In a move that will have an impact on the Seahawks defensive personnel, the Seattle defense decided to fire assistant coach Ken Norton Jr. and defensive assistant Andre Curtis because of multiple issues with their personal lives.
The “Ken Norton Jr.” is a defensive assistant who was fired by the Seattle Seahawks. The team also released defensive assistant Andre Curtis.
5:30 p.m. ET
Brady Henderson is a professional football player. ESPN
The Seattle Seahawks have dismissed defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis, marking a major shake-up in Pete Carroll’s coaching staff after the team’s worst season in almost a decade.
The Seahawks made the announcements on Tuesday.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Seattle has already began its hunt for a new defensive coordinator, seeking permission to talk with Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Donatell, 64, has taught and organized NFL secondaries for decades — a recent Seattle weakness — and has worked with Carroll at several positions.
The Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for the last four seasons was 55-year-old Norton, a longtime Carroll assistant. The Seahawks were fifth lowest in yards allowed (379.1 per game) and tied for 11th best in points allowed in 2021, illustrating the mixed bag nature of his tenure (21.53).
Seattle’s defense was gashed at an unprecedented pace early in the season for the second consecutive season before recovering with a solid finish. Last week, Carroll brought up this tendency when discussing various things that went wrong for the Seahawks during a 7-10 season in which they had their worst defeats since 2009, the year before he and general manager John Schneider arrived.
“Defensively, we didn’t start quick enough this season again,” Carroll said a day after the Seahawks’ season finale on 710 ESPN Seattle. “That’s two games in a row where we didn’t get off to a great start, but we recovered and put up some excellent stats that show how you’re playing. Everything simply didn’t happen fast enough.”
The 2021 club has given up at least 450 yards in four consecutive games (Weeks 2–5), a franchise record and the longest stretch in NFL history. After a shake-up at cornerback, Tre Flowers was benched (and eventually dismissed) and D.J. Reed was moved back to the right side, the defense was able to get back on track.
The 2020 squad allowed the most passing yards in league history through nine games, surpassing the previous high in just eight games. Over the last seven weeks of the season, it allowed the fewest points in the NFL.
Carroll refused to declare if Norton and first-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will return at his end-of-season news conference on Jan. 10.
“I’m not going to talk about any of it,” he replied. “This is the day in the league when a lot of things happen to coaches. It’s a day that we hold in higher regard than others. You can’t fully connect to the full effect of this day unless you’re in it. Our coaches, on the other hand, put in a lot of effort. They performed an excellent job. We began our season-ending meetings today, and I’ll speak with everyone of these individuals before we go. I’m quite happy of everyone’s efforts, and I consider myself lucky that we’re working on this together.”
Curtis became an assistant secondary coach in charge of safeties on Carroll’s staff in 2015. In 2018, he was promoted to defensive passing game coordinator.
Norton, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, was Carroll’s defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers in 1994 and 1995. Since their time together at USC, Norton has coached under Carroll for 15 of the last 18 seasons.
One issue today is whether Carroll will rehire one of his former defensive coaches or go outside of his own coaching tree to lead his defense. When Dan Quinn, Kris Richard, and Norton became Seattle’s defensive coordinators, they had all previously worked under Carroll or were doing so at the time. The lone exception among Carroll’s four defensive coordinators in Seattle was Gus Bradley, a holdover from Jim L. Mora’s 2009 staff.
The highest-ranking defensive assistant on Carroll’s staff is Clint Hurtt, Seattle’s defensive line coach and associate head coach.
In 2010, Carroll hired Norton as the Seahawks’ linebackers coach, a position he had previously held with the Trojans for the previous six seasons. Norton was appointed as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator in 2015 and dismissed in the middle of the 2017 season. After parting ways with Richard, Carroll brought him back to Seattle as defensive coordinator in 2018.
This update occurred at the same time when the Legion of Boom secondary was being phased out. In 2017, Kam Chancellor’s career was cut short due to a neck injury, while Richard Sherman was dismissed following the season. Earl Thomas sat out the 2018 offseason, only to return with a fractured leg in the fourth game. He subsequently became a free agent.
The Seahawks ranked 11th, 22nd, 15th, and tied for 11th in points allowed during four seasons under Norton. In terms of yards allowed, they were 16th, 26th, 22nd, and 28th.
Despite expectations that their heavy pass rush would be one of their main assets, the 2021 Seahawks finished 25th in takeaways and tied for 22nd in sacks. In 2020, strong safety Jamal Adams established the NFL sack record for a defensive back with 9.5, but he didn’t register a sack this season while blitzing less. He was placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 13.
During his 13-year NFL career, Norton was chosen to three Pro Bowls and was once a first-team All-Pro. He is the first player in NFL history to play for three consecutive Super Bowl champions: the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993, and the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.
Norton Jr., the son of former heavyweight champion Ken Norton Sr., has claimed that growing up seeing his father’s boxing career ups and downs prepared him for the attention he has experienced as Seattle’s defense has faltered.
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