After Ben Johnson opted to stay in Detroit, I was asked on Twitter who I wanted instead. I said I didn’t know and needed time to think about it. After all, a couple of weeks ago I listed a top three of Johnson, Bobby Slowik and Mike Vrabel. None are in contention, after Slowik signed a new deal in Houston and Vrabel seemingly was never in the running.
I’ve slept on it and I’m still not 100% sure this is the right opinion to have but I’ll share it anyway.
I’m ready for the unknown.
My preference for this search was that the Seahawks would talk to a number of candidates and they’ve done that. I also wanted them to come out with a clear favourite, go after them and land them. I’m not sure they’re doing that, unless it ends up being that Dan Quinn was their target all along.
Tod Leiweke’s speech when Pete Carroll was appointed began by saying something along the lines of, ‘this will allow Seahawks fans to dream of Championships again’. I genuinely believed that in 2010. I’m not convinced any of the current remaining candidates will re-create that feeling.
Therefore, I want to dive head first into the mysterious. I don’t want a re-tread coach like Dan Quinn. I wrote about some of the positives about his candidacy two and a half weeks ago. I just don’t think he’s special. I think his time post-Shanahan in Atlanta is alarming. There were complaints about him not holding players accountable enough, he finished 0-5 before being fired. For all the deserved praise for hiring Kyle Shanahan, he had two goes at replacing him and failed with both.
Quinn’s a nice guy, extremely likeable, he’s said to be an excellent communicator — but I don’t think he’s a difference maker. Seeing Shanahan smirk about Green Bay’s demolition of Dallas in the playoffs was the final straw for me. He thrives on seeing his old boss beaten and I don’t want any part of that.
The Shanahanites take such a perverse pleasure out of embarrassing Dan Quinn.
My official ruling is that it’s still funny, but starting to get a little mean. https://t.co/o90CwpQ6xi
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 16, 2024
Then there was the note I received yesterday, from somebody who I trust, saying there’s some legitimacy to the Quinn/Chip Kelly talk. If true, the idea that these two are going to take the Seahawks to the pinnacle of the game feels like fantasy land stuff. It would be a complete energy vampire of a double-act. For all the talk of Quinn’s ability to build a great staff, that would feel pretty tragic. Meanwhile some of the better, more experienced staff on the market have already been snapped up by other teams because Seattle’s search has gone on a long time.
Give me Mike Macdonald or Mike Kafka instead.
I can’t say with any confidence I think either will be great. I’m intrigued by the talk around Macdonald. I think his character and personality are appealing and there’s clearly some tactical quality to his decision making and adjustments. I’m concerned about his ability to build a great staff, who his offensive coordinator will be, how that coordinator intends to drive the offense forward and as I noted in my recent article, there are things fans and media are not acknowledging with Macdonald as they’ve pinned their hopes on him being the saviour.
Even so, if — as Ian Rapoport suggested yesterday — Macdonald is viewed by some as a defensive version of Sean McVay, let’s roll the dice and see how it goes.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 30, 2024
I’m not a fan of going with a defensive coach again because I think the team has been built to be offense-centric. Rebuilding the defense could take a long time and it’d be easier to produce a complementary unit rather than a top-ranking unit. Without an innovative, dynamic offensive leader I worry that Seattle’s offense will stay average — leaning on the players for streaky success — and that the defense at best might only upgrade to middle-of-the-pack given the extreme work required on that side of the ball. Thus, you’re left with in totality an average team.
Even so, the options are so underwhelming that if John Schneider decides there’s something a bit special in Macdonald, let’s see how it goes. Just make sure you get the offensive coordinator position right and that there’s a clear, broad vision for what the Schneider/Macdonald Seahawks look like, rather than simply hiring the hot candidate on the best performing team from the regular season.
With Kafka, I’m equally torn. He would satisfy my preference to have an offensive mind at the helm. I like the fact Andy Reid speaks so positively about him. If you could get Ejiro Evero out of Carolina to be his defensive coordinator, that would feel like a great move. Often it isn’t the flashy hire that works — or the top performing coordinator. Kevin Stefanski was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator for a season and a half before taking over in Cleveland. He led the 10th best overall offense with the 10th best pass offense and 15th best rush offense in 2019. He’s not exactly Mr. Personality but has done a great job for the Browns.
It’s just hard to get excited about someone who is part of the New York Giants stench, having come off a poor season having seemingly been one of the victims of Brian Daboll’s reported toxicity. Listening to Kafka is a boring experience. He is not inspiring and will not get anyone excited. It doesn’t mean he can’t coach, though, and with the right support staff it could work, I guess. If nothing else — it’d be indicative of the Seahawks understanding they need to draft and develop a quarterback soon.
Going back to Stefanski, that’s kind of what I want. Someone who, when faced with a nightmarish quarterback situation in 2023 and the loss of his best offensive weapon in Nick Chubb, still produced a tough, physical, brutal brand of football that was creative and challenged opponents. He’s a coach of the year candidate and he’s already won it once, in 2020. I would’ve had no idea he was as good as he is based off his time in Minnesota, so if Schneider hires Kafka — I’ll embrace it and see what happens.
I really hoped there would be an appointment that united the fan base, had everyone excited and buying into the potential for the good times returning. That was probably a bit optimistic and naive. As the search has gone on, in classic passive-aggressive PNW, ‘Seahawks Twitter’ style, I think people have split into camps/teams and have argued for their positions, sometimes unfaithfully. I’m sure I’ll be accused of that too but I’ve also spent time reviewing several of the candidates and was always open about my preference from day one — and made my case for Johnson I feel, if nothing else, with reasoned arguments.
Now, I just want to know who’s replacing Pete Carroll. This has gone on long enough. Today’s the day. Let’s have a decision and move on.
I can’t shake the feeling though that this all feels very similar to some of Seattle’s free agency periods in recent years. Waiting for the process to come to them, being patient, not being overly aggressive. It’s how you end up swapping peak Frank Clark and streaky-yet-effective Jadeveon Clowney for Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier. I hope that actually, all along, Schneider has instead found his ‘Russell Wilson’. Someone we didn’t really talk about, kept in the background, who ends up being better than anyone could’ve imagined.
I’m surprised at how few offensive minds Schneider spoke to in this process. Two interviews with Ben Johnson, two with Kafka, one with Slowik and one with Frank Smith. That, to me, never felt like enough.
If you missed my day-one notes from the NFL Network broadcast of the Senior Bowl, check them out here.