The Oakland Raiders on Friday made official what had been rumored for the past week: Linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. left the Seattle Seahawks — and the man who brought him into USC and NFL coaching, Pete Carroll — to become the Raiders’ defensive coordinator.
The move comes four days after defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed Seattle to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Seahawks now need to replace their coordinator and a linebackers coach on defense, and possibly defensive backs assistant Marquand Manuel, who reportedly is joining Quinn’s new staff in Atlanta.
NBC Sports reported this week Quinn tried to get Seahawks defensive backs coach Kris Richard to join the Falcons’ staff, too, but that Richard chose to stay in Seattle to get consideration as Quinn’s replacement.
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Friday, KING 5 television in Seattle reported Richard is going to be Seattle’s new defensive coordinator. The team did not respond to messages from The News Tribune seeking confirmation.
The Seahawks’ players are rallying around a familiar place with these latest coaching defections: themselves.
“I'm sad and love ken norton but players play and coaches coach we will be fine!” Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin tweeted Friday.
Norton reunites with former Cowboys teammate Jack Del Rio, who recently became the Raiders’ head coach.
“Jack and I are old friends,” Norton told reporters in the Bay Area after Friday’s announcement. “We’re old teammates from the early Dallas Cowboys days, and we’ve certainly kept in contact over the years. I’ve been watching his career, and obviously he’s been watching my career. We’ve always talked about being able to put my time and energy and knowledge together as well as his and really come together and make a winner.”
Asked if he’s been looking forward to being a coordinator for a while, Norton said: “No question. One thing, I can really take my hat off to Pete Carroll. He’s really done a great job of when we’re there with him, he’s always preparing us to be coordinators, to be head coaches. He’s always having us look forward and do things that are important for us to continue our careers and keep improving ourselves. He’s always been preparing us for the next step.”
On Jan. 28, at the Seahawks’ hotel in Phoenix four days before the Super Bowl, The News Tribune asked Norton what his career aspirations were beyond this season. He has never been above a position coach since Carroll brought the former Super Bowl champion linebacker with Dallas and the San Francisco 49ers into coaching in 2004 as an assistant linebackers coach at USC.
Some were wondering if he was going to replace Quinn as the Seahawks’ coordinator because just about every person in pro football knew by last week that Quinn was headed to Atlanta after the Super Bowl.
“Now, see, you are trying to create a distraction,” Norton said, with a stern look. “We are trying to prepare for this game.”
Norton was known within the Seahawks’ locker room as being a masterful motivator of his young, impressionable linebackers, and he’d always spoke in glowing terms about each one, no matter their relative strengths, weaknesses, standout plays or mistakes.
But he remains something of an unknown strategically, and there’s a question of how he will fit in Oakland as the architect assimilating a multifaceted unit — something he never has done.
SHERMAN, CARROLL FEATURED IN USA NETWORK FILM
Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll were featured Friday night helping a kid who has lost both parents to AIDS in the debut of the fourth annual “NFL Characters Unite” documentary on USA Network.
NBC’s Emmy Award-winning commentator Cris Collinsworth , who just called Sunday’s Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, narrated the documentary.
The film showed Sherman, who got out of rough Compton, California, just south of Los Angeles to graduate from Stanford, joining with Carroll at the Seahawks’ headquarters in Renton to encourage a child named Tevin to remain committed to keeping out of trouble growing up. Knowing Tevin’s interest in cooking, Sherman arranged for him to participate in a local YMCA Teen Leadership Program and teach an activity in baking. Tevin received a five-year scholarship to continue to attend the YMCA and meet more like-minded kids and pursue his dreams.
“Growing up in Compton, you just deal with different things than I guess a regular neighborhood would deal with,” Sherman said last week before Super Bowl 49. “You deal with a lot more adversity, a lot more different pressures, I guess. Adversity, different things, diversity, different people trying to pull you in different directions.
“I didn’t realize every place wasn’t like that until you leave; until you leave and you visit other neighborhoods and you realize that other neighborhoods don’t just have drug dealers around and crack addicts walking down the street, and violence on a daily basis, police helicopters and things roaming around. Once you learn that, you’re kind of grateful for that environment in which you were brought up because you know if you can survive there, you can survive anywhere.”