Clayton: Why the Seahawks’ whirlwind of coaching changes make sense

Jan 23, 2018, 3:42 PM
New Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is a "fiery leader," writes John Clayton. (AP)...
New Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is a "fiery leader," writes John Clayton. (AP)

Because I’ve had to take some time to take care of my wife, I’ve missed sharing thoughts on the start of the Seahawks’ offseason.

It’s been busy and fascinating with the changes of assistant coaches. The change was much more than expected, but probably not all that surprising. The Seahawks missed the playoffs and have a lot of roster changes ahead to adjust to the salary cap and the age of the team.

Is Seahawks’ Week 13 win over NFC champion Eagles a good sign?

Let’s get into this by hitting on eight quick observations.

1. One clear voice for Russell Wilson. The decision to move receivers coach Dave Canales to quarterback coach instead of hiring Jim Zorn shows Pete Carroll wanted one clear voice for quarterback Russell Wilson. At times over the past couple of years, Carroll said he has wanted Wilson not to do some things. Darrell Bevell was such a nice person he may not have been as forceful with Wilson as Carroll wanted. Now the Seahawks have one clear voice on offense. It’s Brian Schottenheimer.

2. Zorn would have been intriguing as the quarterback coach. He’s a good teacher. He was a mobile, creative quarterback when he played for the Seahawks, a playing style that fits Wilson. But Zorn might have been too strong of a voice and Carroll wanted one solid voice.

3. Schottenheimer’s mission is to fix the running game. Carroll wants a balanced offense. Schottenheimer did a great job manufacturing the run when he was with Rex Ryan on the New York Jets staff. The Jets made it to the AFC title game with Schottenheimer calling plays for Mark Sanchez, but the Jets’ offense lost talent on an annual basis, which exposed Sanchez’s limitations.

4. Schottenheimer’s other experience. One thing to study is the benefit of Schottenheimer getting experience during his time with the University of Georgia. Many of the new, successful head coaches are incorporating college plays from spread and Air Raid offenses. With a mobile quarterback in Wilson, Schottenheimer might offer some fresh play calls. Schottenheimer did good work with Andrew Luck when he was his quarterback coach in Indianapolis, and now he gets a great talent in Wilson.

5. The hiring of Mike Solari was huge. He’s one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. What you like about Solari is he is a behind-the-scenes type of assistant. He finds out what the head coach or the offensive coordinator wants for blocking and structures a plan accordingly.

6. Didn’t see that coming. The biggest surprise was the parting of the ways with defensive coordinator Kris Richard, who is now the pass defense coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Richard is a rising star among defensive coaches, but Carroll wanted more fire from his defense. New defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is a fiery leader. Over the past couple of years, he gained experience calling plays as the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders.

7. Trying to connect the dots is wasting time. Don’t think Richard’s hiring in Dallas means anything as far as Earl Thomas’s interest in becoming a Cowboy. The Cowboys have a young secondary and aren’t bad at free safety. They can’t afford to give up a No. 1 and No. 4 to pick Thomas up in a trade. Not only that, they cut salary in the secondary last year.

8. The hiring of Norton fits the Seahawks’ roster shifts. Norton was a great linebacker coach who developed Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. So much of the upcoming changes will affect the front seven of the defense – defensive line and linebacker.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on

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Clayton: Why the Seahawks’ whirlwind of coaching changes make sense