Ken Norton Jr.

Coaching Notes: Ravens, Colts, Bills, Browns

Ken Norton Jr. is heading to the NCAA. The long-time coach is expected to join UCLA as their new linebackers coach, reports Bruce Feldman of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Norton Jr. started his coaching career with USC, but he’s been in the NFL since 2010. After winning three Super Bowl rings as a player, Norton Jr. added another championship to his resume as the Seahawks linebackers coach. After five seasons in Seattle, Norton Jr. was defensive coordinator for three years with the Raiders and four years with the Seahawks (second stint).

Norton Jr. was let go by Seattle following the 2021 campaign. Now, he’ll be joining Chip Kelly’s staff in Los Angeles.

More coaching notes:

  • The Ravens announced that they’ve officially promoted Anthony Weaver to be their assistant head coach/defensive line coach. Weaver had a long coaching stint with the Texans, culminating in him serving as their defensive coordinator in 2020. The 41-year-old joined the Ravens last year as their defensive line coach/run game coordinator.
  • Former NFL safety Mike Mitchell is joining the Colts staff as an assistant secondary coach, according to Stephen Holder of The Athletic (on Twitter). Mitchell had a 10-year playing career, including a one-year stint with Indianapolis. The Colts are also hiring Nate Ollie as their defensive line coach, per Aaron Wilson of (via Twitter). Following two seasons with the Eagles, Ollie spent last season as the Jets assistant defensive line coach.
  • Bills secondary coach John Butler got a promotion, adding the role of defensive passing game coordinator to his title, according to Wilson. The veteran has spent the past four seasons as the secondary coach in Buffalo. The Bills also confirmed a number of additional hires, including Kyle Shurmur (defensive quality control coach), Nick Lacy (strength and conditioning assistant coach), Marcus West (assistant defensive line coach), Jaylon Finner (defensive quality control coach), Cory Harkey (assistant special teams coach), and Austin Gund (fellowship coach).
  • The Browns are expected to promote offensive assistant T.C. McCartney to tight ends coach, according to Wilson (on Twitter). The 32-year-old has bounced around the NFL a bit during his coaching journey. After spending the 2019 campaign as the Broncos quarterbacks coach, McCartney spent the 2020 season as an offensive assistant on the Browns.

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 Rumors: Spagnuolo, Fins, Cowboys

While Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo interviewed for the position, there is an upside for him in current Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur likely accepting the team’s offer to be their next head coach. With Shurmur on board, the veteran defensive coordinator is a more likely option to stay in the role he began the 2017 season in, opines Ryan Dunleavy of

Back in 2008, Spagnuolo hired Shurmur as his offensive coordinator when he got the Rams head coaching job. The two also have history in the Andy Reid‘s coaching tree back when the now Chiefs head coach hired both coaches out of the college ranks.

Spagnuolo does have a track record of defensive success, and while this past season was more trying, the Giants unit was one of the best in football just two years ago. Based on the coaches’ history with one another, it appears that Spagnuolo has a good shot to retain his job. But if Shurmur does decide to go in a different direction, Dunleavy throws at names like Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis, Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Chiefs linebackers coach Gary Gibbs that could make sense for the post.

Here’s more coaching news from around the league:

  • The Dolphins have let go of their secondary coach Lou Anarumo, per Barry Jackson the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Anarumo had been with the team since 2012. This is just one of a few changes Miami has made in regards to their coaching staff this offseason.
  • The Cowboys and Bengals have switched offensive line coaches this offseason. After Cincy hired former Dallas offensive line coach Frank Pollack to the same role, we learned today that the Cowboys have hired the guy who held that post for the Bengals in Paul Alexander, reports Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (Twitter link).
  • In other offensive line coach news, the Seahawks have brought in Mike Solari to replace Tom Cable as the primary guy handling the offensive front, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (Twitter link). Solari has a history in Seattle, he served as the team’s offensive line coach from 2008-09. The team also recently hired Ken Norton Jr. to replace Kris Richard as defensive coordinator earlier today.
  • Andy Reid is adding a new face to the Chiefs coaching staff for 2018. The team has hired Jay Valai as a defense quality control coach, reports Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star (Twitter link). Perez adds that Valai will also assist the either the Chief’s defensive back of linebacker group in addition to his primary duties.

Seahawks Hire Ken Norton Jr. As DC

The Seahawks have made another coaching change, but this time on the defensive side of the ball. The team has parted ways with current defensive coordinator Kris Richard in favor of bringing in the recently hired 49ers linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. to lead their defense next season, reports Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (Twitter link).

Ken Norton Jr. (Vertical)

It’s an odd turn of events because Richard had not been officially relieved of duties as of today, although there had been rumblings that the Seahawks were ready to move on from their once highly-touted defensive coordinator. Richard had been with Seattle since 2010, where he’s worked with the defense in a variety of roles. However, the 38-year-old coach had served as defensive coordinator for the past three years.

To add onto the twist, Norton Jr. comes over from San Francisco where he just agreed to become an assistant head coach/linebacker coach for Kyle Shanahan. Although, the move is reportedly in-play because there is an out in his deal that allows him to take this gig in Seattle, Garafolo adds. It’s an odd decision in a sense because Norton Jr. was fired as the Raiders defensive coordinator this past year because of the clear struggles that his defense had throughout the early portion of the season. In his favor, Norton Jr. does have familiarity with the Seahawks organization as he was the team’s linebackers coach from 2010-14.

The news does put Richard in limbo in terms of where he lands next season. He has clear credentials in the NFL community as he did land a head coach interview with the Colts last week, but being that Indy is expected to hire Josh McDaniels, Richard’s options seem somewhat limited. There’s currently no open defensive coordinator positions available, but a few should open up as new head coaches are officially brought in.

Coming off a year without a postseason appearance, head coach Pete Carroll has been aggressive in re-shaping his staff. They have already hired Brian Schottenheimer to replace Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, so this move represents another decision to move away from the status quo that failed the franchise in 2017.


49ers Hire Ken Norton Jr.

The 49ers announced they have hired Ken Norton Jr. to the coaching staff. He’ll carry the title of Assistant Head Coach – Defense as well as inside linebackers coach. Ken Norton (vertical)

Norton was a popular figure in the Raiders’ locker room over the last three years, but poor on-field results led to his firing in November. At the time of his dismissal, the Raiders ranked 32nd in defensive DVOA. Of course, head coach Jack Del Rio was the one calling plays on defense, so it’s not necessarily fair to pin everything on Norton.

It’s a great fit for Norton on multiple levels. For one, he doesn’t have to move from his Bay Area home. The deal also marks a homecoming for Norton since he spent seven seasons with the Niners and played on three consecutive Super Bowl-winning teams.

In related news, Johnny Holland is the team’s new run game specialist/outside linebackers coach.

Extra Points: Anthem, Raiders, Bengals, Jets

Discussion about who stands and who sits for the national anthem could come to an end next season if the owners have their way, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske hears. Maske reports that some NFL owners think there is a “strong possibility” they could enact a change to the league’s policy next season that could keep players off the field during the playing of the national anthem.

Maske quoted one person familiar with the owners’ deliberations saying, “I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen.” He continued with the source, who said, “I think most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season.”

The thought this action could quell attention from the league’s anthem issues is a naive one. Players in favor of demonstrating their right to protest are sure to feel disrespected, while having no one standing for the flag is certain to draw ire from a wide range of fans. Whatever the decision, the NFL isn’t likely to escape the spotlight anytime soon.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Raiders  head coach Jack Del Rio issued a statement on Wednesday stating “nobody should feel comfortable” following the team’s firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., NBC Sports’ Scott Blair reports. Del Rio continued, saying, “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.” After starting the season with Super Bowl aspirations, the Raiders are holding out hope for a second-half revival to contend for a wildcard spot.
  • Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sat down with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his Know Them From Adam Podcast to give his first interview since being fired in June. In the interview, which the Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff recapped, Dorsey didn’t address his departure much outside of saying he’s had better days. He did claim he wanted to make a return to football, however. “I know I can do my job with the best with my peers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “I’m very proud of being able to help an organization re-establish their winning ways, and I think that’s important.”
  • When asked if the team was committed to kicker Randy Bullock for the remainder of the season, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said they were committed to him “for the week.,” ESPN’s Katherine Terrell reports. Bullock has connected on 8-of-10 field goals on the season but has missed an extra point in each of his last two games.
  • It’s getting close to time for the Jets to see what they have in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Though Josh McCown has played well, Mehta claims it is time to call the kids up from “Triple-A” to see what they can do.

Raiders Fire DC Ken Norton

The Raiders have fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton, according to Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter). John Pagano, who previously held the title of Assistant Head Coach/Defense, will take over. Ken Norton (vertical)

After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator,” said head coach Jack Del Rio in a statement released by the team. “I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”

Norton has been popular in the Raiders locker room since joining the team in 2015. However, the results have not been to the Raiders’ satisfaction, particularly this year. The Raiders rank dead last in defensive DVOA and that goes a long way towards explaining their 4-6 record. The Raiders were handed a bad loss on Sunday after allowing the Patriots to score 33 points, though the offense didn’t exactly help the cause either (eight points).

It’s fair to wonder if Norton’s dismissal will cure what ails the defense, particularly since Del Rio has such a heavy hand in play calling. Also, the absence of first-round cornerback Gareon Conley has hurt the team’s passing defense, and that’s a factor that was out of Norton’s control.

The Raiders hired Norton after considering big names such as Mike Smith and Wade Phillips. Reportedly, a lack of money and play-calling control led some candidates to withdraw from consideration.

Coaching Rumors: Bills, Jags, Raiders, Ravens

Although Anthony Lynn has long been viewed as the favorite to take over as the Bills‘ head coach, team ownership has been extremely impressed by Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, according to Jason La Canfora of (Twitter link). Indeed, Buffalo is now in something of a “holding pattern” as Lynn and McDermott interview elsewhere, tweets Vic Carrucci of the Buffalo News. Lynn has been linked to every head coaching job that remains open, while McDermott has drawn interest from the Chargers and 49ers in addition to the Bills, as PFR’s 2017 Head Coaching Search Tracker shows.

Here’s more on the 2017 hiring cycle:

  • The Jaguars will retain defensive coordinator Todd Wash under new head coach Doug Marrone, but nearly every other member of the defensive staff is being let go, reports Michael DiRocco of Defensive assistant Mike Rutenberg is the only other defensive coach who will remain on board. Jacksonville had 24 coaches on staff at the end of the regular season, and that number figures to be reduced, tweets Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.
  • Ken Norton Jr. will remain the Raiders‘ defensive coordinator, per Ian Rapoport of (Twitter link). Head coach Jack Del Rio assumed play-calling duties midway through the 2016 season, and Oakland ultimately finished 23rd in defensive DVOA. While Norton Jr. will stick around, defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson has been fired, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link).
  • Former Buffalo offensive coordinator Greg Roman could potentially join the Ravens staff in some undefined role, per La Canfora (all Twitter links). Baltimore recently announced that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will return for the 2017 campaign, so Roman — who has remained in contact with head coach John Harbaugh — could join the Ravens in a run-game director capacity.
  • The Eagles have fired wide receivers coach Greg Lewis, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Lewis spent just one season as a coach with Philadelphia (after having spent the 2003-08 seasons with the club as a player). Current Bills WRs coach Sanjay Lal is of “strong interest” to the Eagles, reports Adam Caplan of (Twitter link).
  • The Browns announced that they’ve begun to restructure their defensive staff under new coordinator Gregg Williams, parting ways with defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi, inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland, assistant defensive backs coach Cannon Matthews, and outside linebackers coach Ryan Slowik. Cleveland also fired offensive line coach Hal Hunter.

AFC West Rumors: Miller, Chargers, Raiders

Von Miller and the Broncos have resumed talks as the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term extensions looms in 10 days. The sides communicated during the past few days, Adam Caplan of reports (on Twitter) after previously breaking off talks.

Caplan wouldn’t be surprised if Miller and Broncos to continue their talks this week (Twitter link) but said during a SportsCenter appearance the gulf on guaranteed money remains, even if the parties have agreed on the length (six years) and total value ($114.5MM) of a potential deal.

The Broncos rescinded their six-year, $114.5MM offer early last month after Miller declined it due to a lack of guaranteed money at signing, a figure which sat at $39.8MM last we heard. The 27-year-old pass-rusher has threatened to hold out, refusing to play 2016 on the $14.26MM exclusive franchise tag.

Here’s the latest from the rest of the AFC West.

  • Loosely connected to Las Vegas in light of a California State Supreme Court decision last week weakening their downtown San Diego stadium measure’s chances of passing, the Chargers are not believed to be an option for Vegas at this time, Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News tweets. The Bolts’ choices look like a murky San Diego future or sharing a stadium with the Rams in Los Angeles if those talks fall through.
  • The Raiders remain strongly tied to Vegas, and news on the Oakland front has been scant to this point. However, Bonsignore tweets Mark Davis has talked with a developmental group led by Ronnie Lott that’s attempting a last-ditch stadium solution in the Bay Area. The Los Angeles-based reporter, though, notes such discussions look superfluous since they don’t solve the issues the team is having with the city and county.
  • On the field, the Raiders look to present a more diverse pass rush than what they deployed last season. Bruce Irvin‘s signing gives Khalil Mack a complementary presence, and an NFC scouting director told’s Albert Breer the best course of action for the Raiders is to move Irvin into a primary pass-rushing role at defensive end much like they did Mack in 2015. “His most productive NFL season came as a rookie, when he rushed from a three-point stance. Playing opposite Khalil Mack, he’d see a lot of one-on-one matchups he can win [if they use him as an end].” The Raiders use a hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme, and Breer adds the suspicion is that DC Ken Norton — familiar with Irvin after serving as the Seahawks’ linebackers coach from 2010-14 — will transition the free agent acquisition to being predominantly a defensive end. Irvin registered a career-high eight sacks in 2012.
  • Eric Fisher viewed the Chiefs’ win against the Texans in last year’s wild card round, one that featured him win the battle against an ailing J.J. Watt, as a bit of a turning point in his career.

Raiders Hire Ken Norton Jr. As DC

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 (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 (via Twitter).