in 2021. Adaptability, especially, is an important point of emphasis for the Seahawks after players alluded to "predictability" being the biggest contributing factor to the offense's well-documented struggles last season.
How Waldron keeps Seattle from falling into a one-dimensional approach as the season progresses is something he can only determine in the moment. In the fluid nature of the NFL, nothing can be taken for granted or foreseen—particularly the availability of players weeks down the road. However, he expects there to be natural evolution as the regular season schedule shrinks and the postseason grows closer, and understands the importance of recognizing when something has run its course.
"It's important to keep a pulse around the league, around different aspects of college football," Waldron explained. "If there's things that fit. You know, we know it's a copycat league. Football is a copycat game in general, but it also has to fit within the system that you're running and you have to have the people that have the ability to execute those different things."
One of the ways Waldron wants to separate his system from his predecessor Brian Schottenheimer's is the tempo in which the Seahawks operate. Carroll, Wilson and several other players and staff have talked about tempo at great length this offseason, but the orchestrator of the offense himself finally offered his thoughts on what it means to his philosophy.
"I think it's just part of everything we do," Waldron began. "You know, tempo means a lot of different things. But to me, it's the tempo in which we're practicing, how fast we're transitioning in and out of drills, how quickly we're getting in and out of our routes, how quickly we're getting in and out of the huddle, how fast we can play, how much pressure we can put on ourselves in practice to just be in that uptempo mindset all the time."
An integral part of his focus on tempo is increasing the rate in which the Seahawks take what opposing defenses give them. This means more passes in the short and intermediate game, particularly the latter. Per Sports Info Solutions, Wilson finished 17th among quarterbacks in intermediate (11-19 yards) pass attempts with 95 and targeted the middle of the field on just 48 percent of those throws—the worst mark in the entire league.
That will change under Waldron.
"To me, it's just part of having a balanced offense," Waldron stated. "Having a balanced offense, which doesn't mean we're conservative and it's a dink-and-dunk all the time, but when are those right opportunities to take completions, having that completion play mindset and then moving forward to the next play. So just having that good balance as part of our system grows. And week to week, there's different things that present themselves from a defense, so whatever that is that we can take advantage of that week, we'd like to try to do that."
As of now, Waldron is undecided on if he'll be calling plays from the sideline or in the booth this season. He'll be taking advantage of the Seahawks' two mock games and three preseason matchups to try his hand at both and come to a final decision at the end of the month.
In the meantime, his focus is solely on getting better—both as a team and as a coach. Wednesday wasn't his finest day at the office, but he remained upbeat and positive. It's the manner in which he's carried himself throughout his coaching career, and one he will need to maintain as he heads into uncharted waters. His quarterback has certainly mastered that mindset.
Waldron is already learning from Wilson and others—and each new experience he naturally goes through—as he embarks on this new chapter of his career. Room for error will be minimal given where the Seahawks are in their championship window, but it's unrealistic to expect a perfect performance across the board for any coordinator, let alone a rookie. All he can do is take his lumps in stride and approach it with the mentality he did on Wednesday.