LAS VEGAS – The Bears’ offense lacked consistency, creativity, and explosiveness in 2023. It was, to be frank, disappointing.
Despite a career-year from star wide receiver DJ Moore and another strong season from tight end Cole Kmet, the Bears’ offense never found it’s identity in 2023.
Call it a lack of execution. Call it poor coaching. It doesn’t matter.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
The offense wasn’t good enough, especially through the air last season, and as a result head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and several members of his offensive staff.
Eberflus and Poles quickly embarked on a thorough search for their next offensive coordinator, and landed on Shane Waldron, who spent the last three seasons as the OC for the Seattle Seahawks.
Waldron has the play-calling bona fides the Bears desperately needed to find when replacing Getsy. Waldron is well-respected across the league. He is seen as adaptable, creative, and an “elite” play-caller who molds his offense to fit what his personnel does best.
While the quarterback Waldron will be working with is still unknown, the Bears’ playmakers are excited about the man tasked with being the architect of their new-look offense.
“We text back and forth and I can't wait to get in the building with him and see what we got cooking,” wide receiver DJ Moore told NBC Sports Chicago at Radio Row for Super Bowl 58. “Just looking, looking at the film from the Seahawks, there is a lot of excitement. They did a lot of different things, kept teams on their toes and, you know, just looking at the three receivers they had, they all did different things. And you couldn't just hone in on one of them.”
Waldron and his staff in Seattle built an explosive offense around wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, as well as tight ends Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, and Will Dissly.
Moore didn’t want to give away the secret sauce he expects Waldron to add to the Bears’ passing game, but he did pick up on something from watching Seahawks film that he felt was missing at times for the Bears in 2023.
“I give you one thing,” Moore said. ”They let the receivers do what they do the best. Some of that maybe wasn't happening all the time. You know, it was happening, you know, just not on a consistent basis, I would say.”
After signing a four-year, $50 million contract last offseason, Kmet had a solid 2023 campaign but knows he can further elevate his game.
A former tight end, Waldron utilized a ton of two tight end sets in Seattle, and Kmet is looking forward to working with a coordinator with a history of utilizing tight ends and maximizing their ability.
“I'm super excited about it,” Kmet told NBC Sports Chicago. “As an offense I've watched the past couple of years, you know, there's a lot of tight ends really affecting the pass game, so it's been a lot of fun to see what he's been doing over in Seattle. We’re excited to have him.”
Like Moore, Kmet would give any deep insights into how he expects the Bears’ offense to look under Waldron’s direction, but the excitement from the Bears’ franchise tight end was palpable when Waldron’s name was brought up.
“It'll be it's good to see,” Kmet said. “I think obviously they're playing for their players. I think a lot of those guys, they were up in there to help with the blocking. They got a lot of dynamic receivers out there.
“But you know, Shane's a tight end guy at heart.”
While there are criticisms -- both fair and unfair -- of every offense, most signs point to Waldron's attack being a clear upgrade over the one Getsy oversaw.
The Seahawks offense was a top-15 unit in DVOA in 2021 and 2022 before tailoring off a touch this past season due to some rampant offensive line issues.
Over the past three seasons, the Seahawks have ranked 23rd in third-down conversion rate at 38.5 percent. However, the Seahawks were second in the NFL in converting first downs into a new series of downs. Waldron's units were one of the best on early downs, which is a sign of an elite play-caller who knows who to put a defense on its backfoot.
Seahawks offense on early downs 2021-23:
EPA/play: 0.056 (5th in NFL)
Success rate: 45.1 percent (8th)
Dropback EPA: 0.138 (6th)
Dropback Success rate: 51.2 percent (5th)
Rush EPA: -0.059 (5th)
Rush success rate: 36.6 percent (24th)
For comparison, here's where the Bears ranked on early downs under Getsy:
EPA/play: -0.063 (28th)
Success rate: 40.2 percent (30th)
Dropback EPA: -0.064 (30th)
Dropback success rate: 431 percent (30th)
Rush EPA: -0.062 (7th)
Rush success rate: 37.6 percent (15th)
From 2021-23, the Seahawks' offense trailed only the San Francisco 49ers (Kyle Shanahan), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers/Matt LaFleur), Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen), and Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes/Andy Reid) in EPA per play on early downs.
Waldron also has a history of dialing up explosive plays. Over the past three seasons, the Seahawks had an explosive pass rate of 14 percent, which ranks ninth in the NFL, and an explosive run rate of 14.5 percent, which ranks fifth. During that time, the Seahawks were also fifth in yards per play (5.5).
Everyone on the Bears' offense has taken a share of the blame for their failures in 2023.
But Eberflus made it clear when he fired Getsy that the Bears needed a coordinator who was adaptable, could create explosives, and would tailor his offense to what the Bears' personnel does best.
Waldron checks all those boxes, and the Bears' best playmakers are excited to see what he comes up with when all the pieces are in place.