Cliff Avril played only one season with Clint Hurtt as his defensive line coach, and it was an injury-shortened season at that, but the Seahawks Legend knew right away that Hurtt brought more to the table that most defensive line coaches.
"Coach Hurtt is awesome from a standpoint of, most D-line coaches are just that, just D-line coaches," Avril said in a phone interview after the Seahawks promoted Hurtt to the defensive coordinator role. "They don't usually pay attention to the back end as far as coverages or even what the linebackers do. And I found it very interesting that, from Day 1, he understood coverages, he understood where the linebackers fit in everything. So I'm not surprised at all that he's getting this opportunity to be D-coordinator, because he's always understood the entire defense, and not just what the guys up front do, which isn't a common thing."
Hurtt was only 38 when he joined the Seahawks, meaning he wasn't too much older than veteran defensive linemen like Avril and Michael Bennett, but he quickly won his player over—he and Avril have since become close friends—by respecting how they did things while also not being afraid to challenge them with new ideas.
"The coolest thing was seeing the respect that he had for veterans like myself and Michael Bennett," Avril said. "He didn't come in and try to change too many things up—he did and we pushed back and little bit, but he was receptive. He wasn't just one of those guys who was going to say, 'It's my way or you've got to go.' It was, 'OK, this is how you guys used to do it, this is how I would like to do it, let's find the happy medium in between,' and he worked with us on that. I think that's why he and I have built such a close relationship is because that respect factor. He wasn't just trying to take over, he was willing to learn from the players as well."
Respect for player doesn't mean a lack of accountability however, and as Avril pointed out, Hurtt wasn't afraid to tell it like it is with players, a trait that will be even more important when he's in charge of an entire defense.
"Players, and veteran players in particular, they like someone who's going to be honest with them, who's not going to sugarcoat it," Avril said. "Hey, if I had a bad play, tell me it was a bad play. He's a straight shooter, and I think that's what's most appreciated with him. He's a straight shooter, he's going to tell you how he feels, he's going to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear, and he's going to hold his guys accountable. That's huge for someone in that position to have those qualities."
And while Hurtt's approach worked well with veterans like Avril and Bennett, it also can win over young players just starting out in the NFL. Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, a first-round pick of the Bears in 2016, had Hurtt for a position coach as a rookie prior to Hurtt joining the Seahawks, and more than five years later, he still remembers fondly that one season learning from Hurtt.
"I love Coach Hurtt, man," Floyd said during Super Bowl week when asked about Hurtt by ESPN's Brady Henderson. "He was a great coach for me coming in my rookie year. I was sad (Chicago) didn't bring him back after my rookie year. I had like seven sacks my rookie year. Coach Hurtt, he really showed me a lot. He's a special coach to me."
The promotion of Hurtt, was just part of a significant change to the defensive coaching staff along with the addition of two young defensive assistants with different backgrounds, associate head coach Sean Desai, who most recently was the defensive coordinator of the Bears, and secondary coach/defensive passing game coordinator Karl Scott, who prior to one season with the Vikings in 2021, spent four years at Alabama working under Nick Saban.
That combination of ideas and different schematic backgrounds—Desai and Hurtt both worked under Vic Fangio, one of the game's most respected defensive coaches—to add to Pete Carroll's own defensive prowess, could lead to exciting things for the Seahawks defense in 2022.
"When you bring in other people from other organizations, who are honestly big fans of (Carroll's) anyways and probably have taken things (Carroll) has done, and then add their own twists to it, bringing those types of people in is great for the growth of the organization and where this defense can go," Avril said. "Collectively, when you have a coach like (Desai) and someone like Carroll who's more of a DB type coach, then Coach Hurtt being a guy who's up front, all three of those combinations will allow this defense to excel on a different level, because it's not strictly focused on one particular area; now we're focused on all of them, and when you put them all together, it can be something special."
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.