One of the questions throughout the Raiders process of finding a new Defensive Coordinator was how much influence head coach Jack Del Rio would have in the calling of the defensive plays. And after several weeks of interviews, they found their man in Ken Norton Jr, formerly the linebacker coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
Norton Jr said Del Rio will very much be involved in the way the handling of the defense but that Norton Jr will be making the play calls on game day.
"Well, there's no question anytime you have a defensive head coach he's always going to be involved," said Norton Jr. "I've had that with all my years with Pete Caroll. They're certainly going to be involved, very informed and kind of leading the way, there's no question about that. Certainly with Pete Carroll being my mentor and Jack Del Rio a guy that we played together and we kinda grew up in the same type of ideas on how to attack offense and how to protect yourself on defense. I have certain ideas that I have that I know that works, he has certain ideas that he has he knows that works and we're gonna bring them together and obviously make them the Raider way."
"There hasn't been a formal discussion, but just in my early meetings with him, his plan is to continue to groom me and I'll be making the calls."
Norton Jr and Del Rio have known each other for some 25 years and are each familiar with the other's style and personality. And each has had their individual careers and successes since then both as players and as coaches.
"Jack and I are old friends, we're old teammates from [our] early Dallas Cowboy days and we kinda kept in contact over the years. I've been watching his career and obviously he's been watching my career and we've always talked about being able to put my time and energy and knowledge together as well as his and really come together and make a winner."
The level of success that Norton Jr has had of late is that of two trips to the Super Bowl as linebackers coach in Seattle, winning the first and nearly winning back-to-back Super Bowls. That's the kind of experience Del Rio would like to bring to the Raiders.
"We've had a lot of success," Norton Jr said of the Seahawks. "You watch our defense over the last few years, how physical, how smart, how dominating they've been up front, out hitting, out hustling and doing all these aggressive things. You know Jack has an outstanding background with his defenses as well. So my philosophy combined with his philosophy, we're going to sit down in a room and just work it out and make it the Raider philosophy."
Prior to this week, he and the Raiders had not formally discussed his coming to the team as Defensive Coordinator. That was mainly because the Raiders were exploring other options such as Mike Smith, Eric Mangini, and Todd Grantham. But for whatever reason, none of those candidates worked out.
That's when the attention shifted to Norton Jr, but they had to wait until the Super Bowl was over to bring him in. No sooner was the Super Bowl was over, but Norton Jr was on his way to Alameda to meet with the Raiders. He flew in on Monday and met with the team.
This will be Norton Jr's first time calling plays at any level. Though after eleven years as a linebackers coach both at the college level at USC and the pro level in Seattle, his time is due.