Heaps: Who Seahawks may go with as co-defensive coordinators

Jan 20, 2022, 11:42 AM
Seahawks Ed Donatell, Pete Carroll...
Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell of the Denver Broncos and head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks greet one anther before an NFL preseason game at Lumen Field. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seahawks parted ways with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after four seasons this week after another lackluster year on that side of the ball.

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Seattle finished the season tied for ninth in scoring defense, but the defense ranked 28th in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, tied for 21st in takeaways and tied for 22nd in sacks.

With Norton, a longtime Pete Carroll assistant, let go by the Seahawks, what’s next at that key coaching position?

The Seahawks reportedly have four current candidates for the job, including one in-house. Current Seahawks defensive line coach and associate head coach Clint Hurtt is the internal candidate, while Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai and Cowboys defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. make up the names tied to the vacancy.

Also worth noting is that Hurtt is reportedly in the running to be defensive coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Miami, while Donatell and Desai could move from one defensive coordinator gig to another as their 2021 teams are searching for new head coaches who would likely bring in their own staffs. Whitt also could be promoted in Dallas to defensive coordinator as Dan Quinn, who held that title with the Seahawks in 2013 and 2014, is a top candidate for multiple head coaching openings. Whitt could also follow Quinn to a new team and run the defense.

But as far as the Seahawks and their search for a new defensive coordinator go, former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps believes that Seattle will do something a little different with that job in 2022. He explained why Wednesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.

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“I am getting more and more convinced that you’re going to see a co-defensive coordinator situation here in Seattle,” Heaps said.

Since Carroll came to Seattle in 2010, the Seahawks have always had just one coordinator each on offense and defense. Having a tandem at coordinator isn’t all that rare in football, but it’s more common in college than in the NFL. Locally, the University of Washington did that in the late-2010s with Jimmy Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski on defense.

So if the Seahawks do opt to have two men leading the defense, who does Heaps believe they will be?

“(It would be with) defensive line coach Clint Hurtt taking over the run game coordinator responsibilities and Ed Donatell taking over as the passing game coordinator and really focusing on the secondary and past coverage,” Heaps said.

Part of why Heaps thinks that could work? Hurtt and Donatell coached together in 2015 and 2016 in Chicago.

“This would be a good mesh in terms of these two guys coached on the same staff together with the Bears (for then-defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio,” Heaps said.

Fangio is a longtime NFL coach who has been on an NFL staff in every year but one since 1986, with the majority of that time coming as a defensive coordinator. Fangio was most recently the head coach of the Broncos, where Donatell was his defensive coordinator. Donatell, Desai and Hurtt all worked under Fangio in Chicago at the same time in the mid-2010s.

“Clearly Pete Carroll is very interested in that Vic Fangio tree now (as it’s also) been reported … that Sean Desai, the defense coordinator for the Chicago Bears, has been requested to be interviewed by the Seattle Seahawks, who also coached under Vic Fangio,” Heaps said. “So there is a definite trend that is going on right now. … The most likely scenario that I see is Clint Hurtt and Donatell are going to co-DC the Seahawks’ defense.”

Listen to the second hour of Wednesday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

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