Clint Hurtt

Seahawks Make Defensive Staff Changes

The Seahawks’ Ken Norton Jr. replacement effort appears to be a multi-pronged approach. Not only will Clint Hurtt move up to Seattle’s defensive coordinator post, but the team is also expected to bring in Ed Donatell.

Hurtt will rise from defensive line coach to DC, Bob Condotta and Adam Jude of the Seattle Times report. Donatell, who interviewed for the DC gig, is expected to join Seattle’s staff in a different role, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. A senior defensive assistant title appears likely for Donatell, a veteran coordinator who has been an NFL assistant since 1990.

Sean Desai, whom the Bears promoted to DC in Matt Nagy‘s final season, is also a Seahawks target, according to the Seattle Times. Desai, Donatell and Hurtt have worked for Vic Fangio in the past, making for an interesting arrangement in Seattle. The Seahawks endured brutal starts to the past two seasons on defense, being on pace for record-setting yardage totals, though each of Norton’s final two units stabilized to some degree. This will double as the team’s top staff shakeup this offseason, with Pete Carroll and OC Shane Waldron sticking around.

As should be expected, Carroll is interested in incorporating Fangio’s system. Donatell spent the past three seasons running it in Denver, operating as Broncos DC. Despite Bradley Chubb‘s injury trouble and Von Miller‘s midseason departure, the Broncos finished in the top 10 in total defense and points allowed this season. Donatell and Carroll have worked together with the Jets in the early 1990s and were each part of the University of Pacific’s staff back in 1983.

Hurtt, 43, has been with the Seahawks since 2017. He worked under Fangio in Chicago from 2015-16. This will be his first chance at a coordinator role at any level. Desai received that opportunity last year. Despite the Bears losing Khalil Mack midway through the season, Desai’s unit ranked sixth in total defense. Robert Quinn broke Richard Dent‘s 37-year-old team sack record, finishing with 18.5. Desai’s Seattle arrival will be contingent on him not landing the Las Vegas DC job. The Raiders interviewed Desai on Thursday.

Seahawks To Make Changes To Defensive Coaching Staff

While it appears the Seahawks will be keeping their head coach and general manager, they are making some important changes to the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. DC Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis are expected to be let go, according to a report from Bob Condotta and Adam Jude of the Seattle Times

[Related: Seahawks To Retain HC Pete Carroll, GM John Schneider]

Norton has served as the team’s defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, a stretch that has seen unusually poor results on that side of the ball. Seattle’s league ranking in yards allowed varied from 16th in 2018 to 28th this year during his tenure. In each of the last two seasons, the team has had major problems defensively, giving up an average of 451 yards per game through Week 5 of 2021. However, those campaigns have each featured a notable turnaround, as the Seahawks finished this season 11th in the league in points allowed at 21.5 per game, for example.

Ultimately, though, the overall falloff from the days of the ‘Legion of Boom’ – not mention of course, the team’s 7-10 record – have led to Norton’s dismissal. The reporters named Clint Hurtt, Seattle’s defensive line coach, as a candidate to take over the DC role. The 43-year-old has held that title since 2017, but has also been an assistant head coach since 2018. While he has eight total years of NFL experience as a positional coach, he has never been a coordinator. Another option “on the shortlist” is Ed Donatell, who is currently the Broncos’ DC. The 64-year-old has been the defensive coordinator with two other teams throughout his long NFL career, and has ties to HC Pete Carroll dating back to their time with the Jets in the 1990s.

As for Curtis, the passing game had been a particularly sore spot during his tenure overseeing that part of the defense, which also began in 2018. In 2020, the team gave up franchise-worst 285 yards per game through the air, and, just like the defensive unit as a whole, got off to a rough start in 2021 as well. Through Week 3, that figure was still over 264 yards per game, leading to significant roster changes in the secondary. While things improved beyond that point, the Seahawks obviously felt it wasn’t enough for Norton and Curtis to be brought back.

Clearly, the defense – both on the field and along the sidelines – will be a major point of emphasis during the offseason in Seattle.

 

Coaching Notes: Broncos, Fangio, Jags, Lions

Ten candidates have emerged in the Broncos‘ coaching search. Despite the team going back-to-back with defensive coaches, Dan Quinn is believed to be one of the early frontrunners, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Despite being fired early in the 2020 season, the ex-Falcons HC has become a hot name in the 2022 interview cycle. The interest in Quinn puts him in position to be picky, as the current Cowboys DC has raised his stock after turning around the NFC East champions’ defense this season. He has yet to interview for the Broncos job yet. Quinn and Denver GM George Paton worked together in Miami under Nick Saban from 2005-06. Quinn, 51, was the Dolphins’ defensive line coach in those seasons. The Broncos have also done extensive work on Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, Fowler adds. Both Hackett and Green Bay QBs coach Luke Getsy are on Denver’s HC interview list.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Bill O’Brien interestingly finds himself in the mix for NFL jobs on two tiers, with the Panthers eyeing him as an offensive coordinator and the Jaguars are set to interview him for their head coach job. O’Brien’s ignominious Texans exit notwithstanding, he has become a candidate to watch for the Jacksonville job, Fowler notes. O’Brien just finished his first season as Alabama’s OC.
  • Should O’Brien land the Jags gig, Vic Fangio will be a DC target, per Fowler. Given Fangio’s history of DC success, and the Broncos sporting an above-average unit during his tenure despite major injuries to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the recently fired coach will likely have a few options. The Jags are prepared to be patient this time around, with Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson noting this process could last for an additional two weeks (Twitter link). Second interviews are expected here. The Jaguars being thorough should not surprise, given their rash decision to hire Urban Meyer last January.
  • The Lions are considering hiring their next OC from within. After parting ways with one-and-done Anthony Lynn, Detroit is examining tight ends coach Ben Johnson for that role, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties from Lynn midseason, but Johnson’s responsibilities expanded as well. Johnson joined the Lions as a quality control coach in 2019. GM Brad Holmes is also leaving the door open to Campbell remaining the team’s play-caller.
  • Seahawks assistant head coach Clint Hurtt is on the University of Miami’s radar, with Fowler tweeting the Hurricanes are eyeing him for their defensive coordinator job. A Miami alum, Hurtt has spent the past five years as Pete Carroll’s defensive line coach.
  • Joe Judge‘s Giants staff will likely splinter soon. One of Big Blue’s position coaches, D-line coach Sean Spencer, will land on his feet. Duke is hiring Spencer to be a co-defensive coordinator, USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets. Spencer was set to leave regardless of Judge’s status. Spencer’s pre-Giants coaching resume unfolded entirely at the college level. The 51-year-old assistant spent six years at Penn State prior to his short Giants stay under Judge.
  • Second-year Browns assistant Jeremy Garrett is expected to leave Cleveland and become the Liberty D-line coach, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweets.

West Notes: Raiders, Hawks, 49ers, Ziggy

Although the Raiders failed to lure ex-Packers executive Eliot Wolf to Oakland (Wolf ultimately accepted a new role with the Browns), they’re still aiming to hire a “young” assistant general manager and may also add an executive vice president of football operations, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Wolf would have seemingly been the ideal candidate for Oakland given his ties to general manager Reggie McKenzie, who is also a former Green Bay staffer. There’s no word as to whether the Raiders ever pursued yet another former Packers executive in Alonzo Highsmith, who — like Wolf — ultimately landed in Cleveland. No matter who Oakland hires, McKenzie is expected to share roster control with new head coach Jon Gruden.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Prior to the Seahawks hiring Ken Norton Jr. as their new defensive coordinator, they also interviewed incumbent defensive line coach Clint Hurtt for the position, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Although Hurtt was passed over for the job, he will stay on Seattle’s staff going forward, per Rapoport. Hurtt, who was the Bears’ outside linebackers coach from 2015-16, was hired by Seattle last January after an odd dance in which it seemed he’d land with the Jets. Hurtt’s decision to remain with the Seahawks shouldn’t obfuscate the fact that Seattle has revamped its defensive staff this month by firing both former DC Kris Richard and assistant head coach/linebackers Micahel Barrow.
  • The concept of pending free agent Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah signing with the 49ers is being discussed in NFL circles, reports Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. As Barrows notes, this is an “all smoke, no fire” situation, as there have been no reports officially linking Ansah to the Bay Area. However, Ansah — who rebounded with 12 sacks in 2017 after a two-sack 2016 — could theoretically thrive in San Francisco’s 4-3 scheme as opposed to what will be a Matt Patricia-led defense in Detroit, so this is something to file away for later.
  • While Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch certainly hasn’t been successful through two NFL seasons, he’s also had to deal with two head coaches, three offensive coordinators, and three different offensive schemes, as Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post opines. Lynch, the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2016, has only four games in two years with Denver, and lost the starting quarterback job to former seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian in both campaigns.

NFC Coaching Notes: 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, Bears, Vikings

Gus Bradley‘s hesitancy surrounding the Chargers’ DC job was believed to have been connected to an opportunity with the 49ers under Tom Cable. But now that Cable withdrew his name from consideration, the Bolts still don’t have a decision from Bradley. However, buzz around league circles points to a Kyle Shanahan-Bradley setup in San Francisco making sense, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News tweets.

This comes after a report indicating Bradley “spurned” the 49ers when asked if he would team with Shanahan. It would help explain Bradley remaining without a job after being coveted by Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles. The 49ers have shown a willingness to target DCs, with the Bears blocking their request for a potential Vic Fangio reunion, due to having a coach in line to accept the job in Shanahan, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes.

Here’s more from the 49ers and the rest of the league during the postseason hiring period.

  • Shanahan will not put up a fight for control over the 49ers’ 53-man roster if hired, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports. The would-be first-time HC would be fine working alongside a GM regarding the draft and prospective trades, Maiocco writes, and could meet with GM candidates on second interviews on Tuesday. The Falcons’ OC is expected to meet with the 49ers again on Tuesday.
  • The Seahawks hired Clint Hurtt as their defensive line coach, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. This wraps up an interesting odyssey for the former Bears’ outside linebackers coach. A previous report linked Hurtt to the Jets as their OLBs coach, with that coming after the position instructor turned down an extension with the Bears. Hurtt coached Chicago’s defensive line in 2014.
  • Broncos assistant defensive backs coach Samson Brown will follow Wade Phillips to and become part of the Rams‘ defensive staff, Marvez tweets. The Broncos are bringing Johnnie Lynn aboard to replace him, per Marvez. Lynn worked with new Denver DBs coach Marcus Robertson with the Raiders.
  • Speaking of the Bears, they hired three new assistants: Jeremiah Washburn (offensive line), Curtis Modkins (running backs) and Roy Anderson (assistant secondary). Washburn worked as the Dolphins’ O-line coach in 2016 and oversaw the Lions’ offensive front for the previous three seasons. Modkins served as the 49ers’ OC under Chip Kelly last season and previously as the Bills’ OC.
  • The Bears might lose assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower to the 49ers, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes (on Twitter). He previously worked with Shanahan, doing so in Washington from 2010-13 and in Cleveland in ’14.
  • Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski will slide from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach, Caplan reports (on Twitter). Although the Vikings promoted Pat Shurmur to full-time OC, they fired QBs coach Scott Turner earlier this month. Stefanski has coached the running backs and tight ends the past three seasons but served as Minnesota’s assistant QBs coach from 2009-13. He’s been with the organization since 2006.

AFC Notes: Texans, Dolphins, Jets, Broncos

After the Texans parted ways with offensive coordinator George Godsey yesterday, some in league circles believe head coach Bill O’Brien may simply assign himself play-calling duties, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. O’Brien was already leading the Texans’ offense at various points during the season, so a move of this nature wouldn’t be a complete surprise. In such a scenario, Houston would likely reshuffle its offensive staff, including shifting wide receivers coach Sean Ryan to quarterbacks coach, per Wilson.

Here’s more out of the AFC:

  • The Dolphins offered cornerback Bene Benwikere a futures deal that would have kept him in the club’s plans throughout the offseason, but Benwikere instead opted to sign on with Green Bay’s practice squad, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Benwikere was somewhat surprisingly waived by Carolina in early October, and though the Titans and Redskins both put in claims on him, he landed with Miami (who subsequently waived him and signed him to their taxi squad). In Green Bay, Benwikere will offer depth for the rest of the postseason.
  • Although a previous report indicated that Bears outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt had agreed to take the same position with the Jets, there is “no indication” that such a move will take place, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. New York did inquire as to Hurtt’s availability, but never actually agreed to hire him. Hurtt reportedly turned down a contract extension from Chicago.
  • The Jets began extension talks with guard Brian Winters before he suffered a torn rotator cuff last December, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Winters, who yesterday agreed to a four-year, $29MM contract that includes $15MM in guarantees, is now signed through the 2020 campaign. Per Slater, New York used the contracts of fellow interior lineman J.R. Sweezy and Jeff Allen as comps during negotiations.
  • Chiefs assistant teams coach Brock Olivo will become the seventh candidate to interview for the Broncos‘ ST coordinator vacancy, as Mike Klis of 9NEWS tweets. Olivo, 40, has spent the past three seasons working under highly-respected Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub.

Coach/FO Notes: Caserio, Jets, Panthers

The 49ers‘ summit with Josh McDaniels occurred today, but the team did not meet with Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, whom it was curious about pairing with the 40-year-old coach. A Caserio/49ers summit — one the team requested — did not appear on the San Francisco brass’ docket, either because the Patriots denied an interview request or Caserio turned down the offer, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes.

A Patriots staffer since 2001, Caserio was a college teammate of McDaniels’ at John Carroll University. The longtime Patriots employee is signed through 2020 and interviewed for the Dolphins’ GM job in 2014. He makes approximately $2MM per year, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports, adding that a 49ers job could interest the 41-year-old personnel man.

Howe notes the 49ers are hoping to bring Caserio aboard as their GM, writing interview requests will continue to come his way due to the Patriots’ success and his current job title permitting those requests. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, Colts VP of football operations Jimmy Raye III, Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane, Packers director of football operations Elliot Wolf and Vikings assistant GM George Paton represent the other candiates for the 49ers’ GM position. Raye will interview with the team on Sunday.

Here’s more from the NFL hiring period as the playoffs commence.

  • Bears outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt agreed to a two-year deal with the Jets to lead their outside ‘backers, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). A Bears staffer for three seasons, Hurtt declined a contract extension in Chicago this week. The Bears denied Hurtt permission to interview with the Dolphins last season.
  • The Panthers do not plan to make any coaching changes despite being the latest Super Bowl loser to miss the playoffs the following season. “This is a damn good coaching staff,” Dave Gettleman said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “We went 17-2 last year. We didn’t get stupid overnight.” Carolina could have to deal with at least one change if DC Sean McDermott lands a head coaching job. He’s booked a second interview with the Chargers. Secondary coach Steve Wilks also will interview with the Redskins for their DC job.
  • A Kyle Shanahan defection to become a head coach would leave the Falcons with an OC vacancy, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (on Twitter) quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and offensive assistant Mike McDaniel are in-house candidates to ascend to that position. Of course, Shanahan could want to take a Falcons staffer with him, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets McDaniel would be a name to watch in that event. McDaniel has worked with Shanahan with three teams, joining him on the Redskins’ and Browns’ staffs before coming to Atlanta in 2015.

Extra Points: Bears, Colts, Dolphins

As we await the start of playoff football, let’s check out some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • Bears coach John Fox has another hole to fill on his coaching staff. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt recently declined a contract extension. The former Louisville coach is leaving the organization to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Hurtt previously coached the Bears’ defensive line during Marc Trestman‘s tenure in Chicago.
  • 35-year-old Trent Cole recently indicated on Twitter that he wants to play in 2017. The veteran was solid in his seven games with the Colts this season, compiling 17 tackles and two sacks. The long-time Eagles standout is set to be a free agent this winter, and Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says the team’s desire to get younger may prevent Cole from returning to Indy.
  • Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan announced that he is declaring for the NFL Draft, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The junior finished the 2016 campaign with 102 tackles, two sacks, and five passes defended. A recent mock draft by Yahoo’s Eric Edholm had McMillan going 56th overall to the Raiders.
  • Players who are signed to reserve/future contracts rarely get any guaranteed money, but Deon Lacey is apparently an exception. ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the Dolphins linebacker received a $200K signing bonus when inking his contract.

AFC East Notes: Tannehill, Campbell, Whaley

With the Senior Bowl wrapped up and all four AFC East teams in offseason mode as Super Bowl 50 nears, let’s look at the latest news coming out of the division, starting with the Dolphins.

  • Ryan Tannehill‘s inconsistency notwithstanding, Mike Tannenbaum‘s seen enough from the fifth-year quarterback to avoid spending a draft pick or signing a free agent for legitimate competition, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. This isn’t too surprising. Miami gave Tannehill $77MM in new money last May to be their franchise quarterback, and ending a year that began with playoff expectations at 6-10, the team has other pressing needs.
  • The Dolphins have quite a few issues to sort out over the coming offseason, but chief among them will be overhauling their linebacking unit, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Kelvin Sheppard proved enough at middle linebacker, but per Salguero, the club is aware that it needs an upgrade at that spot. Further, Miami is likely to replace one of its two outside linebackers, with Koa Misi being the most obvious candidate to be cut given his 2016 cap charge of roughly $4.88MM (the Dolphins could save $4.3MM by making him a post-June 1 release). For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus graded Misi as the highest of Miami’s three ‘backers (No. 21), while Jelani Jenkins and Sheppard rated Nos. 38 and 84, respectively, among 97 qualifiers.
  • Although interim coach Dan Campbell reportedly did not take losing out to Adam Gase with the Dolphins well, the team’s interim coach last season still could have joined Gase’s staff but instead chose to join the Saints’ staff as assistant head coach/tight ends coach, Jackson writes. The Dolphins, however, prevented multiple teams from hiring special teams coach Darren Rizzi.
  • The Bears denied outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt to speak with Gase about becoming the Dolphins’ defensive line coach, Jackson reports, but Hurtt coming to Miami once his contract expires after this season could still be on the table. A former Miami Hurricanes assistant, Hurtt would be an attractive option, per Jackson, if the Fins’ front falters under Terrell Williams, who got the job after Chicago chose to block Hurtt’s path.
  • One GM told Lisa Wilson of the Buffalo News the Bills are trapped in “8-8 limbo” without certainty at quarterback and little money to spend this offseason. Another informed the reporter he applauded the team’s patience regarding Doug Whaley and resisting the urge to start over as many teams do in the Bills’ situation. Owners of the longest NFL playoff drought, the Bills are currently $3.4MM over the salary cap, per OverTheCap, but have strung together their most wins in a two-year span (17) since 1999-2000, the former season representing Buffalo’s last playoff advancement. Tyrod Taylor will also only count $3.13MM against the Bills’ cap next season.
  • Whaley also justified bringing in embattled veteran DC Rob Ryan as an assistant to help enhance Rex Ryan‘s productivity while helping unite the brothers against their critics. “If you look at it, Rob and Rex, they’ve had some troubles,” Whaley told media, including Wilson. “Their name is kind of like, ‘Hey, they’re the Ryans, what happened to their defense?’ So why not bring in your brother and try to reclaim that name? That’s the way I look at it. And who’s going to have your back more than your brother? I think it’s a positive. I know it’s a positive. Everybody in the building feels it’s a positive. It’s a positive for Rex, too. It can help him expand his horizons as the head coach and get into some other things.”

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report

Staff Updates: Giants, 49ers, Bills, Bears, Fins

The latest coaching staff-related news from around the NFL:

  • The Giants have hired Frank Cignetti as their quarterbacks coach, according to Newsday’s Tom Rock, and Dwayne Stukes as their assistant special teams coach (Twitter link via Alex Marvez of Fox Sports). Marvez reported Monday that Cignetti was a candidate to join Ben McAdoo‘s staff as the QBs coach, which has now come to fruition. Cignetti held the position in St. Louis from 2012-14 before a promotion to offensive coordinator last year. That didn’t work out, though, as the Rams fired him during the season.
  • In other Giants news, their offensive line coach, Pat Flaherty, is interviewing for the same position with the 49ers, Marvez tweets. The Giants seem set to part ways with Flaherty, so it would obviously be in his best interest to land the 49ers job.
  • The Bears have blocked outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt from becoming the Dolphins’ defensive line coach, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com. Hurtt, who has one year left on his contract with Chicago, is rising up the assistant coaching ranks in the NFL and has drawn interest at both the pro and college levels, according to Thayer.
  • Bills assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn is a candidate to become the 49ers’ offensive coordinator. If he does, the Bills could replace him with Wilbert Montgomery, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak (Twitter link). Montgomery – who has spent the past two seasons coaching Cleveland’s running backs – is familiar with Bills head coach Rex Ryan. Both were on the Ravens’ coaching staff in 2008.