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Jan 10, 2024 8:10 pm

Take 5: Top Seahawks candidates to replace Pete Carroll

SEATTLE — Pete Carroll’s 14-year tenure as the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach coming to an end on Wednesday may have come as a shock on the national stage, but it was more of a mild surprise to close observers of the franchise.

Carroll, 72, is heavily revered in the Pacific Northwest. He led the Seahawks to their lone Super Bowl title after the 2013 season and posted 11 winning seasons — including a 9-8 record this season.

However, there were cracks in the facade in recent years. Seattle has won just one playoff game since 2017, and the team has struggled to execute on two Carroll principles — running the ball consistently and playing physical defense.

This season, the Seahawks ranked 31st in rushing attempts while giving up the second-most rushing yards on defense. It was a combination that all too often led to Seattle scraping by in games it was expected to win and getting blown out by the two No. 1 seeds — San Francisco and Baltimore.

So, who will general manager John Schneider turn to in order to return the franchise to true contender status in the NFC?

Among the seven head-coaching vacancies, Seattle figures to be among the most attractive with a roster that boasts a solid young core that includes book-end tackles on the offensive line and star rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, among others.

Five Seahawks Coaching Candidates:

5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Head Coach
Harbaugh will be on the tip of the tongue for every vacancy until he lands a new NFL job or decides to return to the Wolverines. There are pros and cons when evaluating Harbaugh with the Seahawks.

The Pacific Northwest is across the country from his brother, John, in Baltimore, but it’s also in a separate conference, meaning they wouldn’t have to square off often. Jim would also be handed the reins of an offense with two capable young running backs and in a division where he’d get to face his former team, San Francisco, at least twice a year.

4. Mike Vrabel, ex-Titans Head Coach
Vrabel checks a lot of boxes as a defensive coach known for instilling a hard-nosed culture in Tennessee, built on his days playing for Bill Belichick in New England. He’s also still only 48 and led the Titans to three playoff appearances in six seasons. It’s still unknown if Belichick will return to New England for the 2024 campaign, and if Vrabel would be the Patriots’ top choice if he doesn’t.

3. Chris Petersen, ex-Washington Head Coach
This was an interesting name out of left field floated by former Huskies and Seahawks quarterback Brock Huard on 710 ESPN radio in Seattle shortly after the news of Carroll’s departure as coach surfaced. Petersen resigned as Washington’s head coach in 2019 after six years at the helm of the Huskies.

Now 59, Petersen has spent the past several years as a television analyst and as an advisor for Washington, where he aided in the hiring of current Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer. It’s a longshot, but this could be Petersen’s best — and perhaps final — opportunity to try his hand as an NFL head coach if the desire is there.

2. Mike Macdonald, Ravens Defensive Coordinator
If Schneider is longing for the days that the “Legion of Boom” dominated football games, then Macdonald might be his man to replace Carroll. The 36-year-old Macdonald was on John Harbaugh’s staff for seven seasons before spending a year with Jim Harbaugh as Michigan’s defensive coordinator in 2021. He returned to Baltimore as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

Baltimore finished the regular season first in scoring defense, tied for first in takeaways and first in net yards allowed per pass attempt. The Ravens boast the type of fast, physical style that Carroll’s units simply lacked in recent seasons. The discrepancy between the two units was on full display for Schneider in the Ravens’ 37-3 shellacking of the Seahawks in Baltimore in Week 9.

1. Dan Quinn, Cowboys Defensive Coordinator
All early signs point directly at Quinn, who reportedly already has plans to talk to the Commanders, Panthers and Chargers about their coaching vacancies.

Quinn, 53, served as Carroll’s defensive coordinator for two years — both resulting in Super Bowl appearances led by the “Legion of Boom” secondary — before landing the head-coaching job in Atlanta. After three years as Dallas’ defensive coordinator, Quinn is already on the short list of names for several teams, and his Seahawks ties could make for a natural fit to carry the torch.

–Derek Harper, Field Level Media

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