The Huskies Hired Steve Belichick To Be The Defensive Coordinator

It’s been a tough last few weeks to be a Husky fan. There was the whole unpleasantness with the National Championship Game, the ensuing coaching carousel, and the myriad of player defections. But, it’s starting to feel like things are turning around a bit.

I’m hearing more about players coming IN rather than players leaving. Maybe not enough for the Huskies to be worth a damn in 2024, but hopefully well-equipped for a bounce-back in 2025.

I also got the chance to listen to Jedd Fisch on the radio last week, as he hopped on the Brock & Salk program. I had kind of avoided a lot of the news when he was originally hired, so this was really my first introduction to our new head coach. It’s not that I don’t believe in him; I think it’s as good of a hire as we could’ve gotten, given the circumstances. What he did in turning around the Wildcats so quickly is nothing short of DeBoer-ian. I’m sure he’s a great coach, great recruiter, and he’ll do excellent work for the University of Washington.

But, I mean, he had one foot already out the door before he even signed on the dotted line. Florida is apparently his dream job, and I’m guessing the moment that becomes available, he’ll be gone. Short of that, I’m sure with even moderate success at Washington, he’ll use it to bounce to the SEC and that’ll be that. I give it three years, tops, and only because this first year is looking to be a little down for Washington.

So, I’m not going into this situation with any delusions that Fisch is going to be here long term. College Football is what it is. It’ll be smart for the University of Washington to have people dedicated to tracking more up-and-coming head coaching candidates for when this needs to happen again.

My take-away from the Fisch radio interview is that I’m actually impressed. He does seem really forthright, even if there’s a used car salesman sort of vibe about him. He said that the whole “interview process” consisted of about a 45-minute phone call. Then, a few hours later, he received a formal offer; that was it! Compare that to what the Seahawks went through before landing on Mike Macdonald, and it’s night & day!

Fisch never once talked about Washington being the be-all, end-all. He never made any promises to be here for the duration. His biggest reason for coming here isn’t the locale or the history or even the recent success; he came to Washington because we’re going to the Big Ten next year, and it’s vitally important to be in either the Big Ten or SEC going forward, if you want to compete with the big dogs.

That’s it. His sales tactic to recruits is as follows: we’re in the Big Ten, we’re running a pro style system (so if you want to go to the NFL, best to get your feet wet here), and we’re going to be willing to play Freshmen (because that’s the only way you’re ever going to manage to KEEP your Freshman, since so many would rather enter the transfer portal than red shirt), even if it means we have to endure the growing pains. The main difference between Fisch and DeBoer appears to be Fisch’s insistence that building through high school players is preferable to trying to poach the transfer portal. Of course, at this point, DeBoer won’t have any trouble getting players any way he wants them. There’s no stopping the Alabama train.

Another feather in the Fisch cap is his connections. He has pretty extensive ties in both college and the pro ranks. That experience and network should work wonders. Which brings us to Steve Belichick, our new defensive coordinator.

Belichick has been calling plays for the New England Patriots under his dad for the last however-many years. It’s been a while. The only reason he wasn’t deemed to be the Defensive Coordinator there is because they also had Head Coach In Waiting Jerod Mayo on the defensive staff, and it appears Bill didn’t want to play favorites.

Regardless, Steve Belichick might’ve been a nepo hire originally, but I think he’s proven himself quite well. Say what you will about the Patriots since Tom Brady left, but their defense has been up to the task of at least keeping them in games. I think this is a phenomenal hire! And I can’t wait to see what it does for our recruiting going forward.

I guess you could say I’m coming around on this whole thing. I still don’t know how good the Huskies will be in 2024. There’s really two pieces to this thing: the recruiting part, and the development part. DeBoer was always known as a superior head coach who needed to work on his recruiting prowess (seems like, if you’re a great coach, and you win all the time, what more do you really need to do to sell yourself?). Fisch, on the other hand, has been lauded for his recruiting. But, he only has one 10-win season under his belt so far as a head coach. Will he have what it takes on fall Saturdays to make up for a temporarily-lacking roster? We’ll find out.

The Seahawks Hired Mike Macdonald To Be The New Head Coach

Did the Seahawks just hire the best head coaching candidate available?

It’s interesting to go through the list of current NFL head coaches – in order of year hired – and see the different head coaching classes. When the Commanders finally get their asses in gear, 19 of the 32 head coaches will have been hired in 2022 or later. WELL over half of all head coaches have been in their current jobs for 2 seasons or less.

There are currently only three from the 2021 class: Dan Campbell (whose stock is as high as can be, in spite of some questionable decisions in the NFC Championship Game), Robert Saleh (who feels like he needs a HUGE 2024 with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and probably a deep playoff run if he still wants to be with the Jets in 2025), and Nick Sirianni (who took the Eagles to the Super Bowl in year two, only to almost get fired in year three).

The 2020 class has just two members: Mike McCarthy (in desperate need of a deep playoff run to save his job) and Kevin Stefanski (who probably earned Coach of the Year with the job he did with the Browns in 2023). There’s two left from 2019: Zac Taylor & Matt LaFleur (not going anywhere). No one from 2018. Pretty big three from 2017: Sean McDermott, Sean McVay, and Kyle Shanahan. Then, you have to go back to the Old Guard: 2013 – Andy Reid, 2008 – John Harbaugh, 2007 – Mike Tomlin.

So, what does that tell us? Unless there’s a VERY big surprise looming, there are currently seven members of the 2024 class of new head coaches: Raheem Morris (Atlanta), Dave Canales (Carolina), Jim Harbaugh (Chargers), Jerod Mayo (New England), Brian Callahan (Tennessee), Mike Macdonald (Seahawks), and whoever the Commanders hire. What the above tells us is that in three years, over half of these guys aren’t going to hit.

How to predict where it’s going to work and where it isn’t is kind of a fool’s errand. Canales seems like a longshot to be good. He’s going to the least stable franchise of the bunch (with a crazy owner, a legitimately bad team, and no first round draft pick this year), he’s coming off of only a year as a coordinator, and he just has the feel of a guy who took a job nobody else wanted (I wonder if the same will be said for whoever Washington hires). I’m always leery of the Head Coach In Waiting, ever since it went so poorly with Jim Mora Jr. in Seattle. Seems like Mayo has a huge job ahead of him to right the ship in New England. And I’ll be honest, I had no idea the Titans hired Callahan – or even who Callahan was – until I looked him up and realized he was the OC for Cincinnati. Oh, you mean the offense with the best quarterback we’ve seen since Patrick Mahomes, with one of the most talented and elite wide receivers in the game? Seems hard to NOT have success in that job.

After Raheem Morris’ initial stint as one of the worst active head coaches in the NFL from 2009-2011, I’ll admit he wasn’t on my short list of favorite candidates. Didn’t Bill Simmons coin the phrase WARM (Wins Above Raheem Morris) as a play on baseball’s WAR stat? I’m sure he’s come a long way in the intervening years, but he joins a Falcons team with no quarterback, and no real great shot at drafting one of the top three. If we’re just going by which team – who hired a new coach this offseason – is set up the best from a personnel perspective, then I would say Jim Harbaugh has the best chance to succeed. If the Chargers can’t find a way to win with Justin Herbert and a competent head coach, then they’re more cursed than I realized.

So, unless one of these guys really surprises me, I think Mike Macdonald has a real chance to be great. He’s joining a really solid franchise in the Seahawks, with a lot of good, young, talented players. He’s got a strong GM who should continue to draft well and sign the right guys, now that he’s the head man in charge. And, just based on what I’ve heard about him, it really seems like he has a special aura about him. Very intelligent, very gifted (at least at running a defense), players love him, and he becomes the youngest head coach in the NFL at the moment (if you’re that young and rising through the ranks this fast, you must be doing something right).

Obviously, there are two ways to go with hiring an NFL head coach: bring in a retread, or find someone new from among the college or coordinator ranks. By my calculations, there are currently eight head coaches with previous head coaching experience. Admittedly, that’s sort of an educated guess; I didn’t go through every single bio. Best-case scenario of those guys? Andy Reid, and he obviously gets to enjoy the talents of Mahomes after a successful run in Philly. While there are occasional hits (Pete Carroll obviously being one of them), the retreads never seem to work out too well. For every Bill Belichick, there’s dozens of Mike McCarthys and Dennis Allens. Oddly enough, Bill Belichick was one of the guys available in this go-around, but clearly John Schneider wasn’t ready to hand over the keys to personnel after he just got them handed to himself.

If I had to go with a retread, I would’ve been happy with Mike Vrabel, but I’ll admit I’m pretty thrilled we’re going with someone new and young. I know there’s lots of new, young guys hired every year, but if you find that dynamic someone, it can really be a boost for your franchise for years to come. I find it incredibly heartening that Mike Macdonald is being described as the defensive version of Sean McVay. And not just as a play caller or a schemer, but as someone who can transition into the head coaching job, find the right coaches to put around him, and has the vision to make it all work. On top of which, you know he’s hungry and you know he’s going to give it everything he’s got. Can you say the same thing about Sean Payton or Doug Pederson?

In 2022, in his first year as the Ravens’ DC, they were 3rd in fewest points scored and rushing yards allowed (10th in total yards allowed), as well as tied for fifth in sacks. In 2023, the defense improved to 1st in points allowed, 1st in sacks, and 1st in lowest passer rating allowed, all the while improving to 6th in total yards allowed. And that’s with blitzing less than all but seven teams, according to this article. The more I read about him and hear about him, the more impressed I am!

But, you know, as with any head coach, there are so many variables at play. So many other decisions left to make. Who will be his assistant coaches? What are we doing with Geno Smith? What are we doing in the draft? How long until the team is sold? How solid is John Schneider’s job in the organization?

I’ll tell you what, though, this hire gives me a lot of hope! It’ll ultimately be decided on the football field, likely over the next 2-3 seasons. But, I think we’ve set ourselves up very well to succeed the greatest head coach in franchise history and a legitimate hall of fame candidate. I can’t wait to see what these new Seahawks look like. If nothing else, I’m expecting a rapid turnaround of the defense. And, as we all know, that’s when the Seahawks are always at their best.

Can Richard Sherman Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

***Update 12/27/2012*** Aaaaaannnnnd Sherman has been acquitted.  Free at last!

Well, for starters, not making the Pro Bowl is a bad sign.  But, that probably says more about the Pro Bowl than it does about Sherman’s abilities and his status as the best cover-corner in the NFL.

Nobody’s really talking about this right now (not tooting my horn or anything; I just haven’t seen any articles on the topic), so let’s take out the possible suspension of Sherman for Adderall for the sake of argument.  I don’t know if you’re allowed to win any awards if you’re suspended for this, but my gut tells me either way, by the simple fact that we have these allegations, there will probably be people who leave him off their ballots entirely.

There have been 41 winners of the D-POY award.  15 have been linebackers, 9 have been defensive ends, 7 have been defensive tackles (including Cortez Kennedy in 1992), 5 have been safeties (including Kenny Easley in 1984), and 5 have been cornerbacks.  So, right there, it’s pretty rare to have a cornerback win the award.

When you think about the D-POY, what do you think of?  You think of a defensive player who has made the biggest impact in the league.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, you have to like the chances of a guy who’s going to the playoffs over a guy who doesn’t.  Only 6 players who’ve won the D-POY did not participate in the playoffs that season (with Cortez Kennedy being the most mind-boggling in this regard, coming off of a 2-14 season with those ’92 Seahawks).  You also gotta figure he’s on a defense that’s in the top half of the league.  There’s only one player who was on a defense ranked worse than 14th and that’s Reggie White in a 1987 strike-shortened season where the Eagles missed the playoffs; their defense was ranked 23rd out of 28 teams.  Still, when you’re Reggie White and you get 21.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a touchdown, those are the kinds of undeniable numbers you can’t ignore.

Richard Sherman is on a top-flight defense (easily in the top 3 in the league in most catagories).  Richard Sherman’s team is also going to the playoffs.  Those are two big checks in his favor.  Of course, they’re not the ONLY things voters look at.

Going back, you’re talking about a guy who makes the biggest impact; what does that mean?  Having a lot of tackles is great and all, but tons of guys have a bunch of tackles.  Those won’t separate you from the pack.  Impact plays are, in no particular order:  sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and touchdowns.  Then, when you’re talking about cornerbacks, you’ve gotta look at Passes Defended, you’ve got to look at number of penalties against, you’ve got to look at number of targets (i.e. how many times that player was challenged by the opposing quarterback; because if a quarterback is avoiding that side of the field due to the level of competition on defense, that’s a HUGE impact), and finally, I’m sure the voters do the ol’ Eye Test.  Does he LOOK like a defensive player of the year?  This could go any number of ways.  They can watch the games, they can watch highlight packages, they can read about him in local and national articles, they can hear what players and coaches say about him.

Anyway, that’s what you’re looking at.  I’m just a humble blogger, so I don’t know things like how many times he was targeted, or what the players are saying about him.  But, there are plenty of websites that can give me the hard stats.  First, let’s take a look at past winners; specifically, past winners who were cornerbacks.

What does it take to be a cornerback and win the D-POY?

  • 2009 – Charles Woodson (Green Bay):  2 sacks, 9 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 65 tackles, 18 passes defended.
  • 1994 – Deion Sanders (San Francisco):  6 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 34 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 1993 – Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh):  2 sacks, 8 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, 95 tackles, 23 passes defended.
  • 1980 – Lester Hayes (Oakland):  13 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, an unknown number of tackles & passes defended (because these were not recorded stats back then).
  • 1975 – Mel Blount (Pittsburgh):  11 interceptions, an unknown number of tackles and passes defended.

I don’t know a thing about Mel Blount, but I know he played for the Steelers.  The Steelers in the 1970s had one of the most fearsome defenses in the league.  A Steeler won the D-POY 4 times out of the first 6 years the award was given out, all in the 70s.  I gotta think that’s a major reason why Blount won it in ’75 (plus, you know, 11 interceptions is pretty fucking insane for a cornerback).

I don’t know much about Lester Hayes either, but that’s a pretty damn good season.  Plus, he had some cachet back then.  If you’re a cornerback and you have eyes on the D-POY award, you’ve got to have some name recognition.  Hayes (for being just a brutal hitter and tackler), Rod Woodson, Deion (Primetime) Sanders, and Charles Woodson all have HUGE name recognition.  Normally, the best athletes are reserved for offense.  It’s pretty rare to be the best athlete on your team and also play corner.  In the case of these last four guys, you’re talking about just that.  You’ll also notice that a lot of these guys have returned kicks in their days; not a coincidence.  If your best player is a cornerback, you do whatever it takes to get him on the field with the ball in his hands.

Of the five guys listed above, I think Rod Woodson’s season was probably the most impressive.  I mean, 95 tackles for a corner?  Are you KIDDING me?

Anyway, let’s take a look at Sherman’s numbers for reference:

  • 2012 – Richard Sherman (Seattle):  1 sack, 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 53 tackles, 23 passes defended.

He’s up there in interceptions, which is good.  He’s got some forced fumbles, he’s got a couple touchdowns, he’s got a ton of passes defended, and he’s even got a sack for good measure.  These are all numbers right in line with the best seasons of any cornerback.  So, let’s look at some of the other great cornerbacks this year.

  • 2012 – Charles Tillman (Chicago):  3 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 touchdowns, 71 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Tim Jennings (Chicago):  8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 19 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Patrick Peterson (Arizona):  7 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries, 50 tackles, 15 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Champ Bailey (Denver):  2 interceptions, 58 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Johnathan Joseph (Houston):  2 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets):  3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 28 tackles, 13 passes defended.

In case you were wondering:  those are the six starting cornerbacks selected to this year’s Pro Bowl.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, these are six premiere corners and thus need to be taken seriously as competition with Richard Sherman for D-POY.

If you look among the league leaders, Sherman is tied for 2nd with 7 intereptions (Jennings is alone at the top with 8).  In forced fumbles, among defensive backs (including safeties), he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 3.  Tillman has a GROTESQUE 10 forced fumbles to lead the league, regardless of position.  If you take the safety position out of the equation, then Sherman is tied for 2nd among cornerbacks with 3.

If we just stick with cornerbacks, it’s only Sherman and Tillman and everyone else.  Tillman has forced a combined 13 turnovers.  Sherman has forced 10.  Both have multiple touchdowns.  Both have name recognition.  Tillman has been in the league for 10 years, so he has a little MORE name recognition, but still.  People know who Richard Sherman is, and they will only continue to know who he is.  He leads the league in opposing quarterback rating when he’s thrown at.  Don’t know where Tillman ranks, but based on the fact that he has nearly 20 more tackles, I gotta think opposing quarterbacks don’t fear him quite as much.  It’s not opposing QBs’ fault that their wide receivers keep getting stripped by the guy.  Likewise, Sherman has nearly 10 more passes defended.

Looking elsewhere, J.J. Watt is getting a lot of pub down in Houston.  As a defensive end, he currently has 20.5 sacks.  Aldon Smith for the 49ers has 19.5, but you can see his play has tailed off considerably with Justin Smith injured.  Getting punked by Russell Okung in primetime surely didn’t help his chances either.

As for the linebackers, you’ve got a dark horse in Arizona by the name of Daryl Washington.  He’s got 123 tackles and 9 sacks to go along with an interception and 2 forced fumbles.  You’ve got London Fletcher with Washington:  128 tackles, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 10 passes defended.  Then there are the big dogs in tackles – Luke Kuechly (151, with 1 sack, 2 INTs), Chad Greenway (145, with 3 sacks, 1 INT), NaVorro Bowman (144, with 2 sacks, 1 INT), and Jerod Mayo (142, with 3 sacks, 1 INT).  I’m going to say, with his name recognition, and the fact that everybody LOVES the guy, I’m putting London Fletcher as the clubhouse leader among linebackers.  He’s got a nice stat spread that could go a long way in this race.

I don’t think there are any serious contenders among the safeties.  The usual suspects – Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed – have either been injured, or less stellar than in years past.

That leaves us with four legitimate candidates:

  • London Fletcher
  • J.J. Watt
  • Charles Tillman
  • Richard Sherman

My hunch?  I really like London Fletcher’s chances.  Remember when they gave Denzel Washington the Academy Award for that awful Training Day movie?  This is kind of like that.  A belated award to an industry veteran who’s at the top of his game while slumming it.  In the case of Fletcher, “slumming it” means he’s on a TERRIBLE defense, but is the one shining vision of glory holding things somewhat together.

But, I don’t necessarily think anything is decided yet either.  Will Sherman win his appeal?  That’ll go a long way.  Will Sherman close out the regular season in dramatic fashion?  Maybe he gets another interception, scores another touchdown, keeps the national focus on himself.  Do they put into consideration playoff performance?  I don’t know, but if they do, then Sherman will have more opportunities to shine.  I would wager:  more opportunities than either Fletcher or Tillman.

A lot of things up in the air for the D-POY award.  It’s not impossible for Sherman to win it, but right now I’d say he’s a longshot.