By Nick Shook
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Ken Norton Jr. is reuniting with Pete Carroll.
With Kris Richard on his way out of Seattle, Norton is returning to the Seahawks as the team’s defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday. Norton served as the team’s linebackers coach from 2010-2014 before leaving to become Oakland’s defensive coordinator in 2015.
In addition to Norton, the team named former Colts quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer as its new offensive coordinator and Mike Solari as its offensive line coach.
Fans of the San Francisco 49ers might jump out of their seats and say “wait, but he just joined our staff!” That’s correct — Norton’s hiring as assistant head coach on Kyle Shanahan’s staff was announced Jan. 8 — but Norton has an out in his contract that allows him to take the Seattle defensive coordinator job, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
The 49ers released a statement acknowledging Norton’s consideration of external opportunities.
“Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense,” Shanahan said. “Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position.”
Norton has history with Carroll that stretches beyond the NFL. The former linebacker served as linebackers coach under Carroll at USC from 2004-2009 before leaving with Carroll for Seattle in 2010. The assistant rode the wave caused by Seattle’s defensive success to his defensive coordinator position with the Raiders, but after a second-straight disappointing season — even in Oakland’s 12-4 2016 campaign, the team finished 26th in yards allowed per game — he found himself on the way out alongside fired head coach Jack Del Rio.
Norton is returning to a familiar boss in a familiar place with a defense that is built to continue its upper-third play in 2018. That same unit retains proven personnel playing in a scheme Norton knows quite well, making this an ideal move for the coach who had to know this was a possibility all along, considering the reported terms of his contract.