BY SPNW Staff 08:12PM 01/15/2018

Seahawks re-sign Norton to be D-coordinator

Ken Norton, who coached Seahawks linebackers from 2010-14 but left to be the Raiders’ defensive coordinator, is returning as Seattle’s DC. Kris Richard’s fate is unknown.

Ken Norton Jr. is returning to the Seahawks as defensive coordinator. / Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are going back to the future with the return of Ken Norton Jr. as defensive coordinator, according to reports Monday from the NFL’s website. But there is still no word on the fate of Kris Richard, the DC for the past three seasons.

The San Francisco 49ers confirmed the Norton hire because they hired him last week as assistant head coach/inside linebackers. But coach Kyle Shanahan agreed to release him because the Seattle job was a promotion.

“Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense,”  Shanahan said in a statement from the club. “Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position.”

From 2010-14, Norton was the Seahawks’ linebackers coach before taking the DC job with the Oakland Raiders after Richard was chosen to succeed Dan Quinn in Seattle. Quinn has had big success as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

After a 7-9 season in 2015, the Raiders in 2016 improved to 12-4 and returned to the playoffs. But in the third season under coach Jack Del Rio, the Raiders slumped to 6-10. Del Rio was fired and replaced by Jon Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $100 million deal amid great NFL fanfare. Gruden two days ago hired Tom Cable, former Raiders head coach who was fired after seven seasons in Seattle as offensive line coach.

Norton, 51, was fired Nov. 21 by Del Rio. At the time, the Raiders ranked 26th in total defense at 367 yards per game, without an interception, and were last in the NFL in sacks with 14.

As a linebacker in his playing days, Norton, son of heavyweight boxing great Ken Norton Sr., is the only player in NFL history to have won three Super Bowls in a row, in Dallas in 1992-93 and in San Francisco in 1994.

Norton began his coaching career under Pete Carroll in 2004 as an assistant at USC. He moved to Seattle with Carroll in 2010.

Richard, another USC protege of Carroll’s, reportedly interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Indianapolis, which reportedly will be filled by Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels. Carroll was hoping that Richard would land elsewhere to avoid a firing.

Wracked by injuries, the Seahawks defense fell to 11th last season after being ranked in the top five from 2012 to 2016. In 2016 against Atlanta, Richard had a televised sideline argument with CB Richard Sherman over a defensive call that led to a touchdown. Teammates stepped between coach and player, and both parties later dismissed any lingering consequences.

Saturday the Seahawks hired Brian Schottenheimer from the Indianapolis Colts, where he was quarterbacks coach, to replace the fired Darrell Bevell. Schottenheimer has been an NFL OC for nine seasons, including stints with the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams.

Mike Solari returning to Seahawks to replace Cable

Mike Solari, a longtime NFL assistant who was with the Seahawks under Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora, will replace Cable as O-line coach, the NFL website reported Monday.

Solari, who turns 63 Tuesday, spent the the past two seasons with the Giants in New York, where head coach Ben McAdoo was fired. Before that, he was in Green Bay for a year. From 2010-14, he was with the San Francisco 49ers, whose head coach then, Jim Harbaugh, coaxed him away from Seattle, where Carroll wanted to keep him, Quinn and Gus Bradley as holdovers from Mora’s staff.

Solari was the O-line coach when the 49ers reached three consecutive NFC championship games with a ground-oriented attack that featured zone blocking, the approach favored by Cable.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    So will Ken be associate head coach as well? He certainly qualifies. Two good hires who are familiar with the Seahawks and their history.

    • art thiel

      We haven’t heard any titles or changed roles. I don’t think there’s evidence Norton is a better playcaller, which I think was part of his downfall in OAK. It may be that Pete is going to do more playcalling.

  • Ron
  • ss

    Under Norton, the Raider’s defense ranked 26th in the NFL, while the Seahawks were 5th from 2012-2016 and fell to 11th this year largely due to a raft of injuries. Does it seem like there should be more to the Richard story?

    • art thiel

      Yes, there does seem more to the story.

      • Chris Alexander

        I think the “more to the story” is probably two-fold.

        One, Pete knows Kris well enough to know what his ceiling is and how close he is to it now and probably truly believes that the only way for Kris to grow beyond that is to do so outside Pete’s system. I think this is part of why he hasn’t fired Kris but is, instead, waiting for him to find a new position on his own.

        Two, as with Bevell on the offensive side of the ball, one of a Coordinator’s biggest tasks is to build trust with their players / within their units and to get everyone on the same page. As Art pointed out in another (excellent) article, Bevell failed to garner Wilson’s trust (especially early in games). I think the same is true with Kris Richard. The sideline argument with Sherman is one example but there have been far too many publicly visible “disagreements” on the defensive side of the ball the last couple of years; disagreements that would NOT have happened under the watch of either Gus Bradley or Dan Quinn. Kris Richard is a good coach and may prove to be a very good DC when all is said and done but, with a Carroll-led team full of outspoken personalities …. he may have simply not been the best fit.

        At the end of the day though, the “more to the story” may be the proverbial “second thoughts” …. By most accounts, the DC role when Quinn left came down to Carroll picking between Richard and Norton. Carroll chose Richard and Norton left for Oakland. Maybe Pete thought he made the wrong choice – or even just wondered if he’d made the right one – and when Norton became available in November …..

        Lots of things happen behind the scenes in the NFL. Pete was never going to let his DC (or his OC) go in the middle of the season. But Schneider could have reached out to Norton’s agent and said, “we might make a change during the off-season” and Norton could have then used that to put an escape clause in his contract with the 49ers (which is what early reports said was the case) and ….. here we are.

        • John M

          Interesting. It’s Casablanca all over again . . .

  • wabubba67

    Wondering if Solari and Schottenheimer have ever worked together? My guess is that Richard to Indianapolis as a DC is a done deal once the Colts are able to hire McDaniels.

    At least Norton won’t take any crap from Sherman (if even here in 2018). Norton’s hand will fit well around Sherman’s throat if the latter begins to squawk on the sidelines.

    • art thiel

      A number of jobs around the league are hanging out there waiting for seasons to end for the final four teams. Both NE coordinators are destined for top jobs in DET and IND. So for Richard, it’s awkward for a bit, but Carroll had a chance to move on his guy Norton.

    • Chris Alexander

      Interesting that you call out Frank Clark for domestic violence on one thread and then joke (?) about Norton’s ability to physically assault Sherman to keep him in line.

      I agree with your first point though. Kris Richard is probably in line to be Indy’s DC once McDaniels is officially announced as their new Head Coach.

      • wabubba67

        Not joking about Norton. Sherman was physically aggressive toward Richard…. I don’t really see him doing that with Norton. As for my Clark reference, in one scenario it is man v. man (both Sherman and Norton being current/former professional athletes along the sidelines of a violent sport, with Sherman being the aggressor…given his previous confrontations with Richard); in the other scenario, a future NFL defensive end is the aggressor toward a college aged co-ed (check out the description in the police report…. it’s not pretty).

    • jafabian

      Solari worked in KC under Brian’s dad Marty.