Pete Carroll going ‘Back to the Future’ by hiring Ken Norton Jr.

Jan 16, 2018, 11:00 AM | Updated: 1:02 pm
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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, right, talks with Ken Norton Jr. (AP)
LISTEN: Mike Garafolo, NFL Network explains Ken Norton Jr., Mike Solari hires

This is Pete Carroll’s defense.

Any doubts about that should be gone now that Carroll has stepped into the “Hot Tub Time Machine” and traveled back to 2015 to re-do his defensive coordinator decision. This time, he’s going with Ken Norton Jr., not Kris Richard, in what is the single most unexpected coaching change in Carroll’s eight years in town. That’s no small feat given that Carroll’s first offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, resigned a week before his first regular-season game.

Wyman: Making the case for Ken Norton Jr.

Carroll could have tabbed Norton to be his defensive coordinator back in 2015 when Dan Quinn left for Atlanta. Or in 2013 when Gus Bradley left for Jacksonville. Carroll could have installed Norton in that spot in 2010 when Carroll first came to town.

So why now?

That’s the question that everyone is struggling to answer, and that includes those people around and in some cases on this football team.

If the changes to Seattle’s offensive coaching staff were about taking the next step forward with Russell Wilson, then the switch at defensive coordinator is about taking a step back toward what Seattle used to be. This isn’t a reboot so much as a rewind.

We knew Seattle’s defense had some questions facing it, but those were thought to be injuries and age and the uncertainty of contracts. Turns out there was some deeper tension between Carroll and his defensive coordinator. Gee Scott of 710 ESPN Seattle has talked about the two butting heads over the course of the season. There was also friction with some players in the locker room, but none of that is new. Not in Seattle.

The difference is that Carroll felt compelled to not change direction this offseason so much as double back to someone he knew. More importantly, Norton is someone who knows exactly what Carroll wants from this defense after 11 years of working together for two different teams.

While it’s not necessarily Carroll’s voice that’s guiding the defense, it’s his vision.

Of course, there’s a more cynical view, too. One held by the NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and one-time scout.

Now, Dave Wyman is not on Twitter so he didn’t get to see this himself. Instead, it was read to him on Monday. His response: “Good. I want Pete Carroll calling the defense.”

Now that’s obviously an overstatement. Carroll has never shown a tendency to populate his coaching staff with yes-men, and no one thinks it’s a good idea to have a coordinator rubber-stamping everything the head coach says.

But ultimately this decision isn’t about defensive logistics. It’s not about complexity or sophistication or all the other words that we conjure up to describe coaches coming up with super-fancy football plays – the so-called exotic looks – that leave opponents grasping at straws.

Carroll doesn’t need to build a better mousetrap on defense. This is about making the defense that’s in place as lethal as possible, which is why he’s reaching into the past to bring back Norton.

Norton knows what Carroll wants from this defense. Carroll knows that Norton can get the players to deliver it.

This is Carroll’s defense after all. That’s clear now if there was ever a doubt.

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Pete Carroll going ‘Back to the Future’ by hiring Ken Norton Jr.