The technician that built the “Legion of Boom” by grounding it in fundamentals will now get the chance to do the same with the Seahawks’ entire defense.
The team announced Monday afternoon what became known last week: the promotion of Kris Richard from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. Richard replaces Dan Quinn, who left last week after two seasons leading the NFL’s top-ranked defense to become the coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s a continuation of a rocket-like career trajectory for Richard (pronounced rish-ARD). He just finished his fifth season coaching Seattle’s secondary, after being coach Pete Carroll’s graduate assistant at USC through 2009.
Last month Richard said his goal was to become an NFL head coach. Now he’s moved to one step below that for the two-time defending NFC champions.
“He makes us quickly forget about all the accolades. He knows how to bring us right back down to earth,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said last month. “I think he has the respect of the whole room being how he was the one who came in the beginning with all of us. With a fifth rounder (Sherman), and Kam (Chancellor) is just a fifth rounder, (former Seahawk) Brandon Browner is a Canadian Football (League) player, the only first round guy that anyone ever knew about was Earl (Thomas). Now everyone is like, ‘Oh you guys have this big-time secondary. You guys are cheating.’ Where were you guys at in 2011— when no one knew us from nobody?
“I think his growth with us through that process to where we are now is the reason we respect him so much,” Sherman said of Richard, “because he kind of built the giant that we are now with discipline, attention to detail, always being on it — and always keeping us humble and down to earth.”
The Seahawks also announced Michael Barrow, a former 13-year NFL veteran and an All-American at the University of Miami, as their linebackers coach. Barrow has been the linebackers coach for the Hurricanes for the past eight seasons. He replaces Ken Norton Jr., who became the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders on Friday.
Barrow, a second-round choice by the Houston Oilers in 1993, played with Houston, Carolina, the New York Giants, Washington and Dallas through the 2005 season.
Seattle also announced former Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu is returning to the team as an assistant linebackers coach. Tatupu played for Carroll at USC and then six NFL seasons for Seattle, including in Super Bowl 40 in February 2006. Injuries cut short his comeback attempt to play for Atlanta in 2012.
The Seahawks also added Carroll’s son, Brennan Carroll, as an assistant offensive line coach. Brennan had been a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator on the same staff as Barrow with Miami. He is the second son of Carroll on Seattle’s staff; Nate Carroll is an offensive assistant.
Brennan Carroll spent the previous four seasons at the University of Miami as its national recruiting coordinator. He was tight ends coach for two seasons there, and wide receivers coach for the past two. He began his coaching career in 2002 for his dad at USC.
Richard’s promotion is a continuation of popular coaches who have proven to be great communicators being in charge of the Seahawks’ defense, which has its core guys locked up with contract extensions. The approach is working; this season Seattle’s became the first unit to lead the NFL in fewest points and fewest yards allowed for three consecutive seasons since the 1969-71 Minnesota Vikings.
Quinn intimated recently that Richard is likely to continue the Seahawks’ defensive system: relatively simple concepts with few pre-snap adjustments, which frees unencumbered players to use selected skills to play quickly and more aggressively.
“I think one guy we don’t talk about enough is Kris Richard,” Quinn said last month. “He has developed and had a huge impact on a lot of these guys. We have real belief in our system in terms of style and how we play. There’s so many things that a new player or a young player might get caught up in all the different ways, so we really try to feature what the guys do best.”
At the start of Carroll’s five-year regime in Seattle, the defensive players loved coordinator Gus Bradley. When Bradley left to be the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2013 season, Quinn kept those communication lines open from coordinator to defenders.
Now it’s Richard, who in his five seasons on Carroll’s staff has become close with the stars of Seattle’s brash secondary.
“It’s just a mind frame. We talk about greatness. We love each other, Coach Richard … we’re technicians,” Thomas, the All-Pro safety, said last month. “Grace, skill, God-gifted, all of that, the way we communicate.”
Chancellor has become a Pro Bowl strong safety under Richard.
“Kris taught me a lot. That’s a guy who’s definitely a student of the game,” Chancellor said. “He definitely strengthened my faith a lot. He’s always been in our favor, always been for us. He just has our best interest and put us situations where we can capitalize on our strengths.”
Carroll takes pride in how he develops his assistants for bigger and better opportunities. He is particularly proud of Richard’s rise through his coaching system.
“Kris, we go way back to his playing days at USC, as well as here,” Carroll said two weeks ago. “Kris has done an extraordinary job. He’s an excellent secondary coach. Everything you can look at to evaluate that jumps out at you, the way these guys have achieved, the camaraderie that they have, the high level of play that they’ve maintained for a long time, the stats and all that kind of stuff. Kris does a fantastic job.
“He’s a real product of our system. … He has gone beyond maybe what normal expectations for such a young career for him. We rely on him heavily.”
Never more than now. This is his chance to see how his skills translate to and coordinate with every position on Seattle’s stacked defense.