The Seahawks defense was disastrous through the first part of 2021. I can’t say they’re great, or close to it, but Ken Norton Jr. does have them playing a much better brand of ball. Note; the title says maybe. Let’s not get too hasty.
I’ll be upfront about this, 12s. Not so long ago, I wrote that our beloved Seahawks absolutely needed to move on from Ken Norton Jr., and the sooner the better. I was hardly the lone voice in the wilderness in this. Exhibit A is this cogent list of three candidates to replace Norton.
There are 115 comments on the first thread I found on Reddit supporting this move. 99 percent of all Redditors voted in favor of it. Google “fire Ken Norton”, and you’ll find dozens of articles on the subject. The one positive article I found regarding him was a blog post from 2015, extolling the arrival of Norton as the Raiders defensive coordinator. Yeah, that didn’t age well.
But how has my article held up? One month ago, the Seahawks were last in yards allowed. That’s terrible, obviously, but all that matters on the scoreboard are points. The Hawks weren’t exactly the LOB here, either, as they ranked 21st in points allowed. They were only 15th in turnovers, which was a relative triumph for that edition of the Seattle defense.
Maybe the Seahawks shouldn’t fire Ken Norton, Jr.
One month later, and we see a different Hawks defense. They still give up more acreage than France in 1940, ranking 31st. But the points allowed show a much better story, as Seattle now ranks 9th in the league. That is definitely a significant improvement. The swap of good Tre for mediocre Tre (the departure of Flowers and the arrival of Brown) has a lot to do with it, along with the move to playing a whole lot of dime coverage. Norton gets credit for that. Or Pete, whatever.
Here’s one more piece of evidence in Norton’s favor. Look at the numbers below; I will award one Action Green no-prize to the first loyal 12 who recognizes the significance of these figures. Disloyal 12s are automatically disqualified from the competition.
24:13 22:42 OT 24:07 28:20 26:57 29:37 OT 27:11 28:31 20:51
Yes, I see you! The lady from Riley Park with the action green facepaint in the Walter Jones jersey, you’re right! Those are the times of possession for each of the Seahawks nine games this season. Note that the Hawks didn’t manage to win the TOP battle in a single game this year. With two overtime games, they couldn’t even reach 30 minutes on offense. The Hawks have been on the field for a grand total of 552 minutes and 15 seconds. The defense was out there for 319 minutes and 46 seconds. You don’t have to get too mathy to see that’s a lot more than the offense played. But since I said it… the D has been on the field 58 percent of the time.
Let’s go back to those halcyon days of the Legion of Boom. In 2013, the Seahawks defense was on the field for less time than the offense in nine of their sixteen games. The Seahawks were 13-3 that year, as all good 12s know. In two of their losses, Seattle held the ball for just 27:32 and 22:36. The one aberration was their first loss, a bizarre 38-24 loss to the Colts on the road. The most points the LOB surrendered other than that loss was 24. And of course, they didn’t give Peyton Manning a chance to breathe in the Super Bowl.
Surprisingly, the 2013 edition of the Hawks defense was on the field just a tiny bit more than the offense, 50.07 percent compared to 49.93 percent. If the offense had been able to hold the ball for just 45 seconds longer, there would have been an even split. What stands out to me is that the Hawks were 8-1 in games that they won the TOP. In games the defense was on the field longer than the offense, their record was 5-2. Two of those five wins were overtime games as well. Still really good, but that’s a winning percentage of 89 versus 71. Over a full season, that’s a 14-2 team compared to an 11-5 team. Which one looks better to you?
In light of that, the surprise shouldn’t be that the 2021 team has six losses. The real surprise is that they have three wins. I’d say offensive coordinator Shane Waldron deserves some of the blame for the defensive performance. Even the LOB wasn’t the greatest when they had to be on the field forever. Then again, the Hawks were still 5-2 in the games that overextended the defense, not 3-6. This defense has risen to the status of mediocre. And mediocre isn’t good enough.
Ken Norton Jr. may not be the worst defensive coordinator on the planet after all. But can he bring Seattle a championship? Nothing in his history shows that. His defenses have never been better than average, at best. Is the 2021 season done for the Seahawks? With six losses, things certainly aren’t looking great. As one of the 20th century’s great geniuses said, it ain’t over till it’s over. But realistically, even the LOB would be hard-pressed to salvage this season. There’s no need to fire Norton now, but he cannot return in 2022.