Multiple reports Monday said the Seattle Seahawks will hire Ken Norton, Jr., as defensive coordinator, replacing Kris Richard. Norton is a longtime assistant under Pete Carroll, coaching linebackers at USC from 2004 to 2009 and in Seattle from 2010 until the Oakland Raiders hired him as their defensive coordinator before 2015.
With Kris Richard likely out, the Seahawks are expected to turn to Ken Norton Jr as defensive coordinator, sources say. All indications are he’ll be back in Seattle, where he was the team’s LB coach from 2010-14.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 15, 2018
BREAKING: I just got off the phone with Ken Norton Jr’s wife who told me her husband, Ken Norton Jr, just signed a 3 year deal to be the @Seahawks Defensive Coordinator. Not sure what this means for Kris Richard. Story developing. pic.twitter.com/RhtvUJbveA— Alex Rozier (@AlexRozierK5) January 15, 2018
Kris Richard was rumored out as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator last week, but the team made no formal announcement as it did with changes to the offensive coaching staff. Richard has apparently been considered for opportunities elsewhere around the league, but has also been suggested he might return to Seattle in a lesser capacity (Richard coached defensive backs at USC and on the Seahawks before his own elevation to defensive coordinator in 2015). The organization still has not confirmed its plans with Richard or Norton.
Despite a talented defense featuring 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, as well as former linebacker under Norton in Seattle Bruce Irvin, recent top draft picks Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu in the secondary, and Marquell Lee upending former four-time All Pro NaVorro Bowman at middle linebacker, the Raiders were 32nd in defensive DVOA when Oakland fired Norton in week 11. The unit then improved greatly without Norton in charge, finishing the season 20th in weighted DVOA. Norton’s group never finished better than 15th in the defensive efficiency category.
The Raiders finished 2017 31st in creating turnovers, and oddly didn’t record a single interception before Norton’s dismissal. Oakland defenders picked off 5 passes in the remaining six games. But turnovers can be particularly fickle and Norton’s unit finished with the second most turnovers in 2016.
Norton was briefly on the San Francisco 49ers staff as linebackers coach before getting his second chance to run a defense in Seattle.