Clint Hurtt began coaching football not long after his playing career came to an end at the University of Miami, and as he rose through the ranks at the college level and then in the NFL, he set a high goal for his career.
"My ultimate goal is to become a head coach," Hurtt said.
Hurtt took a big step towards that ultimate goal this offseason, earning a promotion to the Seahawks' defensive coordinator, a move that, as he puts it, is "obviously this is a step in the right direction to go onto that ultimate goal. So I'm really, really excited about that."
And while the 43-year-old Hurtt may very well be an NFL head coach in the not-so-distant future, his immediate goal is to get the most out of a Seahawks defense that has been up and down the past two seasons, playing very well for stretches while also struggling at times.
Hurtt has high expectations for what Seattle's defense can be this year, but perhaps the biggest question following several changes to the defensive coaching staff is just what Seattle's defense will look like from a schematic standpoint with Hurtt taking over. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, one of the most respected defensive coaches of his era, has long overseen a defense that runs a 4-3 scheme and plays a lot of cover-3 defense, though the Seahawks have changed things up more in recent years, particularly last season when they frequently played with a five-man front.
Hurtt, meanwhile, has learned under Carroll for the past four seasons, but prior to that he spent more time coaching on defenses that employed 3-4 fronts, including two seasons in Chicago during which he worked under Vic Fangio, another very well-respected defensive coach. Will that mean a wholesale change to Seattle's defense? Not likely, but Hurtt does intend to blend some of what has worked so well in Fangio's defenses with Carroll's schemes that produced some of the best defenses in NFL history.
More than anything, however, Hurtt wants a defense that plays with aggression.
"The 3-4 system is something that I've really embraced, obviously Vic Fangio being a big influence on that," Hurtt said. "So with that being said, there are going to be some element of that—I would say we're going to be multiple. One thing that is going to be significantly different this year, we are going to be aggressive. We want that. The aggressiveness is going to have to come from our guys up front getting after the passer, continuing on being strong in the run game like we have been in last few years. That's the mentality of a defense that we want to have, and our players respond to that mentality. Obviously, that comes down to one, how you coach it, and two, how you call it. So the aggressiveness and attacking offenses, but at the same time challenging the quarterback and making it hard on him not just with a rush but also with coverage. That's where we're going to be and that's what we want to make big improvements."
So will more aggressive equate to more blitzing under Hurtt? He confirmed that is likely, but that aggressiveness needs to come from a style of play as much as it does from the play-calling.
"Will we blitz more that we did last year? My answer to that would be yes. Would it be an inordinate amount, something crazy? No, it's not going to be that," Hurtt said. "A lot of that is in the mentality in which you play. You don't want to be soft, you want to be aggressive in how you play coverage. It can be a four-man rush and dropping seven, there's a mentality that comes along with it and also the types of coverages you're playing—not being so zone-y, being more aggressive with things, whether it's in zone or man coverages, things of that nature."
While this offseason, like any other in the NFL, will feature some roster turnover, Hurtt doesn't think the Seahawks need to make a major overhaul, personnel wise, to match what he wants to do on defense. Yes, there will be additions and subtractions made in free agency and players added in the draft, but the main priority is finding ways to maximize the talents of the players already on the team.
"What we just have to do is continue to get better," Hurtt said. "We have to continue to bring in competition, which I know Pete and John (Schneider) will do. The biggest improvement has to happen with the guys who we know are going to be here. And those guys, there's no question in my mind, they're going to continue to work to do that… It's all about affecting the quarterback, and how do you do that? You do that with coverage and rush, or vice versa, rush and coverage working together, so that's where we want to continue to make strides and continue to improve."
And when it comes to getting the most out of the talent already on the team, Hurtt knows one big priority will be finding the best ways to utilize All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, who possess a unique skillset as a pass rusher.
"Jamal is still a difference maker," Hurtt said. "How we use him, that's going to be on me. It's our responsibility, my responsibility to make sure we put him in positions so he can be at his very best, and we know how great he is at doing that. The other side of it though, and to his credit, as the season progressed, we put him in situations that really was not his background, so you have to give him some leeway in understanding that he was in a new world last year with some of the things he was doing, playing a quarter safety or half field safety and the adjustments he had to make along the way. And he really improved in that aspect throughout the course of the season. He's going to continue to get better, and obviously there's multiple things he's got to be able to do so the quarterback can't always peg him for just being one particular type of way. Jamal is a smart enough guy that he understands, it's not just going to be about his ability to blitz and run fit and do those types of things, it's the different techniques and coverages that he has to that he has to play, but making sure it's something that he's really exceptional at besides just rushing the quarterback and blitzing."
A big reason Hurtt is excited about the upcoming season for the Seahawks isn't just the presence of talented players, but also the coaching staff he'll be working with, on that includes the addition Sean Desai as associate head coach-defense, and Karl Scott as the defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach. Hurtt was particularly excited to add Desai, with whom he worked for three seasons in Chicago, where Desai was most recently the Bears' defensive coordinator.
"I worked with him for three years in Chicago, so we already had a great relationship," Hurtt said. "So when the opportunity came for us to have him with us, it was a no-brainer. Because obviously if someone you have a relationship with, someone you trust… This is not about just me or one sole person. When you're in a position of leadership, great leaders understand how to be able to delegate and trust those that you're working with to help you put things together for ultimate success, so to be able to get him here was a home run. So I appreciate Pete and John getting that done.
"His nickname was Doc, just to put everybody on that, so he's a really sharp he's a sharp guy. He definitely sees things differently. In terms of how you're going to handle route pickups, any type of run-pass conflict issues that you can have, whether it be a safety or (inside linebacker), things that can help that player out to make his job easier. He's really good with that, just seeing the different ways that offenses are trying to attack you. I know how much Vic leaned on him when we were there… He's just somebody I can go to during the course of the game and say, 'It feels like this is what they're doing to attack us in slot formations in X, Y, and Z,' and he can come back and say, 'OK, this might be a really good idea.' He's somebody I can trust and try to bounce stuff off of, coverage wise, when there could be an issue in the pass game. He's really good with that, a clear communicator, sees the game really, really well. There's a lot of guys who are good coaches that don't see the field when things are going within the game; that's something he was outstanding at in our time together in Chicago."
The Seahawks announced changes to their coaching staff on Tuesday, including the promotion of Clint Hurtt to defensive coordinator. Take a look at every member of the 2022 staff.