In a fairly surprising move, the Seahawks are expected to fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after four seasons. Per TruMedia, his unit finished the 2021 campaign tied-11th in points allowed per game (21.5), tied-10th in points per drive (1.88), fourth in pressure rate (8.1 percent) and second in yards per carry allowed (3.8). But it also ranked 28th in yards allowed per game (379.1), 31st in passing yards allowed per game (265.5), 31st in first downs allowed per game (23.5), tied-32nd in turnovers (16) and 32nd in time played (34:44).
Now the search begins for Norton's replacement in Seattle, with one familiar name emerging as the favorite. But who else could head coach Pete Carroll consider to helm his defense? Let's go over five potential candidates.
The Seahawks are reportedly leaning towards Hurtt, who's been with the team since 2017 and is currently serving as assistant head coach and defensive line coach. Popular amongst his players, Hurtt has recently been courted by the University of Miami for their own defensive coordinator vacancy. But the opportunity to helm an NFL defense—if extended his way—will likely keep him planted in the Pacific Northwest.
The other name being linked to Seattle, Donatell has worked under former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio for the last 10 seasons. For now, he remains a part of Denver's staff as the team's defensive coordinator, but that could change in a hurry depending on the results of its head coaching search. If let go and subsequently pursued by the Seahawks, his background of employing Fangio's famous two-high safety looks would go hand-in-hand with Norton's work as the 2021 season progressed. There's also the obvious connection between Donatell and Carroll, who coached together with the Jets from 1990 through 1994.
It appears unlikely that Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia will retain his position on a more permanent basis, meaning Bradley and other staffers could be on their way out of Vegas as well. If the Seahawks want to revert back to playing more Cover 3, no one ran the look more than their former defensive coordinator in 2021 (64.7 percent). Could a reunion be in store?
For those interested in a potential up-and-comer, look no further than Alexander. After playing five seasons in the NFL as a safety, the 37-year old has spent the last eight years serving in various instructive roles between the college and professional ranks, including a one-year stint as a graduate assistant at the University of Washington in 2014. For the past two seasons, he's been Brian Flores' defensive backs coach for the Dolphins. But now that Flores is out, Alexander may very well soon follow him out of South Beach. If so, he could offer a fresh new perspective on the Seahawks' Cover 3 approach.
Currently the Texans' associate head coach and defensive coordinator, Smith and his Tampa 2 defense could be an ideal fit for the Seahawks if two-high looks are truly the future in Seattle. The longtime Bears coach returned to the NFL in 2021 after helming the University of Illinois' football program for four years, but the talent he inherited in Houston proved unfavorable as the unit finished in the bottom-third of most statistical categories. That, however, does not wholly reflect his coaching efforts. So if the Texans don't retain him this offseason, he's going to get some attention from the rest of the pack.