When the stadium lights shut off and the players hang up their cleats for the offseason, there are still plenty of coaches and executives working tirelessly to deliver the fine-tuned product that is the NFL.
For one team, the Los Angeles Rams, a key contributor to the year-round grind is none other than Tufts University alum Shane Waldron (A’02).
Waldron is the passing game coordinator for the Rams, working closely with esteemed head coach Sean McVay and other offensive minds on the staff to put together what is widely regarded as one of the strongest offenses in football.
All of that got started in Waldron’s college days, playing football for the Jumbos as a tight end and long snapper under coach Bill Samko, who stepped down in 2010.
“I enjoyed all the friendships and bonds I formed there,” Waldron said about Tufts. “Coach Samko was a great mentor to me, and I still stay in touch with him to this day.”
After graduating, Waldron knew he wanted to continue to be around football, but he was not sure if that would be as a coach or in a front office position. He anchored his efforts with a genuine passion for the game of football.
“Once you finish up [college], it’s like anything else, you’re fishing with a net,” Waldron said. “You’re trying to reach out to as many people as you can, you’re trying to apply to every job you can. And once you’re there, it’s all about doing the best you can at the job you’re in.”
Waldron was able to land an opportunity with the New England Patriots, where he worked in various capacities as an intern and assistant. It was there that he decided what his calling was.
“After my initial experience with New England, I knew I wanted to be a coach,” he said.
That turned into a long and fruitful journey through multiple organizations at the high school and collegiate levels, as well as a stint back with the Patriots, before Waldron landed with the Washington Redskins as an offensive quality control coach in 2016. It was there where Waldron worked on the staff of a certain little-known coach named Sean McVay, then the offensive coordinator of the Redskins. When McVay was hired in Los Angeles in 2017, Waldron went with him.
By this point, Waldron had the position of an NFL assistant coach, a position that carries one of the highest honors and heaviest workloads in the sport of football. But Waldron has always been up for the challenge.
“People always ask me, what do you do in the offseason?” Waldron said. “But it’s a full time job. You go from coaching during the season, then a transition into where we’re at now, where you’re evaluating the college players.”
While players and fans may bask in some lengthy bouts of downtime, Waldron is in the office day in and day out. The NFL represents a unique coaching challenge in its immense turnover. This contributes to the yearlong grind that coaches face, studying countless teams and matchups while also fine-tuning a 53-man roster.
Unless they won the Super Bowl, every team is gripped by what it could have done better.
“It’s still that desire to improve and that desire to figure out what we can do better,” Waldron said. “How can we help our team to win that one more game?”
For all the trials and tribulations that come with coaching in the NFL, Waldron holds the rewarding parts of the job above all else.
“As a coach, one of the most exciting parts of the year is watching the guys grow together and really turn into a team,” Waldron said. “It’s a full time gig, and it’s a lot of fun doing it.”
Ever since that fateful 2017 season when Waldron and McVay went to Los Angeles, the Rams have been one of the top teams in the NFL, especially in terms of offensive coaching and firepower. Waldron has been an instrumental part of that success, working as both the tight ends coach and the quarterbacks coach in past seasons, as well as his current position of pass game coordinator.
Waldron tracks a lot of his success and love for coaching back to the skills he learned at Tufts.
“Being at Tufts, just that ability to develop relationships and friendships with people from all different walks of life … When you get into the coaching profession, that ability to communicate and relate to everybody has been a really helpful thing along my journey as a coach,” Waldron said.
Vision and communication are huge in the NFL, Waldron said. Something as seemingly trivial as communication can make all the difference in the NFL world, as evidenced by the success of Los Angeles in contrast to the more chaotic organizations like Jacksonville or Cleveland.
“I’ve been lucky to be with a lot of great franchises, and the common theme there is just everyone being on the same page and everyone having a clear understanding of what their role is within the team,” Waldron said.
Waldron’s position within the organization has allowed him to work with some special players. His work as a tight ends coach in the 2017 season had him directly coaching recent breakout and fantasy football darling Tyler Higbee. Higbee’s success in the 2019 stat sheets is evidence aplenty for his work ethic under the Rams coaching staff, and his name is one to watch heading into the 2020 season.
“Tyler’s just been a guy that’s consistently done the right thing every single day he’s come into the building,” Waldron said. “He’s been that guy who’s been working hard, a key contributor every down that he’s been in there.”
Waldron’s work as quarterbacks coach this past season also had him working closely with none other than Los Angeles franchise star quarterback Jared Goff.
“[Goff] has been able to come in with that level head every single week, and not get too high, not get too low and be that steady influence on our offense,” Waldron said.
The idea of collaborating with and relating to countless people from all different backgrounds rings true from the regular season through the offseason, and at the center of it all is Waldron’s genuine passion for football, cultivated at none other than Ellis Oval. That passion has been harnessed by Waldron’s genuine approach to his players and the game, and Los Angeles is a better football team for it.