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John Blanchette: Shane Waldron’s mixed-bag offense shows why he’s the guy for the job

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 12, 2021

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

It’s a no-win deal, playing quarterback after Tom Brady or Bond after Sean Connery. Never be the guy who follows The Guy. That’s the rule.

Be the guy who follows Those Guys.

Shane Waldron is the toast of the Northwest at least for the rest of the week, owing not just to the Seattle Seahawks’ 28-16 dispatching of the Indianapolis Colts in their NFL season opener or that the Seattle offense he now directs often brought to mind an impossible hybrid – Maserati acceleration, 4-wheel utility, 60 mpg, Silverado towing capability.

Most of all, it’s that he’s not Brian Schottenheimer or Darrell Bevell.

These were his predecessors as Seahawks offensive coordinator, lamented if not reviled by The Twelves of Seahawks fandom. There is no space for listing all their various sins, except to note they were bookended by Marshawn Lynch not getting the ball in the Super Bowl and Seattle’s impotent first-round exit in last year’s playoffs.

But now quarterback Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks O – and even Pete Carroll – are under the spell of … Shane Waldron!

“The day, to me, really goes to Shane,” said the Seahawks head coach. “His first time out and chance to show it, I’m really proud of what he was able to do. He went for it the whole time. We did it exactly how we’d been practicing and preparing and he handled it with such a cool overall mentality. He and Russ were just cooking.”

Oh, Pete.

“I’m sorry I said that,” he said with a wince. “Can you scratch that? Doggone it. Shoot, that’s out there. I don’t think I ever said that one time all last year.”

Yes, so very last year.

It was the slogan taken up by the 12s and even Wilson himself to urge Schottenheimer open things up. It spawned memes, shirts and fatigue the first half of the 2020 season and lots of grease fire jokes when opponents resorted to a steady diet of deep safeties and Carroll himself closed down the kitchen.

Now the sense is that it’s less about cooking and more about nutrition.

All eyes were going to be on Seattle’s offense this first time out, because of Waldron’s arrival from the Rams, where he coordinated the passing game, and because the Seahawks had sputtered through most of the preseason showing nothing at all, including the first string.

That’s a little regrettable, because the case can be made that throttling the Colts was all about Seattle’s defense. It surrendered a nine-minute drive to start the game, a garbage-time touchdown and little in between. A surprisingly ferocious line beat up the Colts’ best unit and sacked Carson Wentz four times – with 15 total hits – and without safety Jamal Adams blitzing every other down. The standouts were mostly unsung types – Rasheem Green, Bryan Mone and 2020 second-round draft pick Darrell Taylor, in his first snaps.

But this was always going to be the Waldron litmus test.

Outside of a third quarter when the Seahawks four times reached midfield and missed opportunites to break the game open, it could hardly have gone better.

Tyler Lockett ran under two spectacular Wilson touchdown passes, the first an over-the-shoulder catch that required not one but two adjustments on the ball, the other simply a sprint to catch up with the max Wilson can coax from his arm.

“He’s like Willie Mays out there,” Wilson said. “He can run anything down. I don’t know, maybe he’s like Griffey. Seattle thing.”

Meanwhile, Chris Carson crashed and slashed in a way to warm Carroll’s run-the-ball heart, and Waldron dialed up plenty of work for tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly, too. And Wilson dazzled – a perfect passer rating in the first half, and a near-perfect 152.3 for the game against a defense that was No. 8 a year ago in the NFL.

“We want to constantly have them question, ‘Who’s getting the ball? Where’s it going? What are they doing?’ ” Wilson said.

For the longest time, it wasn’t going to DK Metcalf, Seattle’s most explosive talent. Then he came to the party on the put-it-to-bed drive in the fourth quarter, working open for a 30-yarder to start it and for 15 yards on a pretty seam route for the score.

Still, it’s not bad if he’s just another voice in the ensemble. Eight different players caught passes in this veritable Waldron salad. Six rushed for positive yards.

“He’s like the wizard,” Wilson said of his new play-caller.

Or maybe it’s more about simplicity than wizardry.

“The best thing we’ve learned is just being able to take what the defense gives us,” said Lockett.

This would be Waldron’s most impressive win, if he can impart the message to Wilson that doesn’t have to give up his fastball, just mix in a few change-ups and breaking balls. And so far …

“I’ve never seen this kind of chemistry be so obvious between the caller and the quarterback,” Carroll said. “I hope this is just the first step of a great march together.”

Hard to fathom why it can’t. Shane Waldron is very much The Guy now.

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