The most pressing move of this offseason – non-player edition – was the fact that the Seahawks needed to fire Ken Norton Jr. and bring in a replacement defensive coordinator who’s actually worth a damn. According to recent reports, it looks like we’re halfway there.
It’s hard to get excited at a time like this, for a couple of reasons. For starters, it’s a little ghoulish to cheer for someone getting fired. But, as a former player and a longtime coach – who should have no trouble finding another job, at the very least, as a linebackers coach (his specialty) – I don’t think Ken Norton is hurting for money. If anything, it’s probably a little embarrassing and disappointing for him to be dismissed – especially when you can argue this is his second time failing as a defensive coordinator, meaning that there probably won’t be a third opportunity in his future, nor any opportunities for promotions to head coach in the NFL one day – but as a football coach, you have to get used to the idea of moving around and changing jobs every few years. That’s just the way it works the vast majority of the time.
Knowing that Ken Norton will be fine and will land on his feet, I would say it’s also hard to get excited right now because the great unknown is: who will be his replacement?
Initial reports are pointing to Ed Donatell – the Broncos’ most recent DC under Vic Fangio – and our very own defensive line coach, Clint Hurtt. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t understand why Hurtt is still employed here. What has he done to bolster the defensive line one iota since being hired in 2017? You’d think you’d have to master one smaller job before being promoted to overseeing the entire big job of defensive coordinator!
As for Donatell, he was infamously the DC at Washington when the Huskies went 0-12 in 2008. He has relatively extensive experience at the position – 11 years, across 4 different stops – and I remember his Denver defenses being pretty good (I’m sure a Broncos fan might tell me something different). If I had to choose between the two, I guess I’d go with Donatell.
But, the Seahawks don’t have to choose between just those two! They could have the pick of the litter if they really wanted! Why are we going after the defensive coordinator under Vic Fangio, when we could go after Vic Fangio himself?! He’s been pretty good-to-great everywhere he’s been as a DC. And he’s also pretty old school in his mindset, which would lead me to believe he and Pete Carroll would get along well enough.
The last two DCs we’ve had are Norton and Kris Richard. Norton with the Seahawks was in his second career stint as a DC (previously with the Raiders), Richard was in his first (after skyrocketing through the organization since Carroll first arrived). I would prefer the Seahawks go away from untested coordinators and bring in a salty veteran who knows what he’s doing.
It’s fair to question the roster at this point, and how much it could conceivably improve over this offseason. If you put great players out there – like we had in the L.O.B. era – you can hire pretty much anyone to be your DC and get great production. But, we’ve largely had mediocre defenses in the years post-Dan Quinn (who is not an option at this point, since he’s already a DC in Dallas). Failing that, you want a coordinator who is going to maximize the talent he does have; Richard and Norton failed to bring anything extra to the table. The fact that the Seahawks’ defenses have declined under their watch has a lot to do with the talent they had to work with, but I would contend they did even less with that talent than someone more qualified might’ve done.
Assuming we don’t immediately find all the weapons we need, then I’m saying we need a proper DC to come in here and coach the hell out of these guys.
The worry, of course, is that it’s really Pete Carroll’s defense, and whoever he hires is a caretaker at best, or a puppet at worst. Not that Pete is calling plays or anything, but he’s a heavy influence in scheme and how plays are called. That didn’t seem to prevent Gus Bradley or Dan Quinn from being wildly successful and getting hired elsewhere to be head coaches. I don’t see why someone like Fangio – or an up-and-coming successful position coach with eyes towards being a head coach one day – would want to avoid Seattle when we have a track record of success on the defensive side of the ball under Carroll.
Hell, even over the last two years – when our defenses fell on their faces to start their respective seasons – we were able to turn things around and become a respectable unit by the ends of those seasons. One would argue Pete Carroll’s experience and expertise is a huge benefit to this team on the defensive side of the ball; any DC would be lucky to work under Carroll!
The right person could make all the difference. The personnel department still needs to do their jobs and fill in where they can, but I would be greatly encouraged by a quality hire. Here’s hoping that DC isn’t among the names I’ve already seen listed on Twitter.