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    HomeSportWhat hiring OC Shane Waldron will mean to the Bears

    What hiring OC Shane Waldron will mean to the Bears

    CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears know who will be calling offensive plays in 2023, and now they have to figure out which quarterback will be executing 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 was the Seattle Seahawks‘ offensive coordinator and playcaller.

    In Chicago, Waldron will either guide Justin Fields into his fourth season or help a rookie, such as USC’s Caleb Williams, whom the Bears can draft with the first overall pick.

    Waldron’s upbringing in the NFL began in 2008 under New England’s Bill Belichick, continued in various capacities under Sean McVay in Washington and Los Angeles and spanned the past three years under Pete Carroll, whose tenure with Seattle ended earlier this month after 14 seasons. He will now call plays under Matt Eberflus, who was retained as head coach.

    Waldron’s three years of playcalling experience and work with multiple quarterbacks was a draw for Chicago. As the issues within the Bears’ passing offense became more pronounced near the end of a 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 not committed to Fields for the 2024 season nor to using the No. 1 pick on a rookie quarterback, the guiding principle for the Bears’ search was to find an offensive coordinator who can maximize talent while creating a more balanced attack for a unit that ranked second in rushing (141.1 yards/game) and 27th in passing (182.1).

    “The ability to be adaptable to the staff that you have is critical,” general manager Ryan Poles said Jan. 10. “We saw it across the league.

    “There are some teams that actually got better with a lot of changes. If you don’t have the ability to adapt and adjust to the talent that you have at that position, it makes it really hard.”

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

    How have other quarterbacks fared under Waldron?

    Waldron has worked with a variety of quarterbacks with unique skill sets, 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 plays, Goff — the top pick in the 2016 draft — threw for a career-high 4,688 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His 2019 season saw similar production — 4,638 passing yards — with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while leading the league in pass attempts (626).

    Waldron was named Seattle’s offensive coordinator in 2021, and he took on playcalling duties for the first time. During his lone season as Wilson’s offensive coordinator, the quarterback recorded his second-lowest time to throw (2.78 seconds) and finished top-10 in QBR (60.6) and passer rating (103.1). As Waldron put his stamp on the Seahawks’ offense that season, Seattle ranked 11th in rushing and 23rd in passing.

    Where Waldon made his biggest mark was in 2022, after Smith became Seattle’s quarterback. After four seasons with the Jets (2013-16), with whom 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, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while winning Comeback Player of the Year.

    What are the staples of a Waldron-led offense?

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

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

    The contrast extends to designed runs for the quarterback. Seattle had just eight, the fifth fewest in the league, from 2021 to 2023, compared to Chicago’s 82, the third most.

    How different will the Bears’ offense look?

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

    One area where this is prevalent is on plays outside of the pocket. From 2021 to 2023, Seattle quarterbacks left the pocket on 16.5% of dropbacks, which was the fourth-highest rate in the league. From 2021 to 2023, the Bears had the highest rate (18.1%) of dropbacks where QBs created outside of the pocket.

    Both Chicago and Seattle averaged 20 points per game in 2023, but the Bears possessed 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 five extra minutes per game.

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