The Seahawks Have Some New Defensive Assistant Coaches

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.

Yay.

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.

The Seahawks Are In The Market For A New Defensive Coordinator

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.

The Seahawks’ Defense Fucking Sucks

There’s no getting around it. There’s also no reason to sugarcoat it. The Seahawks have a shitty, terrible, no good, very bad fucking defense.

It’s frustrating not necessarily because we weren’t expecting this; the defense was always going to be the weak link on this team. It’s that they’re clearly WORSE than we were expecting, and they’re not improving one bit over the course of these first seven weeks!

I wouldn’t say the Seahawks have had a particularly brutal schedule to date – certainly a tougher one than the 49ers, for instance – but there’s been a mix of good and bad teams in there. Aside from the Cardinals – who still managed 321 total yards, and a 5.0 yards per rush average – teams have had no trouble scoring, and EVERYONE is at least moving the ball at will. It’s an embarrassment, and no one is exempt.

Bobby Wagner, WHERE YOU AT, BRO? 3 years, $54 million, at the top of the middle linebacker pack, and what have you done for us? 0 sacks, 3 tackles for loss. I don’t expect Wagner to be blitzing nonstop; that’s not his game. But, run stuffing? Getting to those running backs before they plow through the line for huge chunk plays? How about that, huh? Can we at least stop THAT from happening? Every time I turn around, Bobby Wagner is getting pancaked by fools he used to exploit.

Maybe it’s not his fault. The defensive line has certainly been fucking abysmal, after all. Nevertheless, I expect my superstar All Pros to play like superstar All Pros, regardless of the lack of talent around them. Bobby Wagner used to lift this team on his back and make everyone around him look and play better; he’s doing NONE of that this year. No special plays, anywhere. For a guy who’s going to bog down our salary cap, that’s UNACCEPTABLE.

Speaking of the defensive line: 11 sacks, 7th-worst in the NFL. At some point, you have to stop blaming the fact that opposing quarterbacks are getting the ball out too quickly. They’re not doing that on EVERY SINGLE PLAY! There are opportunities – too many, quite frankly – where the quarterback has all day to throw, and a clean, warm Snuggie of a pocket in which to stand.

Part of that, obviously, is by design. Out with the old and in with the new. But, we’re paying good money to some of these guys, and not really getting much out of them. Clowney is the only guy in the entire front seven who’s worth a damn right now. Where has Ansah been? Well, I hope he’s looking forward to another underwhelming contract offer (from a different team) next year, because he hasn’t earned that big payday he was hoping for! He can’t even stay on the fucking field! And he really doesn’t look like he even WANTS to be on the fucking field!

The worst part of all of this is the fact that our younger guys aren’t progressing in the slightest. Quinton Jefferson had one good game, but otherwise has been invisible. Poona Ford is not a secret pass rushing threat we were all hoping he’d be (and I’m not even sure he’s done a whole lot to stuff the run like he’s supposed to). Rasheem Green has 2 sacks on the season and looks as lost as ever in Year Two. And the biggest disappointment of all has to go to L.J. Collier, who was a first rounder this year. Everyone who reviewed his college film pretty much screamed that this guy wouldn’t be any good, and they’re all proven to be correct. He’s been a healthy scratch more than he’s played! A first round pick! On a team with a bullshit defensive line that can’t do anything!

K.J. Wright looks slow and in depserate need of retirement. Mychal Kendricks hasn’t shown much of any reason why he needs to be out there so often that we have to stay in Base to the detriment of our pass defense. We’re getting shredded by opposing tight ends more than ever before, and this is a defense that traditionally gives up huge days to opposing tight ends (at least, when they hang onto the ball, Mark Andrews).

In the entire front seven, I’ve counted one guy – Clowney – who’s been a positive. We can hope, I guess, that Jarran Reed will return to his 2018 form sooner rather than later, but I’m not holding my breath. And I haven’t even gotten to our worst position group on the entire team: the safeties.

Tedric Thompson is so bad, the Seahawks had to trade a 5th round pick in 2020 to go and get Quandre Diggs (and a 7th rounder). People in Detroit are lamenting this deal more for the fact that they didn’t get very much in return; indeed, it looks like only a 5th rounder is pretty good value for someone like Diggs. But, he’s also not a cure-all. He’s not going to come in here and magically transform this unit into something worthwhile! He’s not Earl Thomas in his prime; nor is he Earl Thomas NOW! He’s a guy, a guy Detroit was willing to part with so they could play their younger guys (though he’s only 26 years old himself).

Yet, Tedric has found himself in the lineup so often because Lano Hill – who’s also not very good, misses a lot of tackles, can’t really cover anyone, and never makes any impact plays – can’t stay healthy, and because Bradley McDougald is undersized, has taken a HUGE step back in 2019, and is physically breaking down. Marquise Blair was finally inserted into the starting lineup last week, and played okay, but is also a rookie and is exclusively a strong safety (so he doesn’t fix our Tedric problem, which is everything).

Tedric gets beat deep in every game he plays. In a system that preaches getting turnovers and eliminating big plays on defense, he doesn’t really do either (he’s been the recipient of a couple of tipped balls as his two interceptions this year). Pete Carroll will never badmouth ANYONE … unless you repeatedly give up huge plays deep down field. You’ve got to be pretty bad – and pretty stupid – to suck this hard and not come to the realization that you need to be playing deeper than you are. To keep falling for the same play-action tricks. And, on top of everything, he’s SLOW. He’s slow, he doesn’t tackle well; he brings literally nothing to the table. Why he’s still on this team, I have no idea.

The only other real bright spot on this defense is Shaquill Griffin, who’s the only guy taking his game to another level. Tre Flowers has shown bright spots here and there, but until we see it from him on a consistent basis, I’m reserving my praise. Beyond those two guys, it’s a fucking disaster area at cornerback. The team rightly let Justin Coleman walk in free agency – he was going to cost too much, and this team is supposed to be able to develop younger guys to fill this role – but they’ve failed in their jobs to ACTUALLY develop anyone.

All of that having been said, the Seahawks are somehow 5-2 on the year. They also have the good fortune of playing the moribund Atlanta Falcons right now, who are probably one more loss away from firing Dan Quinn. So, watch our defense totally kick some fuckin’ ass on Sunday and make me look foolish. I HOPE THEY DO.

I also hope that we re-hire Dan Quinn this offseason to be our defensive coordinator again, and send Ken Norton Jr. his walking papers. Because if we thought Kris Richard was a huge step down, well we hadn’t seen ANYTHING until now!

Pete Carroll keeps preaching that things are going to turn around for this side of the ball. Well, ANY FUCKING TIME NOW WOULD BE GREAT!

The Seahawks Go To Dallas This Saturday For A Wild Card Showdown

In week 3 of the regular season, the Seahawks hosted the Cowboys and beat them 24 to 13. It was the immortal game where the 0-2 Seahawks first started their re-dedication to running the football. Chris Carson carried it a whopping 32 times after being limited to just 6 carries the week prior (where the coaching staff either forgot about him, or doubted his conditioning). That proved to be a mistake, and the Dallas game proved it, as he racked up 102 yards and a touchdown.

That’s not an amazing average, but the Cowboys in 2018 had one of the top defenses in the league against the run (giving up the 5th fewest yards per game and yards per attempt), so you have to figure just having a 100-yard back is pretty amazing.

The thing about this matchup is: these aren’t the same Cowboys. Those Cowboys – after their week 3 defeat – fell to 1-2 (the same record as the Seahawks). The Cowboys would eventually fall to 3-5 at the midway point in the season, which was right around the time they traded a first round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. The Cowboys finished their season 7-1 to win the NFC East and earn this first round home game.

Regardless of the quality of your opponents, 7-1 is nothing to sneeze at. They beat the Eagles twice, and the #1 seed Saints at home; their only loss was a flukey road game against Indy where they were shut out. But, other than that, the Cowboys have been one of the more clutch teams, winning all 7 of those late-season games by 8 points or less. They have the league’s #1 running back in Ezekiel Elliott, they figured out how to unleash Amari Cooper after he’d been floundering in Oakland for the last few seasons, and Dak Prescott has stepped his game back up after a rocky sophomore campaign.

More importantly, their defense is legit, and apparently they have Kris Richard to thank?! They’ve given up the 7th fewest yards and 6th fewest points. They’re middle-of-the-road in sacks, but don’t be fooled, because they can generate a ton of pressure. I already talked about their rush defense being key, but their pass defense is no slouch either, giving up just 234.7 yards per game.

But, here’s the other thing about this matchup: these aren’t the same Seahawks either.

We all know what the Seahawks have done – going 10-4 since week 2, while putting up a fight in each of our losses against tough opponents – and what the Seahawks are good at. So, let’s talk about how it relates to this game on Saturday.

The absolute key of keys will be the offensive line. D.J. Fluker appears to be ready to go, and it sounds like J.R. Sweezy will give it a try and see how he feels on gameday. Having them both back and healthy is going to be critical, not just for this game, but for the rest of this season. I mean, you saw what happened last week, when both of them sat out! The Cardinals almost upset us! You saw what happened against the 49ers when we had to fill some holes; it was a disaster!

If either of them miss time in this game, we’re in trouble. Because if the #1-A key to this game is the O-Line, then #1-B is turnovers. The Cowboys aren’t particularly great – on either side of the ball – at turnovers, so if we give them additional possessions, we’re probably going to be fucked. Their defense is too good for us to overcome a ton of mistakes. On the flipside, if OUR defense can knock the ball out of their hands and recover some of those fumbles, we might be talking about a serious spanking.

On a neutral field, if you played this game 100 times, I think the Seahawks win more than they lose. On this particular field, on this particular day, I think the Seahawks are more than capable of doing what needs to be done. Odds are – if we do prevail – we’ll have to go on the road to play New Orleans, which is a TALL order, and will likely require some of that special Russell Wilson goodness. I’d like to save that – if there is indeed a finite amount of it in the 2018 season – for next week, and just take care of business here against the Cowboys.

On the flipside, I’m worried about Zeke. That dude is a STUD and our defense has been pretty weak at stopping the run this year. Thankfully, we have Bobby Wagner, who is our rock. Maybe even MORE thankfully, K.J. Wright is back and playing like his old self. He’s going to be our defensive #1-A key, because not only will he need to track Elliott, but he’ll likely find himself shading towards Cole Beasley whenever Justin Coleman isn’t on him. We all know what Amari Cooper can do. I’m sure he’ll get his, but I have my doubts that he’ll blow up like he has at times since the trade. I do fear Beasley quite a bit, because he’s shifty, he’s quick, and he tears up those underneath routes (which our defense tends to give up, as we do everything in our power to prevent opposing offense from taking the top off). So, covering him will be critical, but more importantly, SOUND TACKLING will be the name of the game.

We lose this game if we lose the turnover battle, and if we get tore apart on 3rd down. If Dak has a clean pocket, he can easily dink and dunk his way down the field on us, so let’s wrap up, let’s take good angles, and let’s stay healthy out there! I know a lot of our depth is injured, so keeping our able bodies on the field will be super important.

In the end – like with most every Seahawks game – I think it’s a coin flip. I’d give the edge to the good guys, but if we’re all disappointed come Saturday night, I won’t be shocked. If the Seahawks DO win, don’t be surprised if it’s some oddball score, so I’m going to predict something in the realm of 26-12. Don’t ask me how we get to that number, but that’s what I’m going with.

This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Seahawks As We Know Them

When you reach the top, it’s great.  You’re winning lots of games, you’re winning Super Bowls, teams are copying your scheme and signing away your players and hiring your assistant coaches and front office staff.  Between that and the salary cap, the league does everything it can to chip away at your success, until you’re a hollow husk of your former self.

Then, on the way down, you stop winning Super Bowls, you don’t win as many games as you used to, the league is not only littered with copycats, but teams who’ve figured out your scheme, and nobody really wants to sign away your rejects or hire your assistants anymore.  After a long run of success, at the first sign of stagnation, what do you do?  Deflect blame and start firing assistants.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as ugly as it sounds.  It’s not like Pete Carroll is out on a soapbox trashing guys like Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, or Kris Richard, but a message is sent without saying anything at all.  These guys were problems for us.  If we want to get good again, we need to replace THESE guys with THOSE guys.

And, unless you’re Mike Tomlin or Marvin Lewis (guys who never get fired, no matter what apparently), you pretty much only get to do that once.  Some coaches will take their time replacing coordinators.  One bad year, pick which unit was the worst and fire its coordinator.  Still didn’t work?  Fire the other one.  Dragging that out can sometimes help a head coach cling for dear life to his job.  But, cleaning house all at once?  That’s a bold move.

A bold move, I would argue, of a man who doesn’t figure to be here much longer.

The last ditch effort of a head coach trying to save his job is to bring in “his guys”.  Get back to basics.  And, if he has to go down with the ship, at least he went down his way.  I don’t think Pete Carroll was in any danger of getting fired this season.  I think this team could totally crater in 2018 as well and he’d probably still get a crack at turning it around in 2019.  So, I wouldn’t say this is a hot seat situation – like it usually is – so much as a guy either nearing retirement, or simply nearing the end of his run in Seattle.

Pete Carroll was with USC for 9 seasons.  He’ll be entering his 9th season with the Seahawks later this year.  I’m not trying to say there’s some significance with the number 9 or anything, but 9 years in any one spot is a long time in the coaching world.  Pete’s been in the business since the early 70’s, and his stint at USC (and now Seattle) was the longest BY FAR of any of his stops.  You have to wonder if he’s getting antsy.

You also have to wonder if he’s seeing the writing on the wall.  He saw it at USC, and left at the perfect time.  With the Seahawks, what do we have to look forward to if the players we bring in from the 2016-2018 NFL Drafts don’t develop into elite Pro Bowlers?  We’ve got a quarterback, a wide receiver, a few pieces on defense, and a lot of question marks.  That makes it sound worse than it actually is – there are plenty of fine players on the team right now – but obviously there wasn’t enough in 2017 to get this team into the playoffs!  When you’re susceptible to a kicker costing you your season, then you absolutely don’t have enough talent to be a championship contender.  And, if you’re not a championship contender, then what’s the point?

I think that’s what Pete has to be thinking.  He’s 66 years old, by far the oldest head coach in the league.  I know he’s young at heart and whatnot, but even if he coaches until he’s 72 or 73 years old (and that’s being pretty generous, I think), what does that leave him time for?  Is that enough time to turn this Seahawks franchise around?  Maybe, but again it’s going to be really hard to do if we’re coming at it as a 9-7 team.  If we string a bunch of these years together, that’s not going to help us rebuild!  It’s just enough to keep us spinning our tires in that 8-8 grind!  Better to bottom out for a year or two, then bounce back with a bunch of high draft picks (assuming, of course, that you hit on them).

Or, if we’re talking about the last 5-6 years of his head coaching career, maybe are we talking about Pete Carroll going to some OTHER downtrodden franchise and turning THEM around?  I feel like that task is much more likely to come to fruition (assuming, of course, they figure out the quarterback conundrum).

To put it another way, does Pete Carroll want to be known (from an NFL perspective) as the best head coach in Seahawks history?  Or, does he want to be known as a head coach who was able to turn around multiple franchises, and bring two different organizations to the Super Bowl?  And, what’s more likely to get him into the Hall of Fame one day?

Part of this is me questioning whether Pete Carroll wants to finish his career here, which I have serious doubts about.  But, the other part of it is me losing a little bit of confidence in these guys as talent evaluators and teachers of the game.  This team needs a serious infusion of talent to counter-balance this team’s aging core and terrible luck with injuries.  Because I don’t think the coaches they’ve brought in are capable enough of transforming the players we have now into superstars.  And if this team keeps trending downward, as it’s been since 2015, we could be looking at some fairly lean times ahead.

At which point, it wouldn’t shock me to see Pete Carroll bolt for another opportunity.  Nor would it shock me to see Paul Allen come in and blow everything up again.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m heading into the 2018 season without much confidence.

The Seahawks Also Fired Kris Richard, Hired 3 New Guys

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.

The Seahawks Fired Tom Cable & Darrell Bevell

Yesterday was a big ol’ important day in Seahawks Land, as news came down in the wee hours that Darrell Bevell was fired.  Then, for like half a day, there was all sorts of speculation about who might be his replacement.  Steve Sarkisian’s name was bandied about – which would be a good job for him, but not a good fit for the Seahawks – as well as Tom Cable just taking over all offensive coordinating duties (he was already the run game coordinator, as you’ll recall), which probably would’ve caused a revolt among the fans.  As it turns out, we never had to worry about that, because Tom Cable was let go yesterday as well.  There are rumors of others – like Kris Richard – also getting the boot, but until I get some firm reporting on that, I’ll save that topic for another day.

It was just time.  I know these are good men, and good coaches, and by and large they did a much better job than most fans want to give them credit for, but it’s time.  Time for a new set of eyes.  Time for a new voice.  Time for an injection of new ideas.

The problem, from my perspective, is it’s impossible to know Cable and Bevell’s exact roles with this team, and how Pete Carroll as the head coach fits into everything.  There are so many differing opinions on this thing, but from the sound of it, Bevell was the play-caller, but Cable still out-ranked him (I guess due to the Assistant Head Coach label).  And, as we know, Pete out-ranks everyone and can always muscle his way into the situation by saying, “Call a run here.”

Like, we know in Super Bowl XLIX, that Bevell WANTED to run the ball on that fateful play, but Pete chimed in and told him to throw it.  Which makes sense; that’s totally up to the head coach to decide.  He’s gotta think five moves ahead in that situation:  what down it is, yards to go, how much time is on the clock, how many time outs we had remaining, the odds of the Patriots going right back down the field and scoring before regulation ended.

But, Bevell still called THAT play.  He could’ve called a fade in the corner to Chris Matthews – who had been dominating that game, and likely would’ve had 1 on 1 coverage.  He could’ve called a swing pass to Beastmode.  He could’ve rolled Wilson out to either side and told him to throw it out of the endzone if nothing was there.  But, Bevell called a slant off a pick play that was destined to fail based on the personnel on the field (for both teams).

Right or wrong, that’s Bevell’s legacy.  He helped lead us to the Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl title, but he’s always going to be remembered for calling that play.

And, really, drawing that play in the first place!  I mean, that close to the endzone, why are you trying to design a slant in the middle of the field?  Even though a fade route fails more often than not, at least it doesn’t turn into a fucking disaster!  It’s just incomplete.  Okay.  Live to fight another down.

There’s also any number of times where this offense will be doing something well:  maybe it’s running the ball, maybe it’s going up-tempo.  And, for whatever reason, instead of sticking with what works, we opt to switch it up, and it immediately ends in a punt.

I’ll bring both Bevell and Cable in as a combo package here, because I think they’re both crippled by their blind spots.  I don’t think either one of them were good enough to fully grasp the type of players they had on this team.  Instead of crafting an offensive scheme that plays into the talents of their players, they seemed to try to shoe-horn our guys into their scheme.  Hence all the mistakes.  The holding penalties, the pre-snap penalties, the missed blocks.

Carolina likes to run the ball!  Carolina has an athletic quarterback who likes to run around and make plays!  And yet, Carolina is always one of the least penalized teams in the league.  We talk about how Wilson’s running around leads to more holding penalites for the O-Line, because they never know where he’s gonna be.  Well, who is that on?  I’d argue that’s on a coaching staff that didn’t really know what it was doing.

I’ll also say this:  having Beastmode in his prime solves a lot of your offense’s ills.  God damn, my opinion of that man only goes up and up and up with every passing year this team sputters with retreads and nobodies.

I also think there’s the constant push/pull with a guy like Bevell, who wants to do a good job for Pete, but also wants to showcase his talents to other teams who need a head coach.  While just about every coordinator is in a similar boat, I don’t think the Seahawks present you with a good opportunity for that.  The best offensive coordinators traditionally feature elite passing attacks.  As you know, the Seahawks shifted pretty hard towards a passing offense in the last couple years, and that’s just not how this team was constructed to succeed.  I think Russell Wilson CAN make all the throws and run an effective spread offense and all of that, but I don’t think he’s best suited to do that and also have this team win lots of games and win championships.  You need to be balanced for that, and the imbalance this team had in recent years – due to play-calling, and due to the offensive line’s incompetence – ultimately was the cause for both of these men to be fired.

I’ll be interested to see who they bring in, as it sounds like Sark is staying in Atlanta.  I hope it’s a good one.

Seahawks Death Week: What Could’ve Been

Now is the part of Seahawks Death Week where I sit in quiet, somber reflection of what might’ve been.

In an ideal world, George Fant would’ve played 16 games and looked spectacular!  It would’ve spared us half a season of Rees Odhiambo’s flailing, and kept him rotating at guard where he belonged.

In an ideal world, Chris Carson would’ve been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.  Sure, he probably would’ve had a relatively slow start, but over time we would’ve seen some huge games out of the kid.

With Carson pushing 1,000 yards and any number of touchdowns, it might’ve spared the defense – especially later in the season – allowing the offense to win more Time of Possession battles.

In an ideal world, Sheldon Richardson would’ve been the game-changer we all expected him to be.  What we got out of him was okay, I suppose, but I was really thinking he’d be this force of nature a la Cortez Kennedy in his prime.  What I got instead was 1 sack and not NEARLY enough big plays in the backfield.

Of course, in an ideal world, we never would’ve needed to trade for Sheldon Richardson in the first place, because Malik McDowell would’ve come into Training Camp healthy, he would’ve been a model citizen, and he would’ve been the force of nature up the middle that we all hoped he’d be!

In an ideal world, sure, maybe some of our defensive players would’ve been banged up from time to time, but not to the extent that guys like Avril, Sherman, Kam, and Bobby were!  Those guys, for a full season, would have absolutely prevented our December swoon.  There’s no fucking way guys like Fournette and Gurley would’ve gone off the way they did had Kam and Bobby been near 100%; and there’s no fucking way guys like the Bort or Drew Stanton would’ve thrown on us the way they did with Sherm locking down his side.  And, you better believe we would’ve owned that tie-breaker over the Falcons!

If you would’ve given me just one unicorn season – a season with almost zero injuries; those seasons you always see from teams who make the Super Bowl – this Seahawks team could’ve contended.  This Seahawks team could’ve even run the table in the second half!  With wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and a sweep of the Rams, people would be talking about the Seahawks right now as NFC frontrunners!

Of course, that’s just a pipe dream.  To believe that injuries alone torpedoed our season neglects all the other problems we had.  The offensive line woes outside of the left tackle position.  The quarterback’s late-season regression.  The fact that this team was mostly healthy for games against the Redskins and Titans and STILL managed to look bad in those games.

That’s all true, but if I’m slicing up the pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Missed The Playoffs, the biggest slice by far is injuries to key guys.  And, quite frankly, if I’m slicing up a different pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Are Fucked In The Immediate Future, it’s injuries again.  Because injuries forced us into trading multiple high-value draft picks to bring in guys like Richardson and Duane Brown.  Because some injuries are so severe, guys like Avril, Kam, and McDowell might not play another snap of football in their careers!  Because other injuries – to guys like Sherman, Bennett, Fant, and Joeckel – might force the team to move on from them.

It just sucks, because we really WERE all in on this year.  At the beginning of the season, there were two big needs for this team (aside from, of course, the need to stay healthy):  interior pass rush, and offensive line help.  We had high hopes for the young guys (McDowell and Fant), and we had skyrocketing hopes for the veterans (Richardson and Brown).  It really felt like, particularly with the Richardson trade, that the rich was getting richer, and that this defense was going to be a hornet’s nest.  But, it never really came together, and ultimately got worse and worse as injuries started to mount.

At that point, I have to wonder if the bigger problem isn’t Darrell Bevell or Tom Cable, but Kris Richard.  I agree that he’s had his moments, particularly with the Eagles game, but he’s had WAY more bad performances in his career, and nothing is really all that encouraging for him going forward.  It’s hard to know if some of that is Pete Carroll putting the restraints on him, forcing Richard to adhere closely to his scheme (when maybe this team would’ve been better served with a lot more blitzing and maybe a different type of coverage scheme).  But, I find it hard to believe that even with all the injuries, this defense would’ve fallen as hard as it did with a better defensive coordinator at the helm.  And that doesn’t even get into all the sideline arguments we’ve seen since Richard took over; it doesn’t really feel like he’s got control of that unit.  Weird, a mediocre player in his day evolved into a mediocre coordinator now.  And I guarantee you the only reason he’s seeing head coaching interviews is because of the Rooney Rule, and the fact that there aren’t enough qualified African American candidates out there that haven’t already been interviewed a million times.  Because, really, who is SERIOUSLY considering Kris Richard to be their head coach right now?  That’s total lunacy!  He’s done NOTHING but be the caretaker of a #1 defense that has gotten worse every year under his watch.

Sheep!  Get off the Bevell & Cable nonsense!  Remember, we’ve actually WON a Super Bowl with these guys!  You know who we HAVEN’T won with?  Richard.  He needs to go.  Now.

Oh, what could’ve been.  In an ideal world, we would’ve snagged Gus Bradley back after he got fired from the Jags.

Let’s Not Start Sucking Each Other’s Dicks Quite Yet: The Falcons Aren’t The Lions

Well, that was a sight for sore eyes.  Thomas Rawls looked as good as he ever has, the O-Line had their best run blocking game of the year, the offense dominated time of possession, Russell Wilson mixed in some nice throws, Paul Richardson stepped up big to pick up the slack of losing Tyler Lockett, the defense stuffed the run without Tony McDaniel while getting good pressure on the quarterback, and a game that was 0-0 after the first quarter turned into a comfortable Seahawks victory by the midpoint in the fourth quarter.  It was everything we’ve come to expect from the Seahawks the last few years.

It was everything the Seahawks haven’t been THIS year.

So, that’s it huh?  Bygones are bygones and we can forget this whole inconsistent regular season ever happened?  They flipped the switch and we can all book our tickets for the Super Bowl?

Yeah, I dunno.

It’s one thing to do it at home on Saturday night.  It’s one thing to do it against arguably the worst defense in football.  It’s one thing to do it against a quarterback with a broken finger on his throwing hand.  It’s one thing to do it while getting the majority of the calls from an over-matched referee crew.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re heavily favored and clearly the superior team.  But, it’s quite another to do it on the road next Saturday afternoon, against arguably the best offense in football, against the likely MVP of the league, while contending with a certain over-correction from next week’s referee crew, when we’re sure to be heavy underdogs and clearly the inferior team.

Or, maybe you don’t think that’s totally accurate.  Maybe this performance has swayed you.  I’m trying to avoid the over-reaction to one fine performance, at home, in the Wild Card round, against a team dealing with a lot of injuries.  Sure, the Seahawks are dealing with injuries too, but you know who’s not?  Atlanta.  They’re pretty much as healthy as can be, and they’ve had a week off to get ready for this game.  And maybe you don’t necessarily think the Falcons are clearly superior to the Seahawks.  But, you know who they ARE clearly superior to?  Detroit.

Atlanta’s not going to drop the (approximately) billion passes that the Lions receivers dropped.  Passes that would’ve extended drives, converted third downs, and put them into scoring situations more frequently.

Atlanta’s not going to be gashed for six yards per carry to Thomas Rawls.

Atlanta doesn’t employ hotheads who lose their cool like Anquan Boldin, who cost his team 30 yards of field position.

Atlanta’s not going to consistently over-throw their receivers because of a finger splint.

Atlanta’s not going to abandon the run, because unlike the Lions, they have a solid O-Line and two elite running backs.

And you sure as shit better recognize that Atlanta’s not going to be held to 6 points.  36 maybe.

The same problems with the Seahawks that we’ve been pulling our hair out over all season – and particularly over the last few weeks – are still here, waiting to be exposed by a hungry, talented Falcons team who’d like nothing better than stick it to an over-confident Seahawks team.

Yes, we have revenge on our minds, from 2012, but as someone noted on Twitter last week, I think there’s less than 10 people still playing on this team right now that played in that game.  The Falcons have revenge on their minds too, from earlier this season, on a play they thought they got jobbed on at the end of the game.  Would’ve cost them the 2-seed had it not been for our own incompetence in losing to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve (or any of the other winnable games we lost this year).

I don’t want it to sound like I’m mad that we beat the Lions or anything.  Indeed, another week we get to sit around talking about the Seahawks ALWAYS beats the alternative (which, I suppose, is looking forward to the Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there).  I’m not saying I give the Seahawks absolutely no chance of beating the Falcons.  Honestly, the last time I was so convinced the Seahawks would lose a game was back when we had to go into New England in November.  So, you know, that’s a good sign, right?

I just don’t want to get carried away or go off the deep end, based on one impressive Seahawks victory.  Yes, it would be HUGE if we could run the ball like this the rest of the way.  Yes, it’ll be ENORMOUS if C.J. Prosise returns this week and hits the ground running like he was in that very New England game where he racked up 153 total yards on offense.  And of course, if Paul Richardson can pick up the slack and be the deep threat this team needs to open things up underneath, all of our offensive woes could very well be behind us.

But, without Earl Thomas, and quite frankly with how this defense has been called by Kris Richard the last couple years, I could easily see Matt Ryan and Co. carving up our zone like a turkey made out of warm butter.

I noticed more man-to-man in this Lions game though, so maybe there’s a shifting of philosophy.  Or, maybe that was just a one-game game-plan and we’ll go back to getting eaten alive later this week.  Either way, it’ll be fun to debate it in my head the next few days!

The Seahawks Were Routed For The First Time In The Russell Wilson Era

So, the Seahawks have won just 2 road games this year, and both of them were against the AFC East.  Just thought I’d start with that.

This feels bigger than it probably is, the whole “losing by more than 10 points” thing.  It’s, without fail, the most lopsided loss since Russell Wilson joined the team, and it coincides with his worst game.  One garbage-time touchdown against 5 interceptions.  Sure, some of those balls bounced off of the hands of receivers, but the rest were just poor decisions or over-throws.  And, speaking of over-throws, GOOD GOLLY were there a lot of over-throws in this one.  Before I essentially stopped watching, he had two surefire touchdowns that landed well beyond the outstretched arms of wide open receivers.  And there’s no way those were the only two of the game.

It was just all bad.  The quarterback stunk.  The running game stunk.  The defense couldn’t generate any pressure on the quarterback.  The secondary couldn’t cover anyone.  We were playing tentatively, on our heels, the entire game.  Green Bay dictated the tempo, dictated the aggressiveness, and really punished us from top to bottom.

That’s a team that’s largely been playing mediocre football this year!  Aaron Rodgers was having a shitty season (by his standards), his receivers weren’t getting open, the running game was non-existent, and here were the Seahawks, the cure for what ails the Packers.

What kind of game plan was that, Kris Richard?  I get that you’ve got three pretty solid pass rushers in Avril, Bennett, and Clark, but once you’ve seen that not work for a quarter or a half, don’t you think you should change some things up?  Maybe NOT let the game get out of hand by the end of the second quarter?

If it were up to me, I would’ve been sending linebackers on blitzes on damn near every play, with our corners playing man coverage across the board.  Because the alternative is what you watched yesterday:  Aaron Rodgers standing there all day, picking our feeble zones apart.  The Packer offense was MADE to play against the zone!  That’s seemingly the only way it actually works anymore!  When Rodgers was struggling, and when their receivers were struggling to get open, it was because they can’t shake man coverage and they don’t run any routes to open themselves up!

If Aaron Rodgers has to beat you with his legs, then so be it, I’ll take my chances.  Because he’s not a running quarterback and eventually he’s going to make a bad decision here and there.

I guess you can’t totally kill the defense though.  It’s not like Russell Wilson put this team in any position to win the game.  He – and this offense in general – will have to figure out how to score points on the road against non-AFC East teams, because as things stand now – and how things are trending with this team – it’s looking more and more like the Seahawks will be playing on Wild Card weekend.  Which means most certainly a minimum of two road games on the way to the Super Bowl.

Some of you might think I’m over-reacting, but are you forgetting the fact that we have to play the Rams again?  And while Arizona is a shell of their former selves, they still find a way to get it up for the Seahawks?  We could very well be limping to 9-6-1 and a 4-seed if we’re not careful.  At which point, EVERYONE is going to be excited to see us in the playoffs!