Gallant: Is it time for Seahawks to shake up defensive coaching staff?

Jan 22, 2020, 1:18 AM

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll...

Most of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's defensive staff has been the same since 2017. (Getty)


The Seahawks have had an unprecedented run of success over the past decade. This season – an 11-5 ride that ended in the divisional round – was quite the thrill.

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But let’s be honest with ourselves. If not for two missed field goals, the Seahawks wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

“Yeah PAWL, but if the refs didn’t hate Jacob Hollister they’d be NFC West Champs.”

You’re right, and we can play the ‘what if’ game all day. But why did the Seahawks find themselves needing that last-minute touchdown against the 49ers in the regular season finale? Why did they cross their fingers during potential game-winning field goal attempts by the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein (Week 5) and 49ers’ Chase McLaughlin (Week 10)? And why couldn’t Seattle beat the Packers in the divisional round to set up a climactic third go-round against San Francisco?

You know the answer. The defense wasn’t good enough. And it’ll need to be better next season just to replicate this year’s result, let alone go on a Super Bowl run.

We’re all in agreement that the pass rush and the secondary could use some reinforcements. Over the last two seasons, the Seahawks’ defense has been in decline:

• From 11th in 2018 to 22nd in 2019 in points allowed per game
• From 16th to 26th in yards allowed per game
• From 14th to 18th in DVOA

Meanwhile recent draft picks like Malik McDowell (2017 second-round pick), Nazair Jones (2017 third-round pick), Lano Hill (2017 third-round pick), and L.J. Collier (2019 first-round pick) haven’t helped to reverse that trend.

Seattle GM John Schneider has done it before. He has about $60 million in cap space and three picks in the first two rounds to go grocery shopping. But does he have the best cooks?

Cue this moment from Pete Carroll’s end of season press conference:

I’m not crazy. It’d be a terrible idea to get rid of one of the decade’s best coaches in the midst of Russell Wilson’s prime, especially after he helped this resilient but undermanned Seahawks squad come so close to an NFC Championship game appearance.

That said, couldn’t the Seahawks’ defensive coaching staff use some fresh blood?

I might hate the NFL’s 5-yard contact rule and that ball carriers – especially quarterbacks – can give themselves up in the midst of a play, but I’m not a savage. I’m not asking for symbolic heads on spikes via firings. I’m looking for assistant coaches that can further develop Seattle’s young talent, which hasn’t been improving fast enough.

The Seahawks have largely had the same defensive staff over the last 3 years:

• Clint Hurtt: defensive line coach/assistant head coach since 2017
• Nick Sorensen: secondary coach since 2017
• Tim Donatell: defensive quality control coach since 2017
• Ken Norton Jr.: defensive coordinator since 2018 (and linebackers coach from 2010-2014)
• Jethro Franklin: assistant defensive line coach since 2018

Only the players can accurately grade the coaching staff’s teaching prowess. But if we’re evaluating from afar, these young players…

• Jones
• Hill
• Tedric Thompson (2017 fourth-round pick)
• Collier

… have yet to make an impact. And to make matters worse, cornerback Tre Flowers seemed to regress after making strides early in the season, rookie safety Marquise Blair vanished in the middle of the season, and rookie CB Ugo Amadi couldn’t win a game of musical chairs at nickelback. So isn’t it fair to suggest that they could use some better teachers?

“PAWL, you hypocrite. If you’re going to suggest that the Seahawks add new coaches, at least name names!”

Totally fair. I’ve got two candidates.

1. Aaron Glenn

Glenn, who played for the Jets and Texans, was one of the better cornerbacks in the game in his day. He has a scouting background and currently serves as Saints secondary coach. While there, he’s seen 2017 first-round pick Marshon Lattimore develop into one of the game’s premiere cornerbacks and 2017 second-round pick Marcus Williams blossom into a play-making safety.

2. Ron Milus

Currently the Chargers’ DB coach, Milus has been coaching defensive backs in some capacity for much of the last 20 years. A Tacoma native and former Washington Huskies defensive back, he saw 2018 first-round pick Derwin James develop into one of the NFL’s best safeties. And for what it’s worth, his Chargers held Patrick Mahomes under 200 yards passing twice this season.

Based off Pete’s end-of-season press conference, the Seahawks are unlikely to shake up their coaching staff. After all, the whole gang’s together in Orlando this weekend coaching at the Pro Bowl. But what’s wrong with bringing in another coach that can provide fresh ideas, a different perspective, and better help these young defenders hone their craft?

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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Gallant: Is it time for Seahawks to shake up defensive coaching staff?