What the hiring of OC Shane Waldron will mean for the Bears

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears know who will launch the offensive plays in 2023, and now they have to figure out which quarterback will execute them.

The Bears plan to hire Shane Waldron as their next offensive coordinator, a source told ESPN, less than two weeks after beginning an extensive search that included interviews with nine candidates.

Waldron replaces Luke Getsy, who was fired on Jan. 10 along with four members of the Bears' offensive staff. Waldron, 44, comes to Chicago after three seasons in Seattle, where he was the Seattle Seahawks' offensive coordinator and play-caller.

In Chicago, Waldron will either guide Justin Fields into his fourth season or assist one of the rookies, as USC's Caleb Williamswho the Bears could draft with the first overall pick.

Waldron's NFL career began in 2008 under New England's Bill Belichick, continued in various positions under Sean McVay in Washington and Los Angeles, and spanned the past three years under Pete Carroll, whose tenure with Seattle has come to an end. earlier this month after 14 seasons. He will now call the plays under Matt Eberflus, who has been retained as head coach.

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Waldron's three years of experience playing and working with multiple quarterbacks was a selling point for Chicago. As the issues with the Bears' passing offense became more apparent toward the end of the 7-10 season, so did the questions surrounding Fields. While the 24-year-old quarterback improved in his third season, Fields finished the season 24th in QBR (46.2) and 21st in EPA/play (0.054).

While the Bears have neither committed Fields for the 2024 season nor used the No. 1 pick on a rookie quarterback, the guiding principle of the Bears' search was to find an offensive coordinator who can maximize talent while creating a more balanced offense for the team. The unit ranked second in rushing (141.1 yards/game) and 27th in passing (182.1).

“The ability to adapt to the employees you have in place is critical,” general manager Ryan Bowles said on Jan. 10. “We've seen that across the league.

“There are some teams that have really gotten better with a lot of changes. If you don't have the ability to adapt and adapt to the talent that you have at that position, it makes it really difficult.”

While the hire doesn't reveal which way the Bears are leaning toward their quarterback, here's a look at Waldron's track record and what he means for the Bears' offense.

How have other quarterbacks performed under Waldron?

Waldron has worked with a variety of quarterbacks with unique skills, from Jared Goff to Russell Wilson to Geno Smith.

Goff had two of his best seasons in terms of pass production with Waldron as the Los Angeles Rams' passing game coordinator (2018-20) and quarterbacks coach (2019). During the Rams' run to the Super Bowl in 2018, with McVay calling the plays, Goff — the top pick in the 2016 draft — threw for 4,688 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The 2019 season saw similar production — 4,638 yards — with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while leading the league in pass attempts (626).

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Waldron was hired as Seattle's offensive coordinator in 2021, handling play-calling duties for the first time. During his only season as Wilson's offensive coordinator, the quarterback recorded his second-fewest throw time (2.78 seconds) and finished in the top 10 in QBR (60.6) and passer rating (103.1). When Waldron made his mark on the Seahawks' offense that season, Seattle ranked 11th in rushing and 23rd in passing.

Waldon made his biggest impact in 2022, after Smith became Seattle's starting quarterback. After four seasons with the Jets (2013-16), during which he completed 57.9% of his passes for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, Smith thrived in Waldron's offense last season, leading the league in completion percentage (69.8%) while passing for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while winning Comeback Player of the Year honors.

What are the basic elements of the attack led by Waldron?

The Seahawks led the NFL in play usage (27%) from 2012 to 2021, but after trading Wilson to the Denver Broncos, they ranked 15th over Waldron's final two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seattle used multiple tight end lineups at the fourth-highest rate in the league from 2022-2023 after ranking 19th from 2012-2021.

In terms of play calls, the Bears and Seahawks have been on opposite ends of the spectrum in passes and runs called for in each of the past two seasons. Since 2022, Seattle ranks seventh in designed passes (64%) and 26th in designed passes (36%), while Chicago ranks 30th in designed passes (55%) and third in designed passes (45%).

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The variance extends to the quarterback's designed run. Seattle had just eight, the fifth-fewest in the league, from 2021-23, compared to Chicago's 82, the third-most.

How different is a bear attack?

Hiring Waldron means the Bears' offense will operate similarly in some ways to what it did under Getsy, who was also part of a diverse Kyle Shanahan tree, having coached in Green Bay under Matt LaFleur.

One area where this is prevalent is in outside-of-the-pocket play. From 2021 to 2023, Seattle's quarterbacks left the pocket on 16.5% of dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the league. From 2021 to 2023, the Bears had the highest rate (18.1%) of dropbacks where QBs set up outside the pocket.

Chicago and Seattle both averaged 20 points per game in 2023, but the Bears ran the ball at the second-highest rate in the league (nearly 32 minutes per game) while Seattle had the lowest time of possession in the NFL. (26:47). . Essentially, both teams scored the same amount of points despite the Bears having the ball for an additional five minutes in each game.

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