The fields at Seattle Seahawks headquarters last weekend teemed with rookies.
The ones with the greatest chance to affect the team’s success in the fall weren’t the draft picks nor the free agents.
Most of those guys are going to have a tough time landing on the roster, let alone snagging a starting spot.
But new to their jobs, or at least their titles, is a core of coaches on the defensive side of the ball.
Three assistants are new to the Seahawks’ staff, and two others have expanded roles, including Kris Richard as defensive coordinator and Rocky Seto as assistant head coach/defense.
The staff churn, unprecedented during the regime of coach Pete Carroll, is the best kind — the result of success rather than being forced to upgrade.
And Carroll is reputed to enjoy being in a position of coaching his coaches, causing him (scary as this sounds) to be energized by his work.
Top rankings for the Carroll-constructed defense have made assistants attractive to NFL franchises covetous of those with insights into the Seahawks’ defensive blueprint.
Successive coordinators Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn parlayed Seahawks success into head coaching positions.
Carroll had enjoyed impressive staff stability, particularly on the defensive side. But in addition to Quinn, the Hawks this offseason lost veteran linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. to Oakland and secondary assistant Marquand Manuel to Atlanta.
Quinn’s capacity for constructing schemes and connecting with players was widely hailed, while Norton brought an expectation of toughness to every practice.
The dangers of such losses are obvious, and were evident in Seattle during Mike Holmgren’s tenure as coach when his growing “family tree” of assistants being elevated to head coaches created a steady brain-drain off his staff.
It’s too early to speculate if the losses will diminish this year’s Seahawks.
After only three days of a rookie minicamp, the most obvious contribution of the defensive staff is energy.
Both Richard and linebackers coach Michael Barrow (past eight seasons at the University of Miami) add to Carroll’s collegiate practice environment with high-energy coaching.
Except for Barrow, the shuffled staff is unified by their links to Carroll, and lengthy experience with his defense. What better way to be sure coaches are quickly up to speed on the basics?
Even before joining Carroll on the Seahawks staff in 2010, Richard played for him at USC, and served as a graduate assistant there.
New linebackers coach Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl pick in Seattle, played for Carroll at USC and in his first season with the Seahawks.
Seto goes back to 2001 with Carroll at USC. And even new defensive line coach Dwaine Board, the most veteran of the staff, held that position with the 49ers in 1995-96 when Carroll was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.
As a rookie coordinator, Richard will face the most scrutiny. But before he left, Quinn lauded the way Richard helped nurture the “Legion of Boom” secondary. “He has had a huge impact on a lot of these guys,” Quinn said.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said of Richard: “The reason we respect him so much (is) because he kind of built the giant that we are now with discipline, attention to detail, and always keeping us humble and down to earth.”
If the trend continues, Richard will flourish as a coordinator, as neither Bradley nor Quinn had coordinator experience on their résumés, either.
It’s all easier to take over when the head coach is of a defensive mindset, like Carroll.
Of an even greater benefit is that the returning defensive unit, more than when Bradley and Quinn took over, is littered with Pro Bowl talents.
They don’t need a coach to remind them how to practice every day, or prepare to be ready at kickoff time every week. These returning players are fully schooled on the schemes and have established their own high level of expectations.
Although that part about being talented at keeping them humble and down to earth could come in handy for Richard.