Jake & Stacy: Will an outside DC hire really change anything about the Seahawks’ defense?

Jan 29, 2022, 12:56 PM

Seahawks Ken Norton Jr....

Coach Pete Carroll and DC Ken Norton Jr. look on during a January game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

As over a fourth of the NFL has been looking for new head coaches for the 2022 season, the Seahawks are in search of a high-ranking coach to lead the defense.

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After four seasons, Ken Norton Jr. was let go as defensive coordinator of the Seahawks and the team is searching for his replacement to call plays starting next year.

So far, there are four reported names tied to the opening.

Two are coaches who served as defensive coordinators in 2021: Ed Donatell (Denver) and Sean Desai (Chicago).

Another was Joe Whitt Jr., the defensive passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, who led the NFL in interceptions and made the playoffs.

The other known candidate? Clint Hurtt, who’s been Seattle’s defensive line coach and associate head coach since 2017.

Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost had a very spirited conversation regarding the defensive coordinator opening, list of candidates and the defense in general during Friday’s edition of Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle, and the main point of discussion was whether an outside hire should be the priority and if that ultimately matters.

Rost said the longer this goes on the more she’s convinced that Hurtt will get the job — potentially as a co-defensive coordinator like Heaps previously suggested.

“If that is the case, I will be utterly disappointed,” Heaps said. “I’ll be utterly disappointed.”

“Why? No matter who (head coach) Pete Carroll brings in, it’s going to be his defense,” Rost replied.

Heaps isn’t so sure that Carroll is as set in his ways as some believe.

“He went out and hired Shane Waldron (as offensive coordinator). He went out and hired somebody new on an offensive side offensive perspective,” Heaps said. “And yes, Pete Carroll ultimately is very involved and heavily involved, but Pete is also a very curious individual. He is also someone who from what I’ve experienced is somebody that is willing to look at other perspectives and try to evaluate.”

Heaps said Carroll may not always take in or try those new ideas and perspectives, but he’s always willing to see if he thinks it fits the Seahawks.

“I would love to see to have him sit there and say ‘Look, what we’ve tried to do the past four years has not been good. It hasn’t been great. It hasn’t been up to my standard as to what I expect from my defense and you know what? We need to go in a little bit of a different direction to get the most out of this group,'” Heaps said.

That different direction, Heaps said, should not be promoting Hurtt, as he believes doing so would show the Seahawks are settling on being a below-average defense yet again and don’t need to change anything substantially on that side of the ball.

“We don’t need to try and bring in new voices, new ideas, new ways to ensure that our that our personnel is being utilized better,” Heaps said. “To me, it would be utterly disappointing to see that hire and it has nothing to do necessarily with Clint Hurtt other than the fact that he’s been a part of this.”

Heaps said Hurtt could potentially add a few new “wrinkles” to the defense, but because he’s been part of the coaching staff these last few years when the Seahawks have really struggled on defense, he doesn’t see Hurtt changing anything to the point where Seattle’s defense suddenly becomes league average or better.

To play devil’s advocate, Rost noted that Hurtt has produced some good defensive linemen who haven’t produced as much with other teams, and that the person she personally wants for the job — Desai — has just one year of defensive coordinator experience.

Heaps replied that Hurtt is already a key part of the defensive game planning that the Seahawks do, so he’s not sure that he would change much if he was promoted.

“I’m just saying what does what does he bring to the table that is different than what has been going on?” Heaps said. “If he’s a strong voice in that room, then, OK, we’ve gotten to witness part of the product that Clint Hurtt has put together here in Seattle along with Ken Norton Jr, along with Pete Carroll. And that could be an inaccurate depiction of what’s been going on. And I could be wrong about that. But I do believe that it is very important to bring outside voices new eyes, fresh perspective on this team on this roster moving forward. And that I will not back down from that.”


Even if the Seahawks do go with one of the three reported outside candidates or another unreported candidate, Rost thinks whether the Seahawks improve on that side of the ball falls firmly on Carroll’s shoulders and whether he’s willing to accept new ideas and perspectives. She also made it clear she doesn’t think Carroll is willing to do that given he’s so involved with that side of the ball.

“This is Pete Carroll’s defense Day 1, day 2, wire to wire,” she said. “This is not going to change because he brings in Shawn Desai or Ed Donatell or Joe Whitt Jr.”

“It could,” Heaps replied.

“No it could not. He might get some new ideas, but Pete Carroll knows exactly what he wants to do,” Rost said. “… He has wanted to be the same team since he got here, and he has worked with personnel acquisition, with coaching, with scheme, with system, with philosophy to be that team over and over and over again. He will not change that.”

Rost has a hard time believing Carroll will bring in a new face and ask them to get the defense right in a new way.

“I think Pete Carroll believes, ‘I know defense, I just need the right pieces in place.’ I think that’s what Pete Carroll believes,” she said. “Pete Carroll’s like, ‘Look, I need the right pieces. And I think if we just tweak one or two things, we can figure this out.'”

Heaps described in detail what he hopes happens with this hire.

“What I am hoping is that you bring in someone like Donatell, you bring in someone like Sean Desai, who may not come in and wholesale change every single thing about this, but can work with Pete Carroll, can have an understanding of how they can work together and the overall vision that is going to come together with this group and how you better your defense,” Heaps said. “Yes, get better talent acquisition. But you know what? When you bring in Jamal Adams and you don’t get the production that you should get out of him? That is coaching failure. How do you get the most out of Jamal Adams? How do you get the most out of Darrell Taylor who is a young star, who is who’s rising? And how do you make sure and ensure that it isn’t just about him being an individual freak, but that you schematically are able to put him in advantageous situations? How do you propel your team forward and gameplan better than others? Because guess what? What you haven’t done over the last four years is you haven’t been a great game-planning team that has just surprised people, that has done unique things, that has really thrown and caught people off guard. And that has to change. The coaching, the teaching has to be better.”

Listen to the full first hour of Friday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

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Jake & Stacy: Will an outside DC hire really change anything about the Seahawks’ defense?