SEATTLE – Add a fourth name to the Seahawks’ list of potential new defensive coordinators to replace the fired Ken Norton Jr. – Joe Whitt Jr., the secondary coach and defensive passing-game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Seahawks put in an official request to interview Whitt on Wednesday, according to a report from the NFL Network.
It was reported that the Seahawks have put in requests to interview Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai. Each works for teams whose head coaches have been fired, leaving them in limbo and possibly needing a new job. Sources have also said Seahawks defensive-line coach and assistant head coach Clint Hurtt will be considered.
Whitt has no previous ties to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, but he did work for two seasons at Green Bay when Seahawks general manager John Schneider was there, part of an 11-year tenure with the Packers.
Whitt, 43, just finished his first year with the Cowboys under former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is the DC.
Whitt also worked under Quinn in a similar role with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020, which means he has ample familiarity with the Seahawks’ way of doing things as Quinn has continued to use many of the same concepts as he did during his two years as the DC in Seattle in 2013-14.
Dallas was seventh in points allowed this year and first in interceptions with a whopping 26 while also holding teams to 6.2 yards per pass attempt, fourth best in the NFL.
The Seahawks had just 23 interceptions the past two seasons and creating more turnovers is known to be something Carroll is looking for in a new coordinator.
Whitt was at Green Bay in 2008-18, working in 2009-17 as secondary and cornerbacks coach and in 2018 as defensive passing-game coordinator. (Schneider came to the Seahawks in 2010, meaning his paths crossed at Green Bay with Whitt in 2008-09.)
Whitt spent the 2019 season in Cleveland as the passing-game coordinator/secondary coach.
Whitt’s father, Joe Whitt Sr., was an assistant at Auburn for 25 years in a variety of roles, all on the defensive side of the ball. Joe Whitt Jr. played at Auburn as a receiver, walking on before earning a scholarship.
The known list of candidates makes for two who have close ties to Carroll – Hurtt and Donatell, whose association with Carroll goes back to when each was an assistant at the University of Pacific in 1983; and two who do not – Whitt and Desai.
Desai just completed his first season as the defensive coordinator with the Bears after taking over for Chuck Pagano, who retired following the 2020 season.
Desai has been with the Bears since 2013, serving as defensive quality-control coach from 2013-18 and safeties coach for two seasons before taking over as DC.
While the Bears did not rank highly in turnovers forced in 2021 – they had 16, two fewer than the Seahawks, to rank 29th in the NFL – they did excel in another area that Carroll has said will be key for the defense going forward: sacks. The Bears had 49 this year to rank fourth in the NFL compared to Seattle’s 34.
Three of the four candidates – Donatell, Whitt and Desai – have spent most of their career working with the secondary. Hurtt has worked with linebackers and defensive line.
The Seahawks also fired passing-game coordinator Andre Curtis, who was a defensive backs coach for the Seahawks for three years before taking on the coordinator role in 2018. The Seahawks could be looking at some of the names on their DC list to fill Curtis’ role, as well.