Kirby Wilson’s history with Carroll could factor into Seahawks’ OC choice

Jan 23, 2021, 10:09 AM

Seahawks OC candidate Kirby Wilson...

Kirby Wilson is a longtime running backs coach in the NFL. (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Seahawks’ search for their next offensive coordinator has seen a wide variety of names pop up as candidates, all with varying levels of experience.

Seattle has cast what ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler described as a “wide net” for candidates, and while Fowler doesn’t believe there’s currently a favorite for the opening and that the Seahawks are content with taking their time on the search, there’s one candidate who’s recently been reported as a possibility who has already interviewed for the job.

That man is current Raiders running back coach Kirby Wilson.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported earlier this week that the Seahawks planned to interview Wilson.

And a few days later, former ESPN reporter Josina Anderson reported that the interview had already taken place.

That may not seem like a whole lot in terms of declaring Wilson the favorite in the search, but while Seattle has reportedly reached out to a number of candidates, Wilson is the only possible candidate to have been reported as actually interviewed for the job. Obviously there’s plenty of reason the Seahawks may try to keep their cards close to the chest with other teams looking for an offensive coordinator as well, but it is telling that Wilson has already been interviewed.

Wilson, 59, doesn’t have any previous offensive coordinator or play-calling experience, but he does have two things that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll likely is a fan of.

The first is that Wilson is a running backs coach. Carroll has made it no secret he wants the Seahawks to run the ball more in 2021, especially as the offense struggled in the second half of the season against defenses playing with two-high safeties. Carroll wants the running game to emerge so teams will stop playing that coverage, thus allowing the Seahawks to take deep shots down the field again. Wilson has been a running backs coach in the NFL every year since 2002.

The second is that Wilson and Carroll have history working together.

Carroll was the head coach of the New England Patriots from 1997 to 1999 and Wilson was his running backs coach all three of those seasons. Wilson also coached wide receivers at USC in 2001, which was Carroll’s first year running that program. After that year, Wilson returned to the NFL as a running backs coach.

Three of Carroll’s four defensive coordinators with the Seahawks had coached under Carroll before taking over play calling duties. The lone exception was Gus Bradley, who Carroll inherited as defensive coordinator when he took the job in Seattle in 2010. It makes sense that Carroll’s defensive coordinators would have that familiarity as Carroll’s coaching background is on defense.

This next hire will be Carroll’s fourth offensive coordinator in Seattle, and he’s taken a different approach to the position than its counterpart on defense. His last two offensive play callers – Brian Schottenheimer and Darrell Bevell – were outside hires who hadn’t coached with him before. So while Wilson’s experience working with Carroll is a plus, history shows it’s not a priority.

While Wilson hasn’t had control of an offense’s play calls, he has helped lead six top-15 rushing offenses since 2010 – Carroll’s first year with the Seahawks – and his teams have finished in the top 11 in rushing attempts four times. During that same span, the Seahawks have been known as a run-dominant team, six times finishing in the top five in both rushing yards and attempts.

That’s not to say Carroll is looking to get back to such a run-heavy approach. He will tell you how he wants to be balanced and let the run and pass games help each other, but he also stresses the importance of winning the turnover ratio.

In 2020, when the Seahawks were tied or positive in turnover ratio in games, they went 12-0. When they were negative, Seattle was 0-5, including its playoff loss. Running the ball has less chance of turning the ball over, hence why Carroll is such a proponent of doing so, even if those who follow or cover the team may not necessarily agree that that’s what’s best for the team.

If the Seahawks hired Wilson, it would not only signal more of an emphasis being placed on running the ball, but he would become the first offensive coordinator for quarterback Russell Wilson who didn’t come from a quarterback background. Both Schottenheimer and Bevell coached quarterbacks before becoming offensive coordinators.

Kirby Wilson may not necessarily be a name fans or experts would point at as the best candidate for the job, especially as such a hire would likely signal an end to the pass-happy approach the Seahawks had in the first half of 2020. But based on his prior working relationship with Carroll and his background in coaching running backs, it’s not hard to see why Carroll and the Seahawks may see him as a good fit and why they’ve already interviewed him.

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