When Kris Richard was playing cornerback for the Seahawks 10 years ago, he knew he wanted to coach at some point. He just never expected it would happen with the Seahawks, where he now oversees the best and deepest secondary in the National Football League.
“No. No way did I ever envision this,” Richard said Wednesday, sitting behind the desk in his office at Virginia Mason Athletic Center studying video of the St. Louis Rams – the Seahawks’ opponent this week on “Monday Night Football.”
“I completely recognize the grace of God in this whole ordeal. I always knew I wanted to be a coach, I just never knew where.”
But here Richard is, coaching the All-Pro tandem of free safety
And where does Richard fit into all this?
A large smile spreads across Thomas’ face as he offers, “Kris is the leader of it. It’s so crazy how he keeps us in check. He keeps us in tune. He keeps us connected to the game. He’s very motivational, and he’s wise beyond his years.”
Added Browner: “Oh man, Kris is the most intricate piece of the whole thing. He gets us ready, week-in, week-out. He doesn’t take crap from us, you know what I mean. He approaches us all the same way, whether it’s Earl all the way down to Fenner, a guy who hasn’t even played. Kris knows how to get the best out of each of us. He’s a good coach. He knows football, the X’s and O’s. He’s played the position. So he’s the perfect guy for us.”
Like the secondary Richard coaches, the connection between coach and players was a work in progress.
Coach Pete Carroll refers to the road that has led Richard to his current position as “a remarkable ascent.”
Richard played his final season at USC in 2001, which was Carroll’s first season as the Trojans’ coach. After being a three-year starter at USC, Richard was a third-round draft choice by the Seahawks in 2002 and played two more seasons before spending one season with the San Francisco 49ers. Then it was back to USC as a graduate assistant on Carroll’s staff in 2008-09. When the Seahawks hired Carroll in 2010, Richard was part of the package deal – first as the assistant defensive backs coach for a season, then as cornerbacks coach for a season and now as the defensive backs coach.
What first attracted Carroll to Richard as a coach? “Kris is really a bright guy,” Carroll said. “He was always a really smart football player. Those guys show up and they can talk the game, and they have good insights and you can tell they stand out from the normal guys.
“Kris was very obviously that. Really, really bright guy. Was inquisitive. And had a good motor in terms of his work ethic and all that kind of stuff. And he also had a lot of confidence, too. All of those things made him a really good prospect to be a good football coach.”
And all of that has led to Richard having his fingerprints all over all the good things the Seahawks’ secondary is doing. The Seahawks rank second in the league is average passing yards allowed (190.6) and interceptions (11), and also have held opposing quarterbacks to the second-lowest passer rating (66.1) in the NFL.
“Kris is doing an incredible job,” Carroll said. “And he’s coaching one of the best groups around. He’s shown that he relates to them really well. He’s very demanding. And he’s at the cutting edge of what’s going on.”
Thomas concurs, and in his fourth season he’s playing as well as any defensive player in the league – not just any safety or even any defensive back.
“His knowledge of the game and understanding of the game is so crazy. I just try to pick his brain as much as possible,” said Thomas, who leads the Seahawks in interceptions (four) and tackles (47). “Kris has helped me grow so much. I can’t say enough about it. You can tell he played before. He understands what we’re doing, what we’re supposed to be doing, on several levels.”
It takes a deft, as well as strong, hand to control a secondary that features the talent and personalities the Seahawks have assembled.
“And he does it well,” Browner said. “You’ve got so many personalities in this group and so many attitudes that you’ve got to manage and keep intact. He does a great job of that. We all buy in. We trust in him, as a coach who knows what he’s doing. He gets the best out of us.”
For Richard, it’s a dream that has become a reality – and he credits Carroll, passing game coordinator Rocky Seto and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., who he also coached with at USC; as well as his assistant, Marquand Manuel, for their part in his success.
It’s also allowed Richard to look at football life from only two prime perspectives – as a player and coach at USC, and as a player and coach with the Seahawks.
“How awesome is that?” he said through a smile. “And I didn’t have anything to do with it. I just showed up.”
That, of course, is selling himself short. Because as everyone from Carroll to Thomas will tell you, it’s Richard’s efforts that are helping the “Legion of Boom” show up so often and so well.