Who Will Be Seattle’s Defensive Coordinator?

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With the Seahawks defensive coordinator positions still vacant since the firing of Ken Norton Jr., anticipation is building. Who will be the next coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks? Only four people have been interviewed for the position. Compared to last year’s offensive coordinator search (seven interviewed) it is more contained. Pete Carroll knows what he wants to do. One of the following four names is likely to be selected soon.

Number Three – Joe Whitt Jr.

Joe Whitt Jr. is Dallas’ defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach. At only 43 years of age Whitt Jr. has been coaching in the secondary since 2007. With Green Bay ties for a couple of years in 2008 with general manager John Schneider. Seahawks will be focusing on their secondary this offseason and Whitt fits Seattle’s needs.

Whitt Jr. for the last two seasons has held his position working with former Seahawk’s defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Joe Whitt Jr. followed Quinn from Atlanta to Dallas and would have familiarity with Pete Carroll’s scheme. Seattle needs to help develop the secondary, with Diggs and Reed’s contracts up two of the four starters may be gone.

Whitt Jr. has helped Trevon Diggs become an up-and-coming star in his second season. Trevon Diggs nabbed 11 interceptions (two TDs) in 2021. Dallas was the number one team in takeaways with 34 this season on defense. Seahawks were 25th in takeaways with only 18. Seattle as a team only had11 interceptions, as many as Trevon Diggs in Dallas. Pete would like to start taking the ball away and Joe Whitt Jr. with Dan Quinn did just that.

Number Two – Sean Desai

One thing is clear in two of the names they interviewed, they like Vic Fangio’s system. Seahawks interviewed Ed Donatell defensive coordinator of the fired Vic Fangio in Denver. Donatell likely isn’t viable because he has ties to Pete Carroll and is older (64). It should be noted that Pete said they wanted a fresh perspective on defense.

Fangio Tree

This leads to Sean Desai of the Chicago Bears. At 38 years of age Desai wrapped up his first year ever as defensive coordinator. In 2013 he was with the Bears as defensive quality control coach. In 2019 Desai got promoted to safeties coach, before taking over defensive coordinator for the retiring Chuck Pagano. From 2015 to 2018 Vic Fangio was the Bears’ defensive coordinator. In his final season, the Bears were top three in total yards allowed. Along with the top-scoring defense allowing only 17.6 points per game.

Desai’s Style

Desai’s defense ran a 3-4 scheme, which may sound like he isn’t a fit. Whichever coordinator is picked must run a Pete Carroll defense. However, Pete’s system does have “3-4 principles” in Carroll’s own words. That with a younger coach Pete could mentor and influence make sense. And a mentor to Desai in his career was Vic Fangio. Seattle is looking at the Broncos, Bears, Rams defense for inspiration to their own.

But the key style to Fangio and Desai’s Bears defense was disguising their coverages. They liked cover-3 zone like Seattle. However, unlike Seattle, they could surprise the opposing offenses. Seattle’s defense has been the same for almost a decade now. The league knows what they do, and Seattle is straightforward and doesn’t hide a thing. This can be the key catalyst in why Seattle is enamored with Fangio’s style, cover three defense that is hard to guess.

Another aspect of Desai that sounds familiar to a Seahawks scheme is “he let his playmakers make plays.” Former player of Desai Tashaun Gipson said the safety. Whoever comes in needs to have a plan for Jamal Adams. Bears All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson gave Sean Desai credit for his success. Desai can help this secondary with his scheme and relationships with his players.

Number One – Clint Hurtt

The current Seahawks defensive line coach and assistant head coach 43-year-old Clint Hurtt deserves to be a defensive coordinator. Unlike the other two options, Hurtt specializes in the defensive line.

Some may say the line hasn’t been great in recent years. However, they were a top-two rush yard per attempt this past season and the most out of fewer parts. This includes finding and developing undrafted Poona Ford, helping make Frank Clark a star and finding a veteran cast off like Al Woods to be a top player on defense. Hurtt makes the most out of his players and is already well-beloved in the organization by coaches and players.

Two Positions to Fill

Seattle fired their passing game coordinator along with the defensive coordinator and needs another hand. The first two options are likely Sean Desai and Joe Whitt Jr. are likely to interview for a position to assist Clint Hurtt in the secondary. Allowing an almost co-defensive coordinator set up. Promoting the coach who has had good numbers on his end. Bringing in a secondary specialist to help in the passing game could be the best-case scenario for Pete Caroll’s defense.

Clint Hurtt is also being targeted by his alma mater the University of Miami to be their defensive coordinator. If Clint Hurtt were to go, there would be three positions on defense to fill, along with the assistant head coach postion.

Promoting From Within

Seattle has a history on defense to hire within. Ken Norton Jr. was previously a linebackers coach. And like Clint Hurtt, Dan Quinn was Seattle’s defensive line coach. Seattle and most importantly Pete Carroll wants familiarity. He wants to trust that his defense will be run the way he wants. Pete Carroll is a defensive coach and will want his style to be run. And if you need another Fangio tie, Hurtt was defensive line coach for Fangio in Chicago for two years.

Clint Hurtt has been a valuable voice in Seattle and deserves a shot at the coordinator position. Seattle likely doesn’t need an established defensive coordinator because Pete will oversee it. One reason Kris Richard may have been a quick-firing was he may have butted heads with Pete Caroll. Hurtt is at least established and has assistant coach sway. Hurtt may be the only one with a voice to do something new and work with Carroll.

In the Coming Weeks

In the next week or so Seattle should announce their defensive coordinator and four names interviewed they seem confident in their process. The goal is to get someone who will play Pete’s system. They would like a fresh perspective and help in the secondary. Every name mentioned can do these things. Hiring an established defensive coordinator may be too set in their ways. A Vic Fangio or Ed Donatell will want to run the defense. These three options can work with Pete and bring something new that Ken Norton Jr. could not.

The process seems to be going well and fans should have high confidence the next coordinator will do better than the previous one. They have acknowledged the secondary being a concern. And showing they acknowledge Clint Hurtt’s line as the strength of their defense. Once they stopped dropping Dunlap in coverage pressures and sacks went up to match their strong run defense. Ending the last three games eighth overall in sacks.

Change is good and it looks like Seattle will pick a coach that will bring a fresh take to the defense. Now we see who they pick and how that starts the off-season for Seattle.