The first word Russell Wilson used Sunday to describe his relationship with Shane Waldron, and by extension the new offensive system designed to revitalize the Seattle Seahawks, was “connected.”
Frankly, at this point you have to take his word for it. In Sunday’s mock game at Lumen Field, it was impossible to fully discern the intricacies and nuances of Waldron’s offense. By design, everything was various flavors of vanilla, and only a vague facsimile of the up-tempo attack that has been touted all summer. No coach worth his salt wants to give opponents a scintilla of intel until they have to.
But speaking of up-tempo, there is much to glean from Wilson’s enthusiastic assessment of his new offensive coordinator. The Seahawks hope Waldron’s offense, which puts much of the decision-making in Wilson’s hands (and brain), will help assuage the quarterback’s gripes that surfaced during the offseason.
In his first press availability since preseason camp began, which followed a 22-3 victory by the first-teamers in the glorified scrimmage, Wilson also used the phrase “on the same page” more than once to describe his rapport with Waldron.
And, when asked how good this offense can be, he replied, without hesitation, “I think we can be the No. 1 offense in football. I don’t see why not. We were really good last year, with a lot of things that we did, but we can be even better.”
The Seahawks set a team record for points scored last year, yet there’s no question that they stalled and sputtered in the second half of the season. Following back-to-back losses against Buffalo and the Los Angeles Rams in which Wilson totaled four interceptions, coach Pete Carroll buttoned down the Seahawks’ offense. Wilson’s cooking days were curtailed, and despite a 6-1 record down the stretch, the Seahawks’ season ended with a dispiriting first-round playoff loss to the Rams, 30-20.
One of the upshots of the early ouster (the latest in a growing line of Seattle’s playoff disappointments) was the dismissal of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. His replacement, Waldron, is steeped in the West Coast offense. But he will have to walk a fine line in satisfying Carroll’s deeply ingrained desire to establish the run as the paramount tenet of offensive success, while also paying heed to Wilson’s yearning for a wide-open attack.
Throughout camp, one player after another has lauded not only Waldron’s X’s and O’s, but most especially the accelerated pace at which they are playing. On Sunday, the most important voice of all was added to the chorus.
“I think we’re ready to roll,’’ Wilson said. “I mean, I wish we could play tomorrow.”
Wilson acknowledged that Waldron’s up-tempo style has been in the playbook all along. But the difference is that instead of unleashing it primarily in the fourth quarter when the team needs a surge, it will be sprinkled throughout the game.
Similarly, Wilson said that it’s not a new development for him to have play-changing ability at the line of scrimmage. But rather than something to be done sparingly, he pointed out, it will be a fundamental part of their offense.
“I think that we’ve always been able to change the play, for the most part, along my career,” Wilson said. “Schotty allowed me to call the plays and stuff like that at the line of scrimmage when we needed to. I think the emphasis of being able to do it all the time, all throughout the game, is the key. I think that’s a little bit different. I think that I have freedom.”
Wilson segued right from his traditional offseason regimen in Southern California into Seahawks camp at the end of July. A new wrinkle this year was a reunion with his old North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible, a beloved mentor of Wilson. Bible, 67, recently retired as UCLA’s quarterbacks coach, but living just 13 minutes from Wilson’s offseason home in San Diego, he couldn’t resist hooking up again with the quarterback.
“Honestly, we trained every day,’’ Wilson said. “Every morning, we started at 5 and we were done at 2 in the afternoon. Coach Bible loves ball. He loves coaching. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around, a tremendous quarterbacks coach.”
Wilson said he left his offseason training session in a stellar state of mind that has continued through the first weeks of the Seahawks’ camp.
“I feel great mentally, physically, spiritually, everything else,’’ he said. “I feel like, you know, ready to win. That’s my job.”
Wilson completed 13 of 20 passes for 196 yards in Sunday’s scrimmage, including a vintage 45-yard hookup with DK Metcalf. But at this point, the raw numbers are far less important than the raw emotion. And when Wilson used the phrase, “the extension of me and Shane” to describe his ad-libbing at the line of scrimmage, it boded well and far more meaningfully than a few completions in a controlled scrimmage.
“It’s just the ability for him to call something,” he explained, “and me to be at the line of scrimmage, go to something else if it’s not the right look, and just to play super fast in that way. Get us to the best play in that situation.
“There were several examples today. I just think that that’s a really good thing. And we were on the same wavelength in that sense.”
Who knows what will happen when the defenses are hostile, and the stakes are higher? But it’s fair to say that the longer Wilson and Waldron stay on the same wavelength, the longer the Seahawks’ season will last.