Changes to the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff continue, with the team expected to hire Ken Norton Jr. as defensive coordinator and Mike Solari as offensive line coach, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Norton would replace Kris Richard, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Richard has served on the team’s coaching staff for the past eight seasons, including the past three as defensive coordinator. Earlier reports indicated Richard wasn’t expected to return.
The San Francisco 49ers hired Norton as their assistant head coach/defense and inside linebackers coach last week, but the team released a statement on Monday, saying it was allowing him to leave for an unspecified coordinator job elsewhere.
“Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense,” the statement read. “Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position.”
Norton, 51, is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton Sr. The younger Norton was a linebacker for 13 seasons in the NFL and remains the only player in the Super Bowl era to play on three consecutive Super Bowl champions, winning two titles with the Dallas Cowboys and then one with the 49ers.
Richard’s expected departure comes after Seattle’s defense regressed statistically in 2017, a season in which they lost three Pro Bowl starters on that side of the ball — Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril — to season-ending injuries. The Seahawks finished 11th in total defense and tied for 13th in points allowed. They were second and fifth in total defense in Richard’s first two seasons as coordinator. They were first and third in points allowed, leading the league in scoring defense for the fourth straight season in 2015.
The 38-year-old Richard played cornerback for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC for one season and played in the NFL for four seasons, including his first three with Seattle. He got his start in coaching on Carroll’s USC staff as a graduate assistant in 2008.
KING TV in Seattle first reported that Norton is joining the Seahawks. NFL Network was the first to report Solari’s hiring, which was later confirmed by ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
Those moves come amid expectations that Seattle is hiring Brian Schottenheimer to be its offensive coordinator, a source told Schefter. Schottenheimer would replace Darrell Bevell, with Solari replacing Tom Cable. Bevell and Cable were fired last week after seven seasons apiece with the Seahawks.
With the hiring of Norton and Solari, the Seahawks are reaching into their past to remake their coaching staff. Norton was the team’s linebackers coach from 2010-14, having followed Carroll to Seattle from USC. He left to become the Oakland Raiders’ defensive coordinator in 2015 when he was essentially passed up for the same job in Seattle in favor of Richard, who took over the role when Dan Quinn became head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Norton was fired in November with the Raiders defense ranked 26th in the NFL. At the time, they were also tied for 21st in points allow.
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright posted a photo on Instagram of him and Norton from his first Seattle stint, saying: “Time to finish what we started! Welcome back coach.”
Solari was Seattle’s offensive line coach in 2008 under Mike Holmgren, and in 2009 under Jim Mora. Solari left the team in 2010 when Carroll replaced Mora, and coached the 49ers’ offensive line from 2010-14. He served in that role for the past two seasons with the New York Giants after a stint as the Green Bay Packers’ assistant offensive line coach in 2015.