At the time when Shane Waldron was hired by the Bears, it felt like a good move. With head coach Matt Eberflus staying on, Chicago was never going to be a realistic destination for the A-list candidates – guys like Ben Johnson, Bobby Slowik, etc. Waldron was widely-considered to be among the beset offensive coordinators that would be willing to make a lateral move, and the Bears were praised for their conviction and speed in hiring him.
Well, apparently not everyone was as sold on the hire as Bears fans. When talking to Chicago sports outlet CHGO on Wednesday afternoon on Radio Row, Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba – who played for Waldron in Seattle this past season, his rookie year – had quite the head-turning reaction when asked about what type of offense Waldron would be bringing to Chicago.
"Um," Smith-Njigba said, pausing for what felt like the world's longest and most uncomfortable moment. "This is live? Good luck to y'all. He's a great person, great offensive coordinator. I was very lucky to have him my first year. Learned a lot from him. I think him and Justin [Fields] will mesh well. And adding more guys around him, I think it will be great. So, we'll see."
Ummmmm. Yikes! Even with JSN's diplomatic save at the end there, that's a tough look for Waldron. (Also, the idea that he's going to interact with Justin Fields a bunch is, at this point, kinda far-fetched too.) Given how many Chicago media members are in the QTs freaking out, you can see what kind of an impact it had on Bears Twitter. Even though there was some skepticism about the hire among Seattle media and Seahawks fans, this is the most "direct" criticism of Waldron to date.
And for what it's worth, JSN's not entirely wrong to be skeptical. Waldron's reputation has a coach who loves utilizing multiple tight end sets proceeds him, and even with the Seahawks taking JSN in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, they ended up using him as a WR3. His rookie numbers were promising, but nothing crazy: he ended the year with 63 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 36.9 yards per game. Though, in Waldron's defense, that's probably par for the course for a rookie who's taking targets away from bonafide stars in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
The good news for Bears fans is that Chicago has one of the NFL's better tight ends in Cole Kmet, so if Waldron's bringing a rigid ideology in with him, they'll probably be okay. And what's even better is that they've also been widely considered to be one of the teams that'll be most active in the free agent market and draft at that position, so maybe things will go better than they did in Seattle, where some thought he tried too hard to fit his scheme into the roster of players he had available to him. But still, it's hard to blame Bears fans for panicking – that pause was painfully long.