There’s no need to mince words: Prior to the Seahawks Week 11 win over the Cardinals, the team’s defense had been pitiful. So much so that even after holding Arizona to just 21 points last Thursday, Seattle still ranks 28th in points allowed, 32nd in yards allowed and is on pace to allow more yards than any team in NFL history.
Ken Norton Jr., understandably, has been the primary recipient of the blame. That’s the nature of professional sports when things are going poorly. The reality is that Seattle’s defense has regressed in each of Norton’s three seasons as the Seahawks defensive coordinator. There’s a real worry in Seattle that Norton’s defense is going to keep Russel Wilson and a prolific offense from reaching another Super Bowl.
For the first time all season, Norton addressed his critics on Wednesday in an enlightened fashion as the son of the late Ken Norton, a longtime professional boxer.
“I was 6-years-old when my father gets knocked out,” Norton Jr. said matter-of-factly. “They’re always talking about things that are going on. I’ve been dealing with criticism and family issues through my father’s career, through his friend’s careers. So when it comes to me, I have a certain way to deal with it. I understand and I get it.
“Everybody loves a winner, and everybody has all the answers for the guys who aren’t playing well. I totally understand that, and I get it. It’s a matter of us taking care of our business. We take care of our business, we do our work and we play the way we’re supposed to and then you quiet the noise.”
Bobby Wagner came to Norton’s defense on Wednesday.
“We have a huge confidence in him. We believe in him. We don’t necessarily listen to the noise because the noise is going to be the noise. There’s noise every season,” Wagner said. “It’s not one person. It’s a collective group. Everybody that’s a part of the defense has a hand in that. You can’t just pin it on one person.”
The conversation of whether Norton deserves to be fired at season’s end is a nuanced one. Norton might pull some of the strings, but it remains Pete Carroll’s defense. Nothing happens, especially in big moments, without Carroll’s approval. The Seahawks head coach will also jump in and call a play himself if he feels passionately enough.
This is all moot if the win over the Cardinals is an indicator that Seattle has turned the corner defensively. Limiting Arizona to 21 points while containing Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins offers tangible hope that they’ve figured it out.
The emergence of Carlos Dunlap, the return of Jamal Adams and the impending return of Shaquill Griffin are headlines that should give Seahawks fans some confidence as well.
But Norton and the Seahawks won’t be given much slack from a fanbase tired of watching opposing offenses march up and down the field game after game. With the 24th-ranked Eagles offense next on the schedule, there will be no excuses for not replicating last Thursday’s success.