The Raiders’ search for a defensive coordinator has finally come to an end, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, who reports (via Twitter) that Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. will be the team’s new DC. The club has confirmed the hiring in a press release.
Although a number of notable coaches, including Mike Smith, Wade Phillips, Mel Tucker, and Todd Grantham, were linked to the defensive coordinator opening in Oakland, the job didn’t appear to generate a ton of enthusiasm. Smith, the Falcons’ former head coach, was considered Jack Del Rio’s top choice throughout the process, but decided he wanted to take a year off, and didn’t budge from that stance. Tucker and Phillips accepted jobs with other teams – Alabama and the Broncos respectively – while Grantham decided to remain at Louisville.
Money and play-calling control were reportedly factors in the apparent lukewarm interest in the Raiders’ defensive coordinator job — the team wasn’t interested in paying big money to an assistant, and Del Rio is expected to have a hand in calling plays. On the other hand, multiple recent reports have downplayed the fact that the Raiders had taken so long to make a hire, suggesting that the new head coach simply prioritized filling out his offensive staff before addressing the defensive side of the ball. According to Norton, Del Rio will play a significant role in preparing the defense, but the DC will call plays on game days (Twitter link via Tafur).
The Seahawks have had the league’s best defense in each of the past two seasons, and now are paying the price for that success. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn headed to Atlanta to coach the Falcons, and now Norton has departed for a promotion of his own. While both Quinn and Richard could bring assistants with them to their new teams, Seattle secondary coach Kris Richard likely won’t be going anywhere — he is expected to become the new defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. Still, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) hears that “more change” could be coming to the club’s defensive staff.
Tafur first noted last Wednesday – after Grantham turned down Oakland’s offer – that Norton might be next up on the team’s list of targets. The Raiders had to wait until after the Super Bowl, but managed to interview Norton yesterday, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter).