RENTON – The Washington Redskins might want Darrell Bevell to be their next head coach. So, too, the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.
A few weeks ago, though, in his current role as offensive coordinator of the Seahawks, all Bevell wanted was a yard against the Arizona Cardinals on third-and-goal.
And when a play-action pass went awry in a key sequence of an eventual 17-10 defeat, Seahawks fans didn’t much care that Bevell is regarded as one of the hottest, up-and-coming assistants in the NFL. These days, he’s on the list of just about every team that has a head coaching vacancy.
At that moment, they weren’t interested in hearing that throughout the NFL, Bevell receives handsome credit for crafting an offense around the talents of Russell Wilson that has led Seattle to two of its four highest-scoring seasons in franchise history the past two years. He did so this season despite a spate of injuries to the offensive line and receivers.
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They just wanted to know what the heck was up with that call.
Truth be told, in a quieter moment as he endlessly watched the film, so did Bevell.
As the son of longtime Phoenix-area coach Jim Bevell, Darrell Bevell has understood what comes with the territory of a high-profile coaching position.
“Criticisms from the outside, you kind of don’t even look at it,’’ Bevell said. “I mean, I know I have a hard job because I think everybody feels like they can call plays, whether it’s the guy in his living room or the people in the stadium. But there is a rhyme and reason why we do everything. There are certain things we are looking at, whether it’s a run or a pass. A lot of times you are trying to set some things up (for later in the game), as well.
“And really, I’m my own worst critic. I like to go back and look at everything I do. Why did I do that? I know there are situations I wouldn’t want to do that again.’’
Then he cited the third-and-goal play against Arizona, which ended in a short missed field goal and a 3-3 halftime tie.
“I would have liked to have made a different decision,’’ he said. “But that’s going to happen. But I want to learn from it. I want to study why we do it. How can I make sure to put us in a better situation the next time and be able to grow and learn from it?’’
It’s that ability to smoothly ride out the inevitable highs and lows of an NFL game and season that stands out to those who know Bevell.
“He’s a guy that’s so consistent on a daily basis,’’ said Wilson. “He’s so poised in big situations, whether they’re good or bad. He’s always believing in your guys.’’
Being groomed to be a coach from almost the moment he was born surely helps.
In a family of eight kids (he has three brothers and four sisters) whose lives revolved around sports and the Mormon religion, Bevell says he began watching film of football games with his father “as young as I can remember. Back to the 16-millimeter days of just one little button going back and forth, sitting in one of our living rooms, and asking him questions every now and then about what he was looking at, why he was looking at it.’’
He dreamed then of being a player and became a standout quarterback at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., playing for his father. An injury his senior year, though, limited him to three games and left his best scholarship offer from then Division I-AA Northern Arizona. He redshirted his first year before leaving on a two-year church mission. In his one year at NAU, though, he made a connection with then-NAU assistant Brad Childress that would prove critical to his future.
By the time the mission was completed, Childress was an assistant at Wisconsin, and asked Bevell to follow him to Madison. Bevell immediately won the quarterback job and started for four years in a style that today would likely have him described as a “game manager.’’ The highlight of his college career was leading the Badgers to a Rose Bowl victory over UCLA in 1994. (Fun fact: the first start of Bevell’s college career came in a 27-10 defeat to open the 1992 season against Washington at Husky Stadium.)
“What he does best is lead,” then Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said during Bevell’s playing career, “The other players have developed trust in him. He knows how and when to make big plays.”
In the first hard lesson in the realities of the game, though, Bevell went unselected in the 1996 NFL draft, a rejection he indicates still stings more than any social-media criticism he gets for play-calls these days.
“I’m still disappointed to this day,’’ he said. “I was just very competitive. I loved to play. … I probably ended up just not being good enough. But I started all four years at Wisconsin and (in the last game) my senior year I’m playing against (Illinois defensive ends) Kevin Hardy on one side and Simeon Rice on the other side and they went (nos. 2 and 3) in the draft. And then one day later, I’m not good enough to play against them anymore? I just didn’t understand it. I would still take an opportunity if they gave it to me.’’
He had brief free-agent stints in camps with the Dolphins and Raiders. But with a wife, and a daughter on the way, he decided to get into coaching, where Wisconsin contacts helped lead to his first college job. Four years later, he was hired as an offensive quality control coach with the Green Bay Packers, helping with the quarterbacks, one of whom, Brett Favre, was older than Bevell.
He lasted six years there, before coach Mike Sherman was fired. Childress, though, was named head coach of the Vikings, and Bevell was quickly hired as offensive coordinator. He worked five years with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, before Childress was fired following the 2010 season. That led to an interview in Seattle with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who had decided not to bring back Jeremy Bates. Bevell had never met Carroll other than a trip once to USC to scout some of Carroll’s Trojans players.
“That was a real interview,’’ Bevell recalled. “Some of them, you go there and you kind of know pretty much what you are getting into. But this one was a real, legitimate interview. Coach had very inquisitive questions. He was digging. He wanted to know a lot of things.’’
Bevell got the job, though he’s hardly alone in constructing Seattle’s offense. Offensive line coach Tom Cable spearheads the team’s running game while Bevell coordinates the passing attack. On game days, Bevell said “there is a lot of give-and-take there and real open communication’’ as they decide on plays. As the one holding the offensive coordinator title, though, Bevell tends to get the credit, or the blame, for what does or doesn’t work.
Mostly, there’s been credit this season as Seattle finished tied for eighth in the NFL in points per game at 26, scoring 417 points, more than any teams in franchise history except the Super Bowl year of 2005 (452) and the 12-4 season of 1984 (418).
And that was with prized offseason acquisition Harvin playing just one game, receiver Sidney Rice playing just eight, and injuries causing Seattle to start five different offensive-line combinations and play with its projected starting line just seven times.
Following the 2012 season, Bevell was mentioned as a candidate at both Arizona and Chicago, after which the Seahawks gave him an extension and a raise. With a family that now includes three daughters — two of whom are softball players at Issaquah High School — Bevell is far from restless in Seattle.
As any assistant, though, at some point he hopes to be the one running the projector for the entire team.
“Someday I would really like to do it,’’ he said. “I’m learning and I love the people I have been around. It’s been awesome to be around coach Carroll because I think he does things the right way. Each and every stop along the way, I learn something from it. At some point, when I get the opportunity, I want to be ready for it.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.