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One Seahawks coach looks like the ideal fall guy

If the front office is looking for one

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
not him though
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Following the last season when the Seattle Seahawks failed to reach the postseason, the weirdly weird 2017 campaign, multiple coaches paid with their jobs for the perceived, and real, underachievement of their respective units.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell? Out.

Defensive coordinator Kris Richard? Bye.

Assistant head coach Tom Cable? Sacked. (Get it? “Sacked.” Get it?)

In 2021, as the Seahawks nosedive toward a losing season and an unprecedented last-place finish in the NFC West, one main figure on the coaching staff has positioned himself to be the fall guy. Whether or not he deserves such a dubious honor is another debate — which we’ll have plentiful time for starting this moment, without the distractions of decent football, the playoffs, or a first round draft pick.

It’s the new kid, the man who was going to save the Seattle offense from its old ways and bring it into the modern NFL, only hasn’t actually done those things so far: Shane Waldron.

Again, should the Seahawks dismiss Waldron is another topic altogether. This post will attempt only to show why they will.

1. It’s the same old offense, for whatever reason

What’s most inexplicable about the Waldron era, all 14 games of it, is how the offense has periodically declined to use its most effective tools: motion and play action.

Only to rediscover them for one drive or one game at a time.

They know play action works. They just choose (is that the OC or the game plan? the QB at the line of scrimmage? the HC behind the scenes? who knows) to under-utilize it.

What are we looking at here? Columns 1 and 2 are no play action vs. yes play action under center. Using it is worth more than half a point per play under center. Columns 3 and 4 are no play action vs. play action in shotgun. Using it then gains you almost half a point per play.

Not half a point per drive. Per play. Let that sink in for a beat.

What’s most peculiar about the 2021 Seattle offense is how much Week 1 stands out. They used motion and misdirection from start to finish and elected to run play action on 41.4 percent of dropbacks. Since then, pre-snap motion has largely disappeared and after 14 weeks, the Seahawks are using play action on just 25.2 percent of their passes.

Seahawks and Play Action

Y/A overall Y/A without play action Y/A with play action NFL rank play action % NFL rank
Y/A overall Y/A without play action Y/A with play action NFL rank play action % NFL rank
6.8 5.6 10.2 3 25.2 11

It’s telling that as the usage of motion and play action cratered, so did the stat line for Russell Wilson.

Before the first Rams game: 9 TD, 0 INT, 9.6 Y/A

Week 5 and onward: 7 TD, 5 INT, 6.8 Y/A

We can blame the finger, too. But play action is extraordinarily successful for Wilson and has been for years, so using it only one quarter of the time is leaving points on the board. Especially when you become a top 5 passing team with a simple ball fake.

2. Why not a new beginning for the playmakers?

With some highly visible cracks — I would submit these cracks are nonserious — in the Wilson-DK Metcalf relationship, switching OCs would grant both men a fresh start in how they want to collaborate.

The word “scapegoat” is too strong to use here, but allowing the star QB and star WR to share a focus of their frustrations about how 2021 can’t help but look tempting to Pete Carroll and anyone else in on the after-season* shake-up.

*can’t use the term postseason anymore

3. Unlike his co-workers, Waldron doesn’t have a resume to fall back on

If Carroll stays, and he is under contract through 2025 so there’s some financial incentive to give him another crack, and John Schneider stays (though he could also be a convenient foil, given the meager drafts since 2016), and Ken Norton stays, especially after the Seahawks have risen to fourth in scoring defense, Waldron’s name remains as the logical fall guy. If they want one! Check it out:

  • Wilson has turned in some stinkers on the field this season. But unless the people above Carroll believe the quarterback has begun to decline (a fair enough opinion, given his last season and a half and his decreased mobility), he’s back in 2021, because his track record warrants it.
  • Pete has had a bad season, with multiple fourth-quarter performances that make it look like his team doesn’t know how to finish anymore. But unless the people above Carroll believe he’s lost his touch and his approach doesn’t work anymore (again, this is a legitimate stance), he’s back in 2021, because his track record warrants it.
  • Schneider has not been able to replicate the brilliance of his first few drafts and certain high-profile trades have fizzled, to put it mildly. He doesn’t even know how to use a first-round pick anymore. But grabbing cornerstones like Metcalf, Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor and Tre Brown in the last couple drafts; finding gems in the UDFA pool like Poona Ford; re-signing Tyler Lockett under market value; plucking D.J. Reed and other starters off waivers; acquiring Quandre Diggs for peanuts — all those recent roster-building wins point toward JS being at the bottom of the fire pile, if the fire pile exists.
  • Ken Norton is having a good year. Faced with an aging MLB, a cornerback carousel for all of training camp and the first three weeks, and only half a year of Jamal Adams, again, he has guided the defense to 20.1 ppg, fourth in the league. He turned around the 2020 defense too, which you can count as a glass half full or half empty. I’m going to go ahead and safely speculate that he and Carroll are tight, and work well together. If Norton leaves, it’s probably because Carroll has been canned.

Which brings us to the offensive coordinator. Waldron doesn’t have a long history with Carroll, doesn’t have the track record before Seattle, doesn’t have results in his corner, and doesn’t appear to have connected with Wilson in the way an OC should and needs to, or we’d have seen it on the field.

Ironically it’s the running game that’s behaved as the healthiest prong of the offense recently, with 419 ground yards in the last three games. Just putting this out there way in advance, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Andy Dickerson — who also came over from the Rams with Waldron! — retained or even promoted.

Whether or not firing Shane Waldron is fair can be discussed until we’re engulfed by the sun. Which is good, because that’s why Field Gulls exists. (For the discussion part, not the engulfing part). But it sure looks like the easiest and most convenient way for the Seahawks front office members who want to preserve their jobs to turn the page quickly on a yucky, sucky 2021.