BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 01/30/2021

Thiel: Seahawks twice poach Rams’ coaching

Poaching two coaches from the Rams is the highest compliment Carroll can pay LA coach Sean McVay. Modified prime directive: #KeepRussSafe to #LetRussCook again.

Next time Russell Wilson sees Aaron Donald, he hopes to be clever enough to keep his shot from being blocked. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Of more interest than Friday afternoon’s official announcement of Shane Waldron to succeed Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator was the filling of a second Seahawks coaching vacancy.

Waldron’s former college teammate and longtime friend, Andy Dickerson, was hired to be running game coordinator. Dickerson also was an assistant coach with the Rams, in fact the longest tenured (nine years) of head coach Sean McVay’s staff.

So Pete Carroll poached a tandem from the rival that has made the Seattle coach’s professional life miserable.

Carroll could pay no higher tribute to McVay.

Other than getting up in his grill and asking, “What’s your deal?”

That salute belongs forever to ex-49ers coach and known Carroll denier Jim Harbaugh. But LA ending the Seahawks’ playoff ambitions at one game with a clinical 30-20 defeat Jan. 9, coupled with the 42-7 defeat in 2017 that was the worst in Carroll’s Seattle tenure, have ratcheted up the tension.

I’m not saying the Rams rivalry has reached Defcon Harbaugh level yet. The squints are, however, approaching a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western.

But beyond the coach-poach drama, there was also some intrigue in the content of the club’s posting of the news on the team site.

The first statistic cited in the release about the hire of two offensive coaches was sacks, and the lack thereof in their time together in LA, where Dickerson was assistant O-line coach  and Waldron the passing game coordinator.

Not point totals, nor passing yardage, nor run frequency. But infrequency of sacks.

That’s because the most sacred commandment in the Book of First Carrollians (loosely translated from Aramaic) is, “Thou shall not soil thy undergarments.”

Sacks. Fumbles. Interceptions. Penalties. Those sorts of things.

Curiously, religion scholars believe the commandment does not address mismanaged fourth downs.

But we digress.

Here is the text under discussion:

Since McVay took over in 2017, the Rams have been in the top 10 in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed for four straight years, including in 2019 when they gave up a league-low 22 sacks, and last season when they allowed 25, tied for sixth fewest.

As Seahawks followers know, sacks have been a bane for the Seahawks in the Russell Wilson years. This year’s total of 47 was tied for fourth-most in the NFL, and four shy of his single-season high in 2018. Wilson now has 394, already 20th on the NFL’s career list in only nine seasons.

The second element of the game mentioned in the release was rushing, not passing.

The Rams also had a top 10 rushing attack three of the past four years, including last season when they ranked 10th, averaging 126.1 rushing yards per game despite not having a running back rush for more than 625 yards for the season.

The passing game was not addressed. That’s the part that foundered in the second half of the season and was decimated in the playoff loss, with 11 completions. Yet thunderous passing numbers are what Wilson craves for his much-discussed bid to be the greatest ever.

Without trying to divine too much from the first reading of the scroll (we have yet to Zoom), the emphases seem to direct that Waldron and Dickerson improve pass protection by upgrading schemes, then make a top-10 running game with multiple backs who will force defenses to abandon the two-high-safety scheme that Wilson, Schottenheimer, et al, never solved.

Of Waldron, 41, Carroll said in the release, “His creative and competitive approach to the game will bring out the best in our players and coaches. Shane also brings great knowledge and insight about our division. His vision for the future, along with the caliber of players on our offense, made him a must get for us.”

Regarding Dickerson, 39, who takes over for the departed Brennan Carroll, Pete’s son, who’s now the offensive coordinator at the University of Arizona, Carroll said, “He has worked with Shane for many years and that continuity will be an integral factor in the transition process. They, together with our staff, will work to capture the many strengths we have developed over the years and expand the explosive ability that Russell Wilson and crew have afforded us.”

Good to see Wilson got a mention.

The facts that Waldron and Dickerson have had time and success together, including more Super Bowl appearances (one each) than most of the Seahawks, and know the locations of the Rams’ vulnerabilities, speaks well for their hires. It also means that on fourth-and-short situations in 2021, there will be two voices instead of one in Carroll’s headset yelling, “We have a great play! Go for it!”

What remains to be seen is whether the GM John Schneider can upgrade the talent levels among the O-line and tight ends to Rams-like levels. The slow erosion of the units’ contributions in the second half were little-acknowledged factors in the offense’s downfall. Looking at the talent levels and schemes of the NFL’s final four teams, the Seahawks weren’t a match.

Wilson may yet cook again. But if a feast instead of a snack is sought, a sous chef, a salad-maker and a pastry chef need to be included, and folded in a flashy, McVay-style presentation.

Beating McVay at his own game would be the highest compliment of all.


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YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    I think it has become common opinion that the Seahawks’ lack of ability to adjust has been brutal in its big-game losses. The only thing that has kept the Rams from quickly adjusting during the game was the immobile, if skillful quarterback who just doesn’t quite have the NFL mental chops to succeed. If anything, RW overthinks, holding onto the ball forever. Let’s see if they can teach him to throw within 2.5 seconds. Also, picking up a back in the draft like Najee Harris (they’d have to trade up in the 2nd) could help.

    • unknownone

      The Seahawks only have 4 picks in the 2021 draft. 4. Trading up in the draft often—not always but often—costs an additional pick, which we can’t afford this year. Plus, the short shelf life of running backs in the NFL makes trading up for one an even lower value proposition than it is for other positions. Running backs are a dime a dozen, and early round picks are unnecessary for an effective running game, which is what Carroll wants.

      • Husky73

        See if the Dolphins would part with Myles Gaskin?

        • art thiel

          Gaskin is in the middle range of current NFL backs. Not worth a trade.

          • unknownone

            He also doesn’t fit the profile of what the Seahawks want. The First Book of Carrollians (or is it the Second?) calls for big bruising backs who by the fourth quarter have multiple members of the opposition making business decisions about sticking their facemasks in harm’s way again. Gaskin isn’t that type of back.

          • Husky73

            He often (almost always) finds a way to turn one yard into three, and three yards into five.

          • unknownone

            At UW? Absolutely. Saw every game the four years he was here and was in the stadium for all of the home games. Wonderful college back who had a marvelous (at UW—historic) college career. In the NFL? Not so much. In 17 games over two seasons (he’s had injury issues as well, another reason he’s not worth trading for), he’s rushed for 717 yards. That’s a 4 yards per carry average. In the 2020 season he was 34th in the league in rushing yards. College success doesn’t automatically translate to the NFL, where every game is played against elite talent across the board. He’s simply not a player to covet, and he’s definitely not an upgrade over anyone the Seahawks have now. Why trade to make your team worse?

          • art thiel

            Well said. Gaskin has earned a job in the NFL, but he’s not a difference-maker. Alex Collins is probably as good.

        • 1coolguy

          He’s a finesse runner and doesn’t fit the Hawks at all – Can you really imagine him in a system whose prime example is Lynch, who begat Carson?

          • Husky73

            Yes.

      • art thiel

        There’s no way the Seahawks use a pick on an RB with a healthy Penny back. Carson was a seventh-rounder. As you mentioned, good RBs are dime a dozen.

    • art thiel

      Assuming the O-line is average or less in pass pro, the Seahawks have to steal from the Rams their ability to run diverse plays from the same basic looks. If the O can confuse defenders for just a second, the short game opens up, which can lead to yards after catch. Eventually, the D is forced to abandon the two-high safety looks.

    • 1coolguy

      Agreed – I have mentioned before RW should be locked up a few hours each day watching nonstop film of Marino, Montana, Brady and Brees. After a few months it will hopefully sink into his consciousness.

  • Husky73

    Explain this to me like I’m a four year old….NFL teams have a full time assistant coach for running backs, and a full time assistant coach for quarterbacks….and a full time offensive coordinator. So what does a running game coordinator and passing game coordinator do? Is there a kicking game coordinator under the special teams coach?

    • art thiel

      When it’s a $12B industry, it can afford nice things.

  • 1coolguy

    The LA sack numbers are especially notable given Goff’s drop-back style – he can run, but he’s no RW. If they can reduce RW’s sacks by say 20, to say 25, that’s 200 yards @ 10 per.
    In many situations those 10 are critical, so it will be interesting to see what RW’s sack numbers do next season.
    PS: Maybe they can also teach him about the 3 second clock and how to throw the ball away!

    • art thiel

      Goff’s sack numbers are lower in large part because they roll him out, and also use more bubble screens short-route passes. Lots of pre-snap motion leaves defenses a half-step slow.

      Perhaps surprisingly to you, the coaches have mentioned Wilson’s desire to hang onto the ball.

  • jafabian

    After the Seahawks elimination from the playoffs it’s obvious that the key to a successful playoff run isn’t winning your division but dominating it. The past two seasons the Hawks struggle against the Cardinals and Rams when they really shouldn’t. The thinking might be to get inside the Rams thinking though IMO they’ve drafted and recruited via free agency better players that the Hawks. For example the Rams practically took Cooper Kupp out of the Seahawks backyard in the 2017 draft. Let’s not discuss what the Hawks did instead. Malik McDowell anyone?

    It’s interesting that the focus is on the offense right now when the philosophy has been to have a dominant defense in the Pete Carroll era. And the need for O-Line help is still evident year after year. I’m not terribly confident that an OC who has never called a play can bring this team back to the Super Bowl quickly. If that’s the route to go then Passing Coordinator Dave Canales should have been promoted to OC. At least he knows the players and what they can do. It seems like these moves might be twofold in both helping the Hawks and hurting the Rams, the type of move that Al Davis and George Steinbrenner would do. (Remember when George picked up Ken Phelps? Brian Holman does.) But if that’s the case why not poach the Patriots instead? At least they have some rings.

    • art thiel

      Carroll saw in the Rams an offense he wanted emulated — a good pass-run balance that used deception to draw up defenses and leave open the top for Kupp and Woods, both 1,000-yard receivers this year. I’m sure poaching two from LA counted for something with Carroll, but it’s more mint-on-the-pillow stuff.

  • woofer

    “What remains to be seen is whether the GM John Schneider can upgrade the talent levels among the O-line and tight ends to Rams-like levels.”

    At the tail end of an entertaining column, a brief nod toward reality. If Russ is truly to cook again, he will need more than Hamburger Helper on the O-line.

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    • art thiel

      The O-line was better than HH (does it still exist?), but injuries put a big dent in productivity. When all were together in the first five games, they were a top-10 line.

      • Husky73

        Cousin Eddie: “I don’t know why they call it Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself. I like it better than tuna helper…..Clark Griswold: “You’re the gourmet around here, Eddie.”

      • Husky73

        It’s still around. It is branded as simply “Helper” now.

      • Stephen Pitell

        The Beef Stroganof is one of my favorite go to meals. Add some red pepper and after it’s done, add some sour cream. Mmmmm. Quick, easy, and tasty.

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  • DJ

    Thanks Art! “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, huh?!
    It’s sure a different time, Seahawks borrowing from the hated Rams’ offensive philosophy now, when just a few years ago it was several teams (Jags, Atl, LAC, etc) borrowing from Carroll’s defense. For Carroll to go to these obvious lengths is indeed compliment to, and validation of McVay and the Kyle Shannahan coaching tree.

    Great catch on the fading of tight end and offensive line play. I can’t say that the talent was less, certainly we could always use better O-line play, but we should be considered modestly stacked with TE talent that just wasn’t sufficiently used to compliment the other very significant offensive talent. Play calling got stuck in a rut – the vision narrowed. It was sad, and boggles the mind how it could have happened. Three downs never seemed as short as they did the end of this season.

    Time will tell if the offensive smoke and mirrors on steroids approach will be applied in full, to create opportunities, or if the offense will just capitalize on its array of talent and use it to actually attack the opponents’ weaknesses and tendencies.

    It will be interesting to see how Russell and the other offensive talent will be recognized, interpreted, utilized, how imagination will be applied and what week to week or in game evolution or variations will take place. Confidence in, and respect of Pete Carroll says this will be an effective implementation. Hopefully the young guns can stand on their own two feet beyond the interview process, without McVay, and their capabilities aren’t also just smoke and mirrors.

    • 1coolguy

      I suggest Dissly will come back strong this season, as he definitely showed his talent in 2019. Hopefully this new OC will do a better job of bringing Will back into the mix – I don’t recall any seam routes to the TE’s this season. It was weird, especially considering they are quick throws and keep RW upright.
      Hollister looks like a keeper and Parkinson, our 4th round pick last year, was a monster at Stanford. So I hope with these 3 healthy next year, and with better coaching, they will be a force.

      • DJ

        Right on 1coolguy. Curious as to if Greg Olson hadn’t come aboard, if Dissly would have been more of a factor. That certainly wouldn’t have changed the lack of play calling. I agree, quick passes to TE’s or even as an outlet are a major option. I think we watched a fairly optionless season in 2020 ;^) Let 2021 be the year of the wide open Seahawks offense.

        • art thiel

          Olsen at 35 was a reach, but he wasn’t in Dissly’s way. He wasn’t fully back, as mentioned above.

      • art thiel

        Seahawks have to make do with the TEs on hand because their needs elsewhere are more critical. If Griffin, Carson and Pocic don’t come back, Schneider has some heavy lifting to do.

    • art thiel

      Dissly wasn’t all the way back this season. His situation was similar to the off-year Lockett had upon his return from knee surgery. It’s one thing to be back, another to be good.

      At the top of the NFL, it isn’t good enough just to be more talented. Teams have to add disguise and deception to gain an edge. I know what you mean by smoke and mirrors, but that sells short the virtue of cleverness. The Rams were very clever. Hey they made an SB with Goff at QB.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Well, the Rams have a QB now. This division will continue to be a gauntlet.

    • 1coolguy

      Stafford is definitely an upgrade over Goff. Of course, he now has to pay California’s highest in the nation taxes, but leaving miserable Detroit it’s worth it.
      Goff has to be the saddest guy around now. Berkeley to LA to Detroit. I guess an average salary of $33mm helps.
      It will be interesting to see a QB go from a lousy organization – Detroit – to one that is a huge upgrade, including a QB friendly coach. I would not be surprised to see Stafford excel under McVay.

      • art thiel

        Stafford had little around him in DET, and McVay, presuming he can smartly re-load his stripped coaching staff, will have fun weaponizing his new guy.

      • Husky73

        1cool……Wallethub.com…June 24, 2020…States with the overall highest taxes….New York, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, Iowa….California is 13th. Washington is 29th.

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          Mr. 73
          We will now observe 0-thinks-cool-guy NOT return to acknowledge error.
          Gee.

    • art thiel

      Rams have pushed a lot of chips onto the ’21 table, a year in which the salary cap will drop. But I understand why: They lost confidence in Goff.

  • 1coolguy

    HOLY CRAP! Detroit got Goff, TWO 1st rounders (2022 and 2023) and ONE 3rd rounder (2021). McVay was obviously over Goff, but since LA just gave Goff this huge contract, it would seem to point out the LA GM really messed up badly. Why does the guy have a job?

    • art thiel

      Not sure I’ve heard of a GM getting fired for one bad decision (other than the Mets GM for being a perv). As you may have seen, Snead has put together several good teams that have been better than the Seahawks.

    • jafabian

      Seems to me the Rams are sacrificing long term success for immediate. Unless they have a plan to recoup those lost picks. I’m not sure if Donald will stay at the level we’re used to seeing from him based on the injuries he had this season.