The biggest news of the offseason for the Seattle Seahawks so far – that isn’t just talking head nonsense from hot take factories – is the firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. It was a long time coming and, frankly, one of those hires where you knew it was going to go poorly as soon as it was announced. We let it slide – more or less – because we knew it was just a puppet hire of someone who would be running Pete Carroll’s defense.
Which leads me to my first question: were Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn also puppet hires who just ran Pete Carroll’s defense? Or did they just so happen to run a similar defense to what we know Pete likes to install? I don’t get the sense that this was the case with these two, yet it’s what we automatically cling to when we talk about the hires of Kris Richard and Ken Norton. It seems overly dismissive and simplistic.
Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that the Seahawks saw great success with the system ran by Bradley and Quinn, and their goal with Richard and Norton was to continue with what had been built. Unfortunately for the latter two gentlemen, they were saddled with a drastic downgrade in defensive talent. But, with Norton in particular, it sure didn’t seem like he brought anything to the table, and that was his ultimate downfall.
I don’t know if there’s a right way or a wrong way to hire a coach. You can hire from within, you can make a big splash on a retread who rehabilitated his coaching image, you can hire a hotshot coach’s assistant to hope you capture the same magic, you can pilfer the college ranks, you can hire a coordinator from another team. The possibilities are endless, and are riddled with successes and failures. So, I don’t want to say I’m down on Clint Hurtt – new defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks – simply because he was promoted from within the organization. But, I’ve seen what he’s done for this team so far, and I’m far from impressed.
I was already dissatisfied with the job Clint Hurtt was doing even before Ken Norton was fired. He’s been with the Seahawks since 2017 – as the D-Line coach, as well as the assistant head coach – but what has he done exactly to bolster our defensive line? Let’s go through our draft picks since 2017: Malik McDowell (bust), Naz Jones (bust), Rasheem Green (role player at best), L.J. Collier (not even a good role player), Demarcus Christmas (bust), Darrell Taylor (finally, someone good), Alton Robinson (role player). The Seahawks have consistently underwhelmed along the defensive line in his tenure. The pass rush has been up and down, and the run defense has been up and down. I don’t understand what it is, exactly, he does well.
At least when you’re talking about Kris Richard and Ken Norton, you’re talking about a former secondary coach and linebackers coach (respectively) who were phenomenal at those jobs! It doesn’t appear Hurtt has ever been successful at any of his stops. It certainly doesn’t explain this fast-track he’s been on up to this point.
When the Seattle Times announced his hire, it was with the knowledge that Ed Donatell was also going to be hired as a defensive assistant in some capacity. The two, in conjunction, both worked under Vic Fangio, who was and presumably still IS one of the best defensive coordinators in the game today. The obvious next question is: if we want to run his system going forward, why didn’t we just hire HIM?! But, whatever. Presumably, once you know the system, then it’s a matter of getting the right guys to fit within that system. You still need someone to call plays and make adjustments mid-game. I hate the fact that we’re going into a second consecutive season with a first-time play-caller (last year, Shane Waldron for the offense; now Hurtt for the defense).
This is worsened by the fact that Donatell was just hired to be Minnesota’s DC. Hurtt is more palatable with a veteran like Donatell backing him up.
I’m actually heartened with the new assistants the Seahawks hired to coach under Hurtt, though. Karl Scott was brought in to coach the secondary (and be the passing game coordinator). He’s another hot shot who’s on a fast-track, coming from coaching the secondary in Alabama (2018-2020) and the Vikings (2021). Nick Saban, obviously, is the greatest college coach who ever lived, and I have the utmost respect for the old Vikings coaching staff, especially with their defensive pedigree. So, at least he’s coached under some smart dudes.
I’m even more excited for Sean Desai, who looks like a brilliant football mind, coming over from the Bears (starting in 2013, working his way up to DC in 2021). He was in the hunt for numerous DC jobs around the league, before settling here as an Associate Head Coach for the defense.
I’ll be honest, I actually think the Seahawks are making a huge mistake. I think they should’ve just hired Desai to be the DC, and given Hurtt the boot. This seems like something that could backfire in a big way, with Hurtt ultimately failing (and being fired within four years) and Desai moving on to bigger and better things after 2022. Here’s hoping he can make a big impact in a short period of time.
Ultimately, though, we don’t know how good or bad Hurtt is going to be. I’m just assuming he’ll be bad, and am staking my claim right now that this is an uninspiring hire. I wish the Seahawks would’ve made another choice, but who knows? I could be totally wrong. Maybe he’s been a diamond in the rough this whole time and it was Ken Norton who was holding him back. Odds seem to be stacked against that. So, rather than be the usual homer that I am, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer instead, so when we look back in a few years, I’ll get to say I was right from the very beginning.
Of course, that just means the Seahawks will continue to suck between now and then, and nobody wants that.
Next up, I’ll be writing about the shake-up along the offensive line coaching staff.