For the first time in his NFL career, Russell Wilson will have to learn a new offensive system. Darrell Bevell, the only offensive coordinator Wilson has ever had in the NFL, and the Seattle Seahawks’ playcaller for the last seven seasons, will not be back with the team in 2018 per Curtis Crabtree. The news comes as a bit of a shock from an organization who have repeatedly stood firm with their staff despite criticism from fans and media.
The change in leadership is needed, but more importantly, it’s an exciting time for Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense as a whole. While the general philosophy (read: commitment to the run) will likely stay the same as long as Pete Carroll is the head coach, a new offensive coordinator brings new possibility for an offense teeming with exciting playmakers. So with the offensive coordinator position vacant for the first time since 2011, who might be next to call plays in Seattle?
The man they call Chud remains under contract with the Indianapolis Colts, having coached there the previous three seasons in varying roles. It’s likely however that he’ll be released from his contract when the Colts eventually hire their new head coach, assuming that coach’s expertise is on the offensive side of the ball. When/if that happens, Chudzinski becomes an extremely attractive offensive coordinator option.
The hiring of Chudzinski would signal a departure from the previous regime’s offensive style. Bevell, a vanilla, matchup averse coordinator, only began maximizing Jimmy Graham’s strengths this past season, while J.D. McKissic’s utilization as an offensive chess piece was short lived. Chud, on the other hand, has previously been talked about as being innovative to a fault. In an offense with playmakers such as Wilson, McKissic, C.J. Prosise, Doug Baldwin and potentially the return of Paul Richardson/Graham/both, innovation would be warmly welcomed. Keeping with Wilson’s strengths, downfield shots are a staple of Chudzinski’s offense, and tight ends are heavily involved — something that’s of note for Seattle, with just one tight end (Nick Vannett) under contract for 2018.
And, finally, we have the Tom Cable question. If Cable is retained as offensive line coach, the possibility of Chudzinski can be ruled out. Chud has a history running a power running game - something that could rule him out anyway, if Carroll is married to the zone-blocking scheme - and would make the hiring of Chudzinski impossible to imagine if Cable is still on the staff.
The New York Jets’ offensive coordinator John Morton did an admiral job with the a talent-poor offense in 2017, relying on motion and misdirection to get wide receivers Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse into space and getting the ball into their hands. In the modern NFL - a league dependent on dumpoffs and short passes - the ability to scheme receivers open is crucial. His impressive 2017 was nearly parlayed into a lateral move to join Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland as offensive coordinator, but for now he remains in New York.
The Jets being open to Morton leaving for the same job elsewhere may not still be the case, especially as the hiring cycle wears on, but you have to think he would be open to a move to the Seahawks. Morton coached under Carroll at USC, and carries some of Carroll’s principles with him, saying last May:
“We want to take care of the ball. That’s the number one thing that I preached this morning [before practice], about taking care of the ball. You win 82 percent of your games if you win the turnover battle. That’s the biggest thing that we’re going to concentrate on right now, and everybody competing to try and get better every day.”
Close your eyes, hear the gum chewing, the optimism in the voice… Yeah, that’s a Pete Carroll coach.
Again returning to the question of Cable, Morton has a history in offense’s running power, mainly with the San Francisco 49ers during their brief time as a dominant running team in 2011-2014.
Scapegoated by John Elway during the 2017 season for Elway’s failure to address the quarterback position, Mike McCoy is as attractive of an offensive coordinator candidate as anyone. With a history in Carolina, there’s a chance McCoy ends up with the Panthers if their expected move for Norv Turner falls through.
In addition to being a proven, successful playcaller, McCoy isn’t married to a single system. In his first stint in Denver as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, McCoy went from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning… which is about as big of a shift as a single offense can have. McCoy’s versatility as an offensive mind means he could potentially mesh with Cable if he’s retained and the zone-blocking scheme continues to be a huge part of Seattle’s offense moving forward.
The hiring of Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator would be a coup, however a short lived one. Considered to be the Kyle Shanahan to Matt Nagy’s Sean McVay this offseason, DeFilippo has yet to land a head coaching gig despite interviewing for the Chicago Bears job (that eventually went to Nagy). There’s a possibility DeFilippo ends up landing Indianapolis’s head coaching position, but if all head coaching vacancies are filled and he remains in Philadelphia, he would be the ideal candidate for the Seahawks as they transition to a more offense-centric team.
At just 39 years old, DeFilippo has the energy and command to lead a team already, but a season or two calling plays could be what it takes for him to land a head coaching job. If that’s the case, the Seahawks would be a terrific match. He would come into a steady organization with the quarterback in place and only slight re-tooling needed at the offensive skill positions. While I’m still hesitant to think Carroll would move for DeFilippo - Bevell’s tenure is proof of how much he values continuity - he is absolutely the best (potentially) available coach out there.
Just a year ago, Todd Downing was an up-and-coming quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders. Worried about losing him to the draw of an offensive coordinator position elsewhere, Jack Del Rio fired Bill Musgrave on the back of a strong season for Oakland’s offense, promoting Downing to coordinator. What followed was, well, the disaster that was the Raiders’ 2017 season.
Not retained by Gruden and his new staff in Oakland, Downing is a 37-year old with playcalling experience, just a year removed from being one of the most exciting young names around the league. While his 2017 represents a large black spot on an otherwise bright career, the potential hiring of Downing as offensive coordinator should be seen similarly to DeFilippo, but with the added likelihood it’s a several-years-longer partnership. The idea of a young, innovative offensive mind is a really exciting prospect for a team like Seattle that appears to be in transition, and Downing could absolutely fit that role. After taking the job as offensive coordinator with the Raiders, Downing spoke about the importance of one-on-one matchups, an important note for any future playcaller in a positionless NFL:
“I think I like to just look for matchups and try to exploit those matchups and let guys go win their one-on-one battles,” Downing said. “I think that the roster [we] have put together gives us the ability to kind of be a Swiss army knife and use whatever tool we need to.
The Swiss army knife he is referring to is Oakland’s offense last season, but more accurately describes an offense that has two difficult mismatches out of the backfield in McKissic and Prosise, as well as potentially a third in Graham.
Downing came up learning under Scott Linehan, who currently serves as the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, consistently displaying zone-blocking mastery up-front. His experience with Linehan means he could mesh with Cable, or alternatively offer continuity to an offensive line and offense who have ran the same running game for years.
Other names to watch:
Steve Sarkisian: Initially floated around on Wednesday morning as a possibility, it was quickly shot down by Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn. It always felt like a lazy connection, one made because of Sarkisian and Carroll’s history together, and Sarkisian’s less-than-stellar debut season in Atlanta.
Jedd Fisch: Brought up as a potential replacement for Sarkisian if he were to leave for the Seahawks, Fisch has a history with Seattle and Carroll himself, having served as the team’s quarterbacks coach for a season previously. He most recently served as UCLA’s offensive coordinator and subsequently interim head coach following Jim Mora’s firing, but won’t be apart of Chip Kelly’s staff moving forward.
Tom Cable: No.