Dave Wyman breaks down Seahawks’ 4 reported defensive coordinator candidates

Jan 21, 2022, 4:01 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm

Seahawks Ed Donatell...

Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos celebrates an interception against the New York Jets with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

(Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Seahawks are in the market for a new defensive coordinator for the first time since 2018 as Ken Norton Jr. was let go by the team earlier this week.

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This next defensive coordinator will be the fifth since head coach Pete Carroll came to Seattle in 2010.

As of Friday afternoon, the Seahawks are linked to four coaches for that vacancy, with two of them having held defensive coordinator gigs in 2021.

The first two names to be reported by the Seattle Times were Seahawks defensive line coach and associate head coach Clint Hurtt, and Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

Over the next few days, it was reported that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai (report by The Athletic) and Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. (reported by NFL Network) were also going to be interviewed.

So what should we make of those four candidates?

Former NFL linebacker Dave Wyman shared his thoughts on those four as well as the opening in general during Friday’s Wyman and Bob on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Wyman started off with the one who Seattle fans know the best, which is Hurtt, who has been with the franchise since 2017.

“I love Clint … I think he’s an unbelievably good coach. Just watching him run his drills (and seeing) how committed he is to the little things, and then just having had conversations with him,” Wyman said.

Wyman, who calls games on the Seahawks Radio Network, said he’s talked to Hurtt throughout his time with the franchise and thinks he’s a very good and clear communicator.

But Wyman believes that the Seahawks shaking things up defensively doesn’t bode too well for Hurtt getting promoted to defensive coordinator.

“If they want fresh eyes, which I do think they do, (he’s) a guy that’s never (been a defensive coordinator) before,” Wyman told co-host Bob Stelton.

Wyman thinks Hurtt has a leg up on Whitt as he, too, has never been a defensive coordinator, but Whitt does have the element of being “a fresh set of eyes.”

What Whitt did prove in 2021, though, is that he can get his guys to take the ball away on defense.

“He went to Dallas and they were No. 1 in takeaways, so you’ve got that,” Wyman said.

The Cowboys were tied for first in turnover differential (+14) and were first in interceptions (26) and total takeaways (34) in 2021.

But Wyman thinks that Desai and Donatell are likely the frontrunners because of their experience being defensive coordinators.

“Sean Desai, he does have some experience and some pretty good numbers, as far as (Chicago’s) defense with sacks and they were pretty good against the pass. They were really good, actually,” Wyman said.

The Seahawks have struggled mightily against the pass over the last three seasons, and they finished 31st in passing yards allowed in 2021. The Bears under Desai, however, were third in the NFL, allowing just 191.6 passing yards per game. Chicago was sixth in total yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense.

Wyman called the Seahawks’ pass defense “too complicated” in 2021 and that that area of the defense clearly needs to improve. Desai’s Bears were stellar against the pass and he was a safeties coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator this past season.

“(The Seahawks) were No. 31 in pass defense the last two years, and here’s a guy that’s allowed just 191 yards (per game), which is pretty amazing,” he said.

With Desai and any candidate, Wyman pointed out, is that it inevitably comes down to how the interviews with Carroll go.

“It’s kind of a feel thing, I think, and probably (is dependent on) what kind of stuff is he saying in those meetings? Which I would imagine, if you’re going bring a guy (in for an interview), you probably want to get him up on the board … and then you want to go through film,” Wyman said.

What gives Desai a potential boost is that his Bears beat the Seahawks this season, and he was also on Chicago’s staff when the Bears beat Seattle in 2018.

“If they gave Pete a hard time as far as when they played him, what are some of the things that he liked?” Wyman said. “That will also factor into it.”

Desai impresses Wyman a good deal, but he thinks Donatell is currently the favorite to get the gig.

“The more I think about it, it’s been 11 years for Ed Donatell that he’s been a defensive coordinator (in the NFL),” Wyman said. “He does have a connection with Pete, but I don’t think it’s such a strong connection that you won’t get fresh ideas (from him).”

Donatell and Carroll worked together in the college ranks at Pacific in the early-1980s and later were on the same New York Jets staff in the early-1990s. Donatell was a defensive coordinator every year but one from 2000 to 2008, and he’s been the defensive coordinator for the Broncos under recently fired head coach Vic Fangio.

In 2021, the Broncos were eighth in total defense, eighth in passing defense, 15th in run defense and third in scoring defense. It should be noted, though, that Fangio called plays in Denver, not Donatell. His son, Tom, was also on the Seahawks’ staff from 2017-2021 as a defensive quality control coach and is now the assistant secondary coach with the Los Angeles Chargers.

“The more I look at it, if I had to answer right now, I feel like (Donatell would) be by far the safest bet and especially the fact that he’s been a defensive coordinator for 11 years in the NFL, and in the last three in Denver,” Wyman said.

What if Hurtt doesn’t get the gig?

What will be interesting as this process unfolds is what the future holds for Hurtt if the Seahawks hire someone else to be the defensive coordinator over him.

“You wonder about a guy in Clint Hurtt who everybody seems to like and regards very highly,” Stelton said. “He’s obviously in the running for this job. But if he doesn’t get it, is he gone? Does that does that defensive coordinator then bring in his own guys just by virtue of him wanting to be with familiar faces?”

“It’s a pretty complicated process,” Wyman responded. “Because Pete loves Clint Hurtt, obviously, and he feels like Clint can be a head coach someday. That’s the reason why he made him the assistant head coach.”

Wyman said it’s unclear if any candidates have a guy in mind to be Seattle’s next defensive line coach if they’re hired, or if replacing Hurtt is a non-starter for Carroll.

“I wonder if maybe Pete’s made a promise to a guy like Clint Hurtt going, ‘Look, you’re going to be my assistant head coach, and you’re going to be my D-line coach,” Wyman said. “But what if Desai comes in and goes, ‘Hey, I’ve got to have this (other) D-line coach?”

Listen to all Wyman and Bob podcasts at this link.

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