Seahawks Should Consider 2 Ex-Coaches for Defensive Coordinator Role

Pete Carroll Seattle Seahawks

Getty Head coach Pete Carroll is searching for his next defensive coordinator.

The Seattle Seahawks have officially relieved defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis of their prospective duties. 

Norton Jr. spent four seasons with the Seahawks from 2010 to 2014, playing a crucial role in the 2014 Super Bowl victory. He spent some time on the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers before being named the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks in 2018.

Curtis spent seven seasons with the Seahawks dating back to 2015, where he became the defensive back coach in 2017 then moved on to defensive passing game coordinator in 2018.

With the Seahawks setting a big priority on defense, several potential coaches have popped up on the radar that could fill the void for a team that finished 15th in defensive ranking according to Pro Football Focus. After a turbulent season, coaching changes seemed inevitable going into the 2022 season, it was just a matter of who was in or out.

Former Seahawks coaches Teryl Austin and Kris Richard should be top candidates for the Seahawks’ vacant defensive coordinator position.

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Teryl Austin’s Fit in Seattle

Currently serving as the secondary/senior defensive assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Austin should be seen as a defensive mind to help bring the Seahawks defense back to prominence. He began his NFL coaching career in the Emerald City in 2003, serving as the defensive back coach until 2006. This stint includes going to the 2006 Super Bowl.

During his time with the Seahawks, he worked with many young players and developed them into a Super Bowl contending team. The average age of the 2005 Super Bowl team was 27.1 according to Pro Football Reference, and that team included notable names such as Lofa Tatupu, Sean Locklear, and Marcus Trufant.

During his time with the Steelers, he helped develop Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was acquired via trade in 2019, to become a First-Team All-Pro free safety. After recovering from his torn labrum and other shoulder damage, safety Jamal Adams could be a talented candidate for Austin to coach up to the same level of dominance.

Fitzpatrick credits Austin and wants him to stay in Pittsburgh.

“T.A. is a great coach. I’m not gonna talk too good about him because I want him to stay in Pittsburgh and I know everybody else is trying to get at him,” Fitzpatrick told Brooke Pryor of ESPN.

“I love his attention to detail, the way he approaches the game, the way he lets his players have a voice. He’s played in the past, so he has a natural love for the game. It’s definitely reflected in the way he coaches. And he has experience as well so there’s not too much that he hasn’t seen in his circuit around the league.”

Kris Richard’s Fit in Seattle

Presently, Richard is serving the New Orleans Saints as their defensive back coach. Before working as the defensive back coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018 to 2020, it was Richard who would be vital to the formation and success of the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Richard joined the NFL and the Seahawks alongside current head coach Pete Carroll and served as secondary coach until he was relieved of his duties after the 2017 season.

During his time with the Seahawks, their defense was ranked in the top four between 2012 to 2016 and dropped to sixth in 2017 according to Pro Football Focus. In his time with the Dallas Cowboys, the ranking for their defense rose from 15th to 12th to 9th between 2017 to 2019. When he was hired by the New Orleans Saints as defensive back coach for the 2021 season, the team ended as ranked second as overall defense according to PFF.

When Richard was dismissed as defensive coordinator for the Seahawks at the end of 2017, it felt like there were some scheme and fit issues when working with Carroll. Seattle Times reporter Bob Condotta noted the difference in Richard’s defensive playcalling and the way that Carroll prefers the game to be played in a 2018 article.

“Among the reasons bandied about is that Richard might have been calling the game more aggressively than Carroll prefers. Carroll’s scheme is based on not getting beat deep, keeping passes in front of the secondary, and forcing teams to have to go the long way to march for touchdowns with the idea being that the more plays it takes, the more likely the opposing offense is to mess things up,” Condotta wrote.

With the highest-paid safety in the league in Adams, who happens to be heavily involved when the defense blitzes, Richard can be seen as a fit for a more aggressive defensive playstyle. He could be the secret that unlocks Adams’ blitzing ability and take it to the next level. In 2020, Adams was called on for 98 blitzes and was used on 90 blitzes in the 2019 season with the New York Jets according to Pro Football Reference.

This aggressiveness plus a possible uptick in usage with a more threatening defensive attack under Richard, and Adams could be recognized as a top talent safety worth his big contract.

Although both coaches have served the Seahawks at one point in time, it’s also difficult to see how they would fit into the Seahawks’ modern defensive scheme. Austin is a valuable coach with the Steelers and other teams might show more interest. With Carroll at the helm, a return for Richard might not be likely since it was Carroll who let go of him in the first place. However, it will be important to keep both coaches on the shortlist of candidates to fill the void at defensive coordinator.

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