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First Wave of Head Coach Hiring Cycle Could Help Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Search

Little remains known about Seattle's pursuit of a replacement for Ken Norton Jr. more than a week after the team announced his dismissal. But based on how the head coach hiring cycle has played out so far, three reported candidates should remain very much in play.

It's been nearly two weeks since the Seahawks officially handed defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. a pink slip, but aside from reported interview requests, nothing else has come to light about the franchise's pursuit of a replacement.

Of course, this shouldn't really come as a surprise. Per sources with knowledge of the situation, Seattle didn't plan to rush into hiring Norton's successor with a quarter of the NFL's 32 teams actively in pursuit of new head coaches. Instead, general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll would wait for the dust to settle and those vacancies started to be filled.

To this point, through various reports, the Seahawks have been linked to former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai, former Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, and Cowboys secondary coach/pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. as candidates. Internally, per sources, defensive line coach Clint Hurtt also remains in the mix as a potential replacement option.

While other candidates may emerge in coming days and no reports have surfaced indicating that Seattle has conducted any interviews at this stage, recent developments in Chicago, Dallas, and Denver should make it much easier to pursue Desai, Donatell, or Whitt Jr.

Kicking off the first cycle of head coaching hires, the Broncos beat the Jaguars to land former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. While nothing has been made official yet with his current team still in the playoffs, Rams secondary coach Ejiro Evero has been rumored as the favorite to join Hackett's staff as defensive coordinator, which would likely mean Donatell would not be retained as a holdover from former coach Vic Fangio's staff.

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Meanwhile, the Bears tabbed former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their new head coach earlier this week in a somewhat surprising move. With his roots being in the Tampa 2 system, long-time NFL assistant Rod Marinelli has surfaced as the early favorite to rejoin his former apprentice for a second stint as defensive coordinator in the Windy City, likely meaning Desai will be looking for a new position elsewhere for the first time since 2013.

What may have been the biggest stunner from this week, however, happened in Dallas with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn removing himself out of consideration for multiple head coaching openings to remain in his current position. With him staying put, Whitt Jr. won't be in line for a promotion with the Cowboys, which could make overtures from other teams more intriguing to him.

Barring unforeseen developments where they are retained on Hackett or Eberflus' staffs, Donatell and Desai will be free agents released from their previous contracts with their respective teams. If the Seahawks couldn't obtain permission to interview them previously for lateral moves, they certainly will be able to now. With Whitt remaining a position coach, the Cowboys can't block him from interviewing for coordinator jobs either.

As for Hurtt, while he has previously been connected to the University of Miami's defensive coordinator gig, nothing new has surfaced on that front with his alma mater. For now, he remains under contract with Seattle and may still be a front runner to take over for Norton despite his lack of previous coordinator experience.

Regardless, all four candidates linked to Seattle's coordinator opening so far should still be in play if interested in the position, giving Schneider and Carroll plenty of flexibility in efforts to select the best successor possible. After a very quiet week, with more teams approaching the finish line hiring their own head coaches and filling out their staffs, expect activity to ramp up in coming days pursuing Norton's replacement.