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NFL insider Pelissero breaks down ‘truly open’ Seahawks coach search

Jan 24, 2024, 2:33 PM

Seattle Seahawks coach search John Schneider Pete Carroll...

Seahawks GM John Schneider talks with coach Pete Carroll prior to a 2019 game against the Browns. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks made a major change earlier this month that very few saw coming when they removed Pete Carroll as the team’s head coach.

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It’s now been two weeks since the Seahawks parted ways with the franchise’s winningest head coach, and while three teams have filled their head coaching vacancies since then, Seattle is still working through interviews.

And it doesn’t sound like the Seahawks are in any rush to make a hire.

“I would say it is truly open at this point,” NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk Wednesday morning.

There are five candidates who reportedly received or will receive second interviews: Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Los Angeles defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Carolina defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and New York offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.

Pelissero said that even though most of the five reported candidates getting second interviews aren’t “household names,” that he thinks it’s a really good list.

“Patrick Graham was in there yesterday. He’s a guy who’s coached under a lot of really great coaches, including Bill Belichick, he coached under Mike McCarthy in Green Bay. He’s been a lot of different places,” he said. “The second half of this year, Antonio Pierce obviously did a great job and earned the Raiders’ head coaching position, but it was Patrick Graham’s defense that was shutting everybody down. He’s a Yale guy, he’s really, really intelligent, he mixes things up. He coaches players hard, but they respect him for it. He’s somebody who profiles the head coach. He was a finalist in Minnesota a couple of years ago.”

Kafka interviews again with the Seahawks on Wednesday. The Giants had one of the NFL’s worst offenses in 2023 due in part to injuries in the backfield, but Pelissero says Kafka is someone well-respected in the NFL.

“Mike was a finalist for two jobs last year. He had second interviews for two different positions,” he said. “He’s a former player. There are reasons that he’s in that mix.”

Evero has led top defenses each of the last two years despite his teams’ offenses being arguably the NFL’s worst.

“There’s a reason he’s had, I believe, eight head coaching interviews over the last two years here and has been a finalist, he’s gotten a second interview, for several of them because he’s a really good football coach,” Pelissero said. ” … He’s doing something right. I know they don’t want to let him out of Carolina. He’s a real candidate.”

That doesn’t mean that one of those candidates will be the Seahawks’ next head coach.

The team has interviewed Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, whose team is still in the playoffs, and Seattle also has reported interest in talking to Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.

Due to new NFL rule changes, interviewing those two is a little trickier for the Seahawks, especially with Macdonald since Seattle now can’t talk to him until the Ravens’ season ends, which could be this week or after the Super Bowl.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they double back on some of these coaches that are still in the playoffs as well. We’re early in this process,” Pelissero said. “I’m sure people get nervous when they see other teams like Tennessee swooping in and hiring Brian Callahan. Well, the Seahawks’ situation was a little bit different in terms of when they made that move and what they’re looking for in the head coach. I think that they’re going to take their time. It’s not to say they can’t make a hire this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we get into at least next week and they continue to consider their options and keep those conversations going.”

What about Harbaugh or Vrabel?

The Seahawks have mostly been tied to coaches who were coordinators in 2023. What makes that interesting is three big-name head coaches are available that aren’t named Pete Carroll.

Bill Belichick was let go by New England after a historic run with the Patriots, Jim Harbaugh is again testing the NFL waters after winning a national championship at Michigan and Mike Vrabel, who coached three playoff teams in six years in Tennessee, is also looking for a new job.

Belichick appears to only be a candidate in Atlanta. Harbaugh has only been tied to the Chargers and Falcons. It’s been reported that the Seahawks have some interest in talking to Vrabel, and because he’s not employed by a team, Seattle doesn’t have to make that interview public should the team go that route.

When asked specifically about Harbaugh and Vrabel, Pelissero said he doesn’t think the Seahawks will go that route.

“You never say never on anything in this, but I don’t really anticipate it going that direction,” he said.

With Vrabel in particular, Pelissero doesn’t think it’s a great fit, especially because general manager John Schneider made it clear he wants to build off the positive culture Carroll created in his 14 years with the Seahawks.

“I think that coming from Pete Carroll, you’re probably talking about pretty drastic cultural swing if you’re going to Mike Vrabel,” Pelissero said. “I think anybody who grew up in the New England culture, there’s a little bit more negative reinforcement that’s there. Whereas with Pete, it was kind of that positive reinforcement type of culture. Also, he was big on celebrating the individual. I don’t really know that that’s kind of the way that Mike Vrabel runs things. And again, that’s not saying that the Seahawks are looking for a carbon copy of Pete Carroll, but you really need to be conscientious.”

“You never say never on any of this. I just don’t know that I view Mike Vrabel personally, in my opinion, as a fit for what Seattle is probably ultimately looking for,” Pelissero later added.

The focus for the Seahawks, Pelissero said, has to be on the right fit more so than the biggest name.

“They’ve got to look for the Seahawks next head coach, not the guy that everybody else wants, not the right coach for the Chargers,” he said. “If Bill Belichick ends up in Atlanta and Jim Harbaugh ends up in L.A. and the Seahawks end up with somebody else, that doesn’t mean the Seahawks made the wrong decision. It means they’re trying to fit the right environment to the right coach. And I think that at this point, John Schneider and that front office have earned the right for people to believe that they’re going to be able to get this thing right because you don’t have as much long standing tradition of winning like they have … you don’t build a culture with that level of success sustained if you’re not a good judge of people, a good judge of coaches, a good judge of what’s the best thing for your building.”

Is there a favorite for the job?

Because Quinn coached for the Seahawks under Carroll, including two years as defensive coordinator when Seattle made back-to-back Super Bowls, many think he’s the favorite to get hired as the team’s next head coach, especially because he has past head coaching experience in Atlanta.

Pelissero doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think that there is a favorite right now in Seattle. That’s my honest opinion,” he said. “Obviously John and a lot of other people in that building know Dan Quinn. He was there for the glory years with the Legion of Boom. He is a really, really good football coach. He knows culture, he’s adaptable. You look at the scheme they’re running right now in Dallas, it’s not the the Seattle scheme. I mean, he has changed and evolved … He’s very much in the thick of this thing.”

Pelissero doesn’t think the Seahawks are just checking boxes by doing an extensive interviewing process. He believes the Seahawks are being really thorough with their candidate pool for a reason.

“Every coach they’re bringing through there that has gotten to the second interview, they believe could be the guy for Seattle. And so again, they’re going to spend a lot of time with all these guys for the course of this week, and quite possibly could extend into next week,” he said. “If Mike Macdonald emerges … we might be after the Super Bowl without a head coach formally being named in Seattle. But I think that the next seven days will be critical here and we’ll see where they come out on the other side.”

More on Seattle Seahawks coach search

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• What stands out about two NFL DCs in mix for Seattle Seahawks coach
• Seahawks Coach Search: Could Rams DC Raheem Morris be the pick?
• Will next Seahawks coach be Texans OC Bobby Slowik? Three things to know
• Seahawks Candidate Deep Dive: Isaiah Stanback on Dan Quinn
• ESPN insider details what Seattle Seahawks have asked coach candidates

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NFL insider Pelissero breaks down ‘truly open’ Seahawks coach search