Richard has been a part of Pete Carroll's staff since 2008 and also played for him at USC. Carroll appears to be hoping one of his most-favorite pupils can leave on his own terms.
The hectic events of Wednesday — the official firings of Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable — may have left some confusion regarding the status of defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
While one report stated that Richard had been fired the team did not include him in its statement Wednesday concerning Bevell and Cable.
That’s because that as of now, he has not been officially fired.
The expectation, though, is that he won’t be back.
Shakeup in Seattle
So why the wait in an official announcement?
Because Pete Carroll appears to be hoping he’ll find another job, thereby making a firing unnecessary — and leaving any mention of a firing off of the resume of a young coach he may feel as connected to as any other.
Richard, 38, has not only been with Carroll as a coach since 2008 — longer than all but one position coach (assistant offensive line coach Pat Ruel has been with Carroll since 2005) — but he also played a big role in Carroll’s career as a player.
Richard was a senior cornerback at USC in 2001 when Carroll became the head coach there and that season made a play that Carroll himself has often cited as one of the turning points in his coaching career.
USC started 2-5 that season and was locked in a tie at Arizona when Richard intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to ultimately win the game for the Trojans. The victory kicked off a four-game winning streak that got USC into a bowl game, and to Carroll was the beginning of just about everything that followed.
“When I look back on that night in the desert, I realized we had reached a crossroads we are all faced with now and then, where an opportunity presents itself for things to change forever,’’ Carroll wrote in his book, Win Forever. “I will always be grateful for that weekend when all seemed lost.’’
A few years later, when the Trojans returned to play at Arizona, Carroll brought Richard back and stood at the spot of the interception and re-told the story of that night to the players on that year’s team, telling them how he felt it was the moment that the USC program turned for good.
A few years after that, when Richard’s playing career ended, Carroll brought him back on as a coach in 2008.
Richard has been with Carroll ever since and with Seattle helped groom what decades from now will likely be what the Carroll-era Seahawks will be remembered for most — the Legion of Boom secondary.
Richard started at Seattle as assistant defensive backs coach in 2010, then became defensive backs and cornerbacks coach in 2011 and then simply oversaw all of the defensive backs from 2012-14.
When Dan Quinn left as defensive coordinator following the 2014 season to take over as head coach of the Falcons, Carroll’s choice to replace Quinn came down basically to Richard or linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.
Carroll picked Richard, who also had a heavy backing from the prominent members of the LOB, notably Richard Sherman, who whenever asked would say that he felt Richard should get consideration for head coaching jobs — endorsements that likely went a long way toward Carroll picking Richard over Norton.
It’s also worth remembering that Carroll was fired twice as a head coach and was part of staffs early in his career whose lack of success had him wondering where things were headed (in Carroll’s one year at Buffalo in 1984 the Bills went 2-14).
That history, one source said this week, heavily influences how Carroll handles staff changes — his preference, if it is decided that maybe a change is needed, is for it to somehow still be a win-win for all involved.
That is likely particularly the case here, given the long relationship between the two — the last thing Carroll probably wants to have to do is publicly announce the firing of one of his most prized pupils.
So why officially announce the firings of Bevell and Cable but not Richard, if Richard is truly not going to be back?
One difference may simply be their years of experience and background — each is well-established at this point with lots of coaching trees to cling to as they search for new jobs. Word had also gotten out about Bevell and was beginning to leak about Cable.
Word, of course, also is out about Richard.
As NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said Wednesday, the expectation is that Richard won’t be back with the Seahawks.
“Any time a head coach decides, ‘You are allowed to now go seek other opportunities,’ generally that means the person is not coming back,’’ Rapoport said. “And that is the case for Kris Richard. Very close relationship with Pete Carroll, but from my understanding, Pete Carroll believes that Richard will benefit from having a new coaching experience.”
The assumption there is that Carroll thinks the Seahawks could also benefit from having a new defensive coordinator, even if Richard has far more reasons to cite for any defensive failings this season than did the offensive coaches due to injuries to the likes of Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, as well as the late-season injuries to linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
But one thought is that some of the things that helped Richard get the DC job in the first place — specifically, his tight bond with many key players —may be a reason Carroll would now want to make a change. There locker room dynamic has changed in the last few years as some players have moved on and others have gotten older. There was the testiness with Sherman last year, the somewhat-bizarre Earl Thomas situations this year. Carroll may simply feel a different voice is necessary to keep things in control as the Seahawks try to recapture their past glory.
The Seahawks, as noted, have not officially confirmed anything in regards to Richard.
It’s also known, though, that the coaching staff remains under review and more changes are expected, Richard appearing likely to be one of them.
But as much as is possible in these things, it appears that if Richard has a ticket out of town, Carroll is hoping it’s one he is buying on his own.