HomeSportsBears haven't made a QB decision, but new OC Shane Waldron should...

Bears haven’t made a QB decision, but new OC Shane Waldron should help regardless

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Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles stressed in his end-of-season press conference how much the team would prioritize an offensive coordinator who could be flexible.

Searching for a new offensive coordinator when they haven’t committed to what they’re going to do under center gave the Bears no choice in that regard. But that doesn’t mean it was the wrong strategy.

On Monday, the Bears got their guy: former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. Green flags are waving, even if they’re no longer “action green.”

Waldron has playcalling experience, which isn’t something Luke Getsy had when he was hired with Matt Eberflus prior to the 2022 season. Chicago had elected to roll the dice with a defensive head coach and up-and-coming offensive coordinator.

But it often yields better results to add experience to the side of the ball the head coach isn’t as familiar with. That’s what the Bears are going to try now — allowing for almost another head coach on staff, one with autonomy over the offense.

Relying heavily on a power run game, the Seahawks ranked eighth in EPA per rush over the last three years. But Waldron’s offenses also utilize play-action passing at one of the highest clips in the league and it’s resulted in a highly successful passing offense. Seattle was top-10 in passing EPA per dropback, too. (EPA calculations courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago.)

The Seahawks were fifth in yards per play over the last three seasons.

Being so well-rounded makes his scheme hard to prepare for. Waldron’s strength lies in his playcalling and how he’s able to evolve it within games. Formations change and looks vary. That makes it hard to get a beat on the scheme, which makes identifying tendencies hard.

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The proof of its success lies with the quarterbacks who have executed it. Russell Wilson was heavily involved in the decision to hire Waldron when he was still in Seattle, according to ESPN. Wilson liked the fact that Waldron came from the Shanahan/McVay coaching tree and his “up-tempo” style. This immediately followed the four seasons Waldron spent in LA under McVay, getting the best out of Jared Goff with the Rams.

Under Waldron, Goff had the two best seasons of his career and made the Pro Bowl in both 2017 and 2018. His best statistical season was the latter, throwing for 4,688 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

In Waldron’s first year in Seattle, he coached Wilson to a Pro Bowl nod. It was Wilson’s second-best passing season, as he threw for 4,212 yards and a career-high 40 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Wilson had the best success rate of his career that year at 51.4%, according to Pro Football Reference, as well as best completion rate at 68.8%.

Waldron’s offenses varied in Seattle, though. With Wilson, we saw a more run-heavy scheme. After Wilson departed, Waldron adjusted to Geno Smith and his skillset while still keeping his base principles intact. There was still a lot of play action, still varied run concepts — but Waldron unlocked a reliable and at times explosive, passing attack with Smith, an NFL journeyman. The Seahawks were top-10 in explosive passing play percentage over the last two seasons. In his first season as starter in 2022, Smith led the league in completion rate at 69.8% and threw for over 4,200 yards and 30 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He won Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts.

Waldron aims to marry multiple offensive components in his scheme. He has a bevy of play-action concepts, and over the past couple of seasons has utilized a ton of multiple tight-end sets to accomplish that, but it complements a power run game that has spelled success for running backs, too, ranking top five in explosive run percentage.

Kenneth Walker III was drafted by Seattle in 2022 and rushed for over 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns in his rookie season. He neared that thousand-yard mark again this past season with eight touchdowns.

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Zach Charbonnet was also the beneficiary of a multiple run game, recording 462 yards on 108 carries as he complemented Walker in 2023. Charbonnet added 33 receptions for 209 yards, as well.

The Bears haven’t committed to to a QB decision, between retaining Justin Fields as he enters the fourth year of his contract or taking a quarterback with the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Waldron’s hire doesn’t tip their hand, either.

But Chicago did commit to setting whoever is under center up for success with a coordinator who has proven time and again to get the most out of his quarterbacks. 

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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