Tom Pelissero is reporting that the Seahawks have arranged second interviews with Ejiro Evero, Patrick Graham, Mike Kafka, Raheem Morris and Dan Quinn. These will all be in person next week.
On the surface it’s an underwhelming group but there are a few things that need to be pointed out.
Firstly, Pelissero adds, “There likely will be others too. A thorough process.” Thus, this doesn’t appear to be the final short-list. Relax, breathe. Of the initial batch, only Frank Smith is absent of the names they originally spoke to.
They reportedly only initially interviewed Bobby Slowik today, so it’s plausible they simply haven’t had an opportunity yet to digest that conversation and arrange a second interview. Ben Johnson, who they spoke to yesterday, is still coaching in the playoffs. He wouldn’t even be available to fly to Seattle this week with the Lions preparing for the NFC Championship game. They’d have to wait until the week after next to meet with him in person, regardless of the result between San Francisco and Detroit.
The Seahawks don’t need to announce any planned interview with Mike Vrabel. As a free agent, he can come to Seattle at any point. They’re reportedly interested in a meeting, even though no date has been revealed.
It’s possible to potentially rule out one candidate. It’s never been reported that Mike Macdonald was sent an interview request. This is telling. Sunday was the deadline to interview candidates virtually, enabling teams to setup second interviews during Super Bowl bye week if the coach was still involved in the playoffs.
This means should the Ravens win next weekend, the Seahawks wouldn’t be able to talk to MacDonald until after the Super Bowl. Surely if he was in contention, they would’ve setup an initial virtual interview before today’s deadline, allowing them to meet with him in two weeks time?
Here’s my take on Macdonald. It’s gone very quiet with him and potential NFL vacancies. Has it become known to teams that he’s being lined up to replace Jim Harbaugh at Michigan? He was the defensive coordinator there in 2021. The Wolverines are going to need a coach if/when Harbaugh bolts for the NFL.
His name hasn’t been connected to any NFL teams for a while now. Do they know something? Or, perhaps he has removed his name from contention for another reason? Either he doesn’t feel ready, or maybe the Ravens are setting up a plan for him to replace John Harbaugh one day? After all, there was a succession plan for GM Eric DeCosta to replace Ozzie Newsome.
Either way, it doesn’t look like Macdonald is bound for Seattle, even for an interview let alone to replace Pete Carroll. Instead it seems like the next Head Coach will come from the list of Evero, Graham, Kafka, Morris, Quinn, Johnson, Slowik or Vrabel.
Personally, my vote would be to still go all-out to lure Johnson to Seattle — even with all the talk connecting him to the Washington Commanders. Always compete, right? They have to try and pull out all the stops. The only problem is, how long can you wait? Teams are starting to make hires now and they get the advantage in terms of being able to go and recruit staff. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to miss out on staff hires. A case in point, by making the Super Bowl last season, the Eagles lost both coordinators late in the process. Many of their favoured replacements, such as Vic Fangio, had gone elsewhere. They had to settle, with disastrous consequences. If they think Johnson is set for the Commanders, you can’t wait around just to miss out. None of the other candidates are still involved in the playoffs and can be hired at any point.
Johnson has a track record of driving major production out of Detroit’s skill players. The Seahawks, rightly or wrongly, have invested in receivers and running backs, plus a pass-blocking left tackle. The success Johnson is having in Detroit is transferable based on personnel. Plus, the Lions’ two starting guards are both free agents and could be signed to bolster the O-line.
Yesterday’s performance by Houston in Baltimore doesn’t change my thinking about Slowik as an alternative. Did people really expect anything else? Baltimore — a heavy home favourite, the best team in the NFL, with the MVP at quarterback, comfortably handling an upstart, young, overachieving team with a rookie QB and first-time Head Coach? This isn’t exactly Dan Quinn and the Cowboys laying an egg against the Packers.
Despite the great pitch from Les Snead for Raheem Morris (perhaps partly inspired by the fact the Rams will get draft compensation if he departs) I’m not sold on what he’d bring to Seattle. He’s clearly charismatic and well liked but he led the 22nd ranked defense this year (per DVOA) despite having Aaron Donald. Rams fans are hardly singing his praises as a coordinator.
Kafka, Evero and Graham would be head-scratchers for Schneider’s career-defining move. Quinn still feels dangerously plausible given how often it’s been touted that he was lined up to one day replace Carroll. To me that would be such an underwhelming hire. It’d remind me of this article posted on NFL.com in 2017 ranking the coaching hires. Anthony Lynn was ranked first, ahead of Sean McVay (#2) and Kyle Shanahan (#4) because of his prior experience, staff building and leadership. Meanwhile, McVay and Shanahan were labelled risky. This is all sounds very familiar.
I can’t shake Quinn’s spell in Atlanta, where he was 24-29 without Shanahan, was fired after an 0-5 start to the 2020 season and was regularly criticised for blowing big leads and not holding players accountable for consistently poor play. His success as a coach feels tied to three things — the LOB, Shanahan and Micah Parsons. I don’t see him usurping Shanahan or McVay and, as we’ve seen in the last week, Shanahan seems to thrive on seeing his old boss beaten.
Vrabel wouldn’t feel as underwhelming as Quinn. His time in Tennessee arguably ended due to mitigating circumstances. When your GM trades away A.J. Brown, gets fired for it, then the interim GM looks after the next draft, but doesn’t get the job full-time, then another guy takes over, plus Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry just get old — none of this is conducive with success. I think Vrabel could be interesting — and it’d be different, which is a good thing — but so much would depend on who’s calling plays offensively. He seems to have a good reputation among those in the league.
I wonder if there’s an ulterior motive to some of the announced list of second interviews. We’ve talked about this before. Evero, Graham, Kafka. Is it possible that, while taking those candidacies seriously, the Seahawks are conscious that all three could be available as potential coordinators and/or assistant Head Coaches? You bring them in, create a connection, sell the franchise. The Panthers and Raiders may allow their defensive coordinators to depart as they transition to new regimes, while the Giants have become so toxic, it might be difficult for them to reject a request from Kafka to move on.
If nothing else, it’s an interesting thought. Pairing either of Evero or Graham with a younger offensive mind at Head Coach would be a coup, if it’s at all possible. Asking Kafka to bring an Andy Reid-style offense to Seattle to go with a Vrabel type would also have some appeal. I get the sense Schneider is itching to draft a quarterback, either this year or next, and having someone on staff with experience of developing a QB will be vital.
Nevertheless, many Seahawks fans will be hoping the team expands the reported list quickly. It’s not exactly a group that screams ‘brave new exciting era’.