BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 02/03/2021

Thiel: Waldron sounds a lot like Pete, but wait . . .

In his first local press conference, new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron parroted Carroll maxims almost word for word. But that may be merely means to an end.

Shane Waldron was a happy guy at the Rams appearance in the 2019 Super Bowl. / Boston Herald

Listening to Shane Waldron talk about Pete Carroll’s football truths, he sounded almost like an idolatrous son. And since Carroll recently waved good-bye to his son/assistant coach, Brennan, who left the Seahawks to become offensive coordinator at the University of Arizona, that makes a lot of pop-psychology sense.

Nah. Too easy.

Waldron got his NFL start in New England working under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for five years in two stints. So he’s well over the idolatry phase of his career.

“When he got the job with the Patriots, he moved from Boston out to Foxborough just to make sure he could be in the office by 6 a.m. every day,” Waldron’s real pops, Jay, told longtime Portland sports columnist Dwight Jaynes. “Hard work can do amazing things for people. He’s always been a hard worker. Whether it was in school, playing football or with a job.”

That hard work probably includes prepping for job interviews.

After Carroll sought out Waldron to leave the Los Angeles Rams and fill Seattle’s offensive coordinator vacancy, Portland native Waldron seemingly had memorized parts of The Book of First Carrollians.

In his first Zoom interview with local reporters Tuesday, Waldon answered questions with these familiar psalms:

” . . . it’s all about the ball . . .”

” . . . there’s no greater statistic that leads to wins and losses than turnover differential . . .”

” . . .we’re going to be a balanced offense . . . ”

” . . . not just saying you’re gonna compete, but making everything that you’re doing every day some form of a competition to look to improve . . .”

Uncanny, yes? Or shrewd.

Whether coincidental or deliberate, it doesn’t really matter. Waldron is with the Seahawks and not the Rams. That should thrill the 12s because Waldron’s two most significant previous NFL employers, the Rams and the Pats, delivered the two most painful playoff defeats in Carroll’s tenure.

The Pats’ win, you know; the Rams win, you’re still feeling, 30-20 on Jan. 9 at the Loo. Actually, you’re probably still feeling both, which means it’s a good time to connect the two.

Both were lost because each offense was predictable.

Belichick in the Super Bowl knew from the Seahawks’ personnel and formation that they were likely to throw a slant to the right-side receiver, and had practiced defending the play the previous Tuesday. The Rams defense, specifically CB Darious Williams, knew from film study that when WR DK Metcalf went left in motion toward bunched receivers that a screen pass was coming to him.

Both passes resulted in Seattle-world-rocking interceptions of Russell Wilson, one to save a touchdown, one to make a touchdown.

While Waldron had little public profile among more casual fans, he has the rare, exotic markings from the Belichick/McVay coaching tree, which often bears the fruit of offensive unpredictability.

“(I’m) just very fortunate to be around those two guys,” Waldron told reporters before the Rams-Patriots Super Bowl. “They’re both unbelievable football minds. Coach Belichick, obviously for a long, long time, has just done an unbelievable job sustaining success. Sean’s been able to create a culture and get everyone on the same page in a pretty short period of time. He’ll be doing it for a long time.”

McVay will be doing it without Waldron, as well as another Rams coach, Andy Dickerson, the offensive-line assistant.

Brennan Carroll’s departure created a vacancy that Waldron was happy to help fill.

“(Carroll) asked, ‘Hey, is there someone that we can potentially bring with you that would  be instrumental in helping you in this transition?'” Waldron said. “My first thought was Andy, and then it timed up, with the way everything worked out. He’ll come on board as run-game coordinator.

“It’s a chance to blend with (O-line coach Mike Solari) and marry everything that we want to do together.”

The addition of Dickerson, the longest-tenured Rams assistant at nine years, might be a less-appreciated bonus. A feature of the Rams’ offense perpetrated by Waldron and Dickerson is its ability to run so many variations off a small number of formations, including finding receivers in open spaces on shorter routes to gain yards after catch.

That means the Seahawks O-line won’t have to pass-block as long per play, presuming Wilson deigns to unload more quickly.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Waldron said was in response to a question about the virtue of creativity in an OC, a job he’s never held in college or NFL coaching. He said he watches closely the developments in high school football.

“Some of the most creative football is at the high school level,” he said. “Then it trickles up to the college level, then up to the pros. You’re talking about some scenarios in those settings where the playing field is not always equal. In pro ball, everyone is so close, the margin for error so small, everyone’s so similar. Bringing out the best of their abilities is a huge part of (prep ball).

“Having the pulse of what’s going on, where you can say, OK, here’s our core offense, here’s what we’re doing from a system standpoint. What can we do that’s happening (elsewhere) and always stay on the front?”

Now, that is something Carroll has never said.

But high-school chicanery and deception is something the Rams offense has flashed. We know who’s winning that style contest; the Rams are 6-3 against Seattle since McVay arrived, and a big part of why Carroll poached two of his assistants.

Maybe that means Waldron isn’t as much a house man as he seemed after one presser.

The only way to find out is first get in the house, by saying all the right things. Then get the keys to the liquor cabinet. Just like in high school.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    With no actual plays having been called yet by Coach Waldron, this press conference sounded more like a call to a groom on his honeymoon. That said, the proof will be in persuading RW to throw in less than 2 seconds to a spot 3-5 yards down the field in neutral situations and the receiver to get another 3-5 yards after the catch. Maybe a little more but not much. Currently it’s not in RW’s DNA – the most infamous time he tried was in that Super Bowl and with everyone bunched up at the line on defense, it was a dumb call (and certainly not a neutral situation). I’d put this press conference transcript in a folder and check on it in about a year, wouldn’t you?

    • 1coolguy

      If he can imbed a 3 second clock into RW the passing game with be noticeably better. We can only hope……

      • art thiel

        All he needs is a little de(Met)caf.

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    • Howard Hart

      What isn’t said in a press conference is probably more important than what is said.

      • art thiel

        I’ve always said that.

        • RepsDemsSameParty

          Will you please write a book called “Art of the Thiel”?

          Also, I always say this to people complaining about Pete not saying anything about specific improvements the team needs to make; he’s not going to throw players under the bus after saying “protect the team”. I’m sure he says everything people want him to say, and more, behind the scenes.

    • art thiel

      Yes. His influence on Rams outcomes is unknowable, especially working under the boy genius whose staff has been poached by many.

      The SB call wasn’t Wilson’s, but Bevell can’t lose his Seattle job more than once.

  • 1coolguy

    I hope for one that we keep Carson and second that he quits running sweeps and stays between the tackles. If Waldron does this it will allow Carson to do what he does best.
    I am excited to see what he does with spreading the passing fame to more receivers each game and the routes they run to get open.

    • Bruce McDermott

      From what I have been able to tell, Carson goes wide mostly when the blocks in front of him in the area he is designed to run are completely whiffed. Which is fairly often. Which is another issue.

      • Howard Hart

        This! He got TFL by far too many times…and that wasn’t on him.

        • 1coolguy

          I don’t understand why some running plays call for RW to run BACK to the waiting RB to hand it off – precious time seems to be wasted, having the RB wait for the ball. It results in the line having to hold their blocks longer, making the play less successful.
          Can anyone tell me why they don’t just hand the ball off to the RB running toward the line? I don’t see other team’s QB’s doing this.

          • art thiel

            It’s using play-action to set up future plays. In order to make fakes work, RBs have to be given the ball sometime. Plays do not exist in a vacuum, but in a continuum.

      • art thiel

        We agree. Actually, by the end, the O-line was better run-blocking and semi-helpless at pass blocking, largely because of injuries.

    • art thiel

      Most of Carson’s outside-zone runs are a function of the defense stopping him inside. Not by choice.

  • Howard Hart

    “…ability to run so many variations off a small number of formations,…”

    One of my all-time armchair preaching points.

    • art thiel

      It’s been around for all to see.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Not to beat a dead horse on the Malcolm Butler Super Bowl interception….but, as you say, Belichick had practiced against that play the week before. More importantly, perhaps, Bill was obviously aware the Patriots lost an AFL title game on that play when Manning hit Reggie Wayne, knifing across the goal line. The two problems were that Russell didn’t have a Reggie Wayne, who was incredibly sure-handed, and the ball needs to be thrown a foot or two off the ground where if the knifing receiver doesn’t catch it, no one does. It’s a small window, too small in that situation with no Reggie.

    • 1coolguy

      RW should have run or thrown it away, out of the end zone. But he was only in his second year, is short and probably his sight was hindered by the linemen in the tight goal-line quarters. It was a lousy call and a young QB carries out orders.
      I would love to hear what expressions were made in the huddle when he called the play – I suspect Lynch at least belched, or said WTF?

      • Kevin Lynch

        Yes, I suppose. Though Lynch and Carroll both knew he was only 1 for 5 from the 1-yard line during that season. Still, a play/action pass to Marshawn in the end zone could have been interesting. He had good hands for a back.

        • art thiel

          Lockette was a slight, speed guy and a poor choice for a route that would have immediate contact.

          • Kevin Lynch

            In the play that beat Belichick the cameraman had an incredible angle. Wayne made a spectacular catch. But, yeah, you don’t run that play unless you can do it in your sleep.

      • DJ

        I would have expected a pass to be to the corner, but a pass into traffic…..still makes me shake my head. Like Art says, the play that cannot be unseen

      • art thiel

        The Pats had in their jumbo package. A pass should have been little surprise. Just not that hot route.

        • Husky73

          And Shane is a REAL Jumbo!

    • art thiel

      Never should have thrown to a route into traffic. A fade would have been unpickable or incomplete.

    • LarryLurex70

      I’ve always felt that play – not a terribly horrible call on 2nd down – failed because Russ telegraphed it.

  • Husky73

    He brought the wrong Dickerson with him. He should have brought #29.

    • art thiel

      I knew that was going to come up.

      • Husky73

        I rarely disappoint with the obvious.

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          Mr. 73 and Mr. Art
          Off topic but since you introduced #29, was he the most straight-up runner you can remember? I always was amazed at how he ran NOT leaning forward once in the open. Plus, his torso, neck, and head seemed suspended in the air and not bouncing a bit.
          Illuminate, pls.
          I’m used to being wrong, so it’s okay.

          • Husky73

            The Huskies had a great runner with that style– Joe Steele. OJ would run like that as well, as does Christian McCaffrey.

          • art thiel

            I’d add Todd Gurley to the list.

  • tor5

    Your usual great insights, Art! At the very least, I’d say Waldron read Pete’s book before he interviewed with the team. All those “psalms” are right there for anyone to learn and repeat…which would seem minimum prep for such an interview (but gotta wonder how many candidates did so). But I’m especially stoked by your enthusiasm, Art! You’re not afraid to politely slay those you don’t think are up to snuff, so it’s a telling omission.

    • art thiel

      I wouldn’t confuse omission with enthusiasm. There’s just no book on Waldron as a playcaller. I could have tried to call McVay for his opinion, but I don’t think he’s taking calls from the 206.

      • tor5

        Perhaps I was projecting. I suppose your profession prevents you from going full-on twelve. Too bad. It’s fun, man!

  • WestCoastBias79

    Andy Reid, who many consider one of the greatest offensive minds ever, is on record in 2013 (paraphrasing) saying the college game is five years ahead of the pro game, and that the college spread offenses would be in the NFL. Low and behold, the Eagles and Patriots in 2018 basically played a Big 12 game in Super Bowl. It’s refreshing to see Pete bring in an innovative mind looking at the lower levels where coaches are less risk averse and have to compensate more for talent and size discrepancies. Running the ball doesn’t have to mean 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Just looks at the Chiefs, and well, the Rams.

    • art thiel

      All true. The Rams under McVay have been run heavy.

      As Reid would tell us, NFL defenders are too strong and quick to permit a pure spread offense to work full-time, but using elements of it, especially up-tempo as Wilson loves, can be complementary.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Sounds promising, certainly a new way of looking at things with perpetual influx of scheme tidbits. So different to hear, but obvious to expect.

    Two things – 1) there’s a strong fundamental core to be established first, which may or may not be familiar, and 2) an unusual free agent year with reduced cap – who will be at RB & OL?

    It would be a shame to have wasted a pretty solid Offensive lineup on poor scheming only to loose key personnel when there’s so much promise on the scheme side. I personally hope that we can repeat the 1-2 RBI lineup of Carson and Hyde. They should be salivating at the possibilities in Seattle next season. Yes, “any RB” should flourish because it’s a Shanahan derivative – but they represent a great tandem and Carson’s version of Beast Mode has not been given a chance to really flourish on a consistent basis. Good guys too