Maybe Seahawks should replace Ken Norton Jr with Dan Quinn
By Lee Vowell
The Seahawks might need to make a change at defensive coordinator. Atlanta might fire their head coach. One plus one might make two.
It is easy to look back with on Dan Quinn’s time as defensive coordinator for the Seahawks and think he was a great coach. He was a good coach for the defense, but he also had players like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas young and hungry. Quinn was the defensive coordinator for Seattle from 2013 through 2014, back-to-back Super Bowl years.
Ken Norton Jr. is well-liked by coach Pete Carroll. Norton is the current defensive coordinator for Seattle and has been since 2018. Norton Jr. was the linebackers coach in Seattle from 2010 until 2015 before he left to become the coordinator with the Raiders. To be fair, Norton Jr. does not have the same kind of talent on his defense as Quinn did on his when he was in Seattle.
But a good coordinator will make the pieces of his defense better as a whole. And Seattle has struggled the last two seasons. The most glaring statistic is yards-per-play given up. There is probably a really good reason both the Patriots and 49ers are unbeaten. This year, the Patriots and 49ers are tied at first in the NFL giving up just 4.1 yards-per-play.
The last ranked teams in the league in the same category? That would be the winless Bengals (32nd at 6.6) and the winless Dolphins (31st at 6.5). Guess who is 30th? That would be the Seattle Seahawks giving up 6.2 per play. And this is actually worse from last year when Seattle was 25th in the NFL allowing 5.9 yards-per-play.
In 2017 during Kris Richard’s last year as defensive coordinator, Seattle ranked fifth in the NFL giving up 4.9 yards-per-play. That same season Norton Jr.’s Raiders were 27th in the league at 5.6 per play. In 2016, the Raiders were last in the league and in 2015, Norton Jr.’s first year in Oakland, were 11th. This means that Oakland’s defense actually got worse during Norton Jr.’s time there.
Still, Norton Jr. is excellent teaching linebackers. He has been since he coached that group under Pete Carroll at USC. In the NFL Norton Jr. has almost always had a good group at linebacker, the position he played in the NFL himself. But it is the rest of the defense he struggles with.
Quinn’s record has been getting worse since the Falcons lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots at the end of the 2016 season. Atlanta has one win this year and Quinn is likely to be fired by the end of the year. He might not find a head coaching job right away. But he is a good defensive coach, it might just be the rest of the team he struggles with.
In 2013 and 2014, the Seahawks ranked first in yards-per-play in the NFL, both seasons Quinn was head of the defense. But even between 2015 and 2017, the lowest Seattle ranked was fifth. Maybe Seattle starting losing defensive players, but did they really go from fifth in the league to 25th in one season? Maybe it is the coach calling the defensive plays and the scheme.
What would be great to see, though I have no hopes that it will, would be for Carroll to rehire Quinn as defensive coordinator for the 2020 season and have Norton Jr. move back to coaching the linebackers. Likely, Norton Jr. wouldn’t be able to get a coordinator’s job elsewhere and Quinn won’t be hired as a head coach. But they are both great fits for the Seahawks and would help make the defense very good again.