I wanted to wait until things were a little more official before talking about the influx of new coaches on the Seattle Seahawks, as you never know when a deal is gonna go sideways at the last minute.
As we all know, the Seahawks fired Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable last week. Now, we have their replacements, as well as the news that Kris Richard was also canned.
Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer, will take over for Bevell as the offensive coordinator. He’s been coaching in the league since 1997, first becoming a coordinator back in 2006 with the Jets. He was there for 6 years, then with Jeff Fisher’s Rams for 3 years, then he went to college and was the coordinator at Georgia for a season before returning to the NFL with the Colts as a quarterbacks coach the last two years. In that time, he’s had some good seasons and some bad seasons, though by and large he’s been saddled with some pretty mediocre-to-terrible quarterbacks; suffice it to say, Russell Wilson will be the best one he’s ever coached.
Mike Solari, former Seahawks offensive line coach from 2008-2009, will take over for Cable as the offensive line coach (there will be no assistant head coach or whatever on this staff, it would seem). Solari has been coaching since the 70s, in the NFL starting in 1987, and has been coaching offensive lines practically the whole time. He was most recently with the Giants the last two years (certainly not a running juggernaut), was with the Packers for a season in 2015, and spent 5 years with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh. He too has had some good seasons and some bad seasons. I remember being really jacked up the first time the Seahawks signed him, but he caught on just as all of our O-Line talent was falling apart, and we never really recovered in that 2-year span. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time too.
Ken Norton Jr., former Seahawks linebackers coach from 2010-2014, will take over for Richard as the defensive coordinator. He was most recently the coordinator for the Raiders the last 3 seasons. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it seemed like they underachieved pretty hard, particularly the last two years. That’s a defense with a lot of talent, but maybe not as much as I think. I dunno. The Raiders, obviously, cleaned house this offseason, handing over the keys to the franchise to Jon Gruden, who’s brought in a pretty impressive staff under him. It’ll be interesting to see if they can bounce back after a disappointing 2017. Norton, meanwhile, was poised to be an assistant for the 49ers, until the Seahawks offered him the coordinator job. I don’t know if he’s necessarily a step up from Kris Richard, but I also don’t know if he’s a step down either.
As a Seahawks fan, it’s hard to get too excited about any of these moves. They’re all retreads, and they’re all pretty boilerplate. When you look around the league, and you see what certain guys are doing with their creative schemes, you’d hope the Seahawks would want to be on that cutting edge. At the very least, you’d like to see these coaches having some sustained success at what they do; but each one of these guys were spotty at best.
Which begs the question: knowing what I know now, would I do it over again? Would I still want to replace Bevell, Cable, and Richard? And I have to say yes, because again, it was time for a new voice, a new set of eyes, and a new mindset.
I also have to say that the most important ingredient in all of this is Pete Carroll. From what I’m reading – and I tend to agree – this is Pete taking over control of his team, and if the end is somewhere on the horizon (2 years, 3 years, 5 years?), he’s going to go out on his own terms, doing what he does best: running the football and playing smashmouth defense.
It also means you know who to blame if all of this goes south, but that’s neither here nor there.
I’m sure Ken Norton Jr. is a fine teacher and motivator, but he’s going to be running Carroll’s scheme to the letter. Richard was more or less also doing that, but Richard would also probably benefit from coaching under someone besides Carroll for the first time in his career. The point is, Carroll has always had his hands all over the defense, so nothing is going to change there. I would expect things to look pretty much the same as they have since Dan Quinn left.
As for Solari, I honestly don’t know what he’ll be able to do that Tom Cable couldn’t do better. It’s no surprise that Cable was on the market for all of a couple of days. I’m pretty sure they both run essentially the same zone blocking scheme, only Solari has done it consistently worse, without any sort of knack for improving pass protection either. He feels like a poor man’s Cable in every respect. But, with the way the staff was organized, I doubt Cable would’ve accepted a reduced role here – to JUST coach the O-Line, and not be the “run game coordinator” or whatever – and I doubt we could’ve gotten a respectable offensive coordinator to come in, knowing that Cable had just as much, if not more power, in the offense. This might be the one case where change for the sake of change backfires, but Solari probably isn’t the VERY worst, so let’s hope the drop-off isn’t too severe.
The most interesting hire – and the one under the largest microscope, among fans – is Brian Schottenheimer. I know as far as head coaches are concerned, his dad is on my short list of the ones I respect the most (and I do believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, in spite of his lack of success in the playoffs), so the hope is there’s some of Marty’s magic in Brian. I guess we’ll see. He’s largely an unknown precisely because he hasn’t had as good of a quarterback as Wilson in his coordinating career. He was a quarterbacks coach for Drew Brees in San Diego, and apparently did him a world of good, so there’s been a lot of talk about him bringing Wilson’s game to another level. That’s less interesting to me, because I don’t know if there’s another level to Wilson’s game, necessarily. He’s also considerably more experienced than Brees was at that point in his career, so it’s not like Schottenheimer would be bringing along some wide-eyed rookie. Wilson is an established veteran and Pro Bowler, with 2 trips to the Super Bowl under his belt and 1 championship; what is Schottenheimer going to tell him that Bevell couldn’t? Throw from the pocket more! Throw on time! Yeah, we get it, this has been harped upon since day 1.
Word on the street is, Schottenheimer (boy, am I going to get tired of writing that long-ass name out) likes to run the football. So, again, this has Pete’s influence all over it. Getting back to old school football. Of course, it would help if we had a talented running back – who can also stay healthy for more than 6 games – to hand the rock off to, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re not going to get anything flashy out of Schottenheimer; this isn’t Sean McVay. This is the Seahawks trying to reclaim former glories.
On the one hand: sad. We kill the Mariners for constantly living in the past, but I’m supposed to get all lubed up over the Seahawks returning to their 2013 form? Besides, can we even put that genie back in the lamp?
Which leads me to the other hand: good. My main concern is Russell Wilson in all of this. He’s been in the league for 6 years now, and has done everything you could ask of a franchise quarterback. You have to wonder: is he going to accept a slightly reduced role, if it means this offense has greater success? Ego is a powerful thing. You obviously have to have a lot of ego to play quarterback in the NFL, but when you get to the level Wilson’s reached in his career, that ego tends to expand to galaxy-sized proportions. The biggest question that I’ll have, as we head into the 2018 season, is: will Russell Wilson put his money where his mouth is? Is he REALLY all about winning? Or, is it only about winning when he’s the lone star on the team?
Don’t get me wrong, I would have this same question for almost every single successful quarterback in the league. There gets to be a point in a young quarterback’s career where he becomes bigger than the team, and it’s not until he’s logged a decade or so when he comes to realize that in the end, all that matters is winning. What I want to know is, can we somehow accelerate that line of thinking for Wilson, get him to come back down to Earth a little bit, and run a more conservative-style offense that helps out our defense and gets this team back on track?
The other word on the street is, Schottenheimer is pretty salty. So, here’s hoping he can infuse a little more discipline into this offense, again particularly with Wilson. He needs a coach, not a buddy, and I don’t get the sense that Bevell was much of an authoritarian. This should also help teammate relations when it comes to their quarterback resentment. But, you know, we’ll see.
No one really knows how these coaches are going to be, or how the players are going to respond. So, it’s hard to get too uptight about any of it. Save that energy for when the games start.