Former Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith said Friday he was considering staying on before the team told him it was time to make a change.
While Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith said he had been thinking about retiring, he also said he was leaving the door open to return for another season.
That door, though, was essentially shut when he met with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a post-season meeting on Jan. 17, Smith said Friday in an interview on the Brock and Salk Show on ESPN 710 Seattle, his first comments since it was revealed earlier this week he will not return in 2017. Smith, who was a member of the Seahawks as a player from 1976-82 and as a coach from 2010-16, will be replaced by Chad Morton, who has been the assistant running backs coach the last two seasons.
Smith, 62, said Carroll told him he hadn’t been doing a bad job but that he just felt it was time to make a change and go with Morton — who is 39 — as the main running backs coach.
“We went in and had a meeting, Pete just started talking about he thought it was time about making a change,” Smith said. “And it surprised me because I thought I would be the one more or less leading the conversation — either saying I hadn’t decided to retire yet or I’m going to coach another year. But I didn’t think it would be him saying, ‘I want to make a change.’
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“You take with that evidently they are not happy with the job I’m doing. But he said that wasn’t it, he just wanted to make a change.’’
Smith said Carroll left open that he could stay on the staff in a different role. But Smith said when he met with Carroll two weeks later he told Carroll “I came in to be the running backs coach so I’m not going to do that.’’
Morton had been given more responsibility with the running backs this season and Smith said that when Morton came aboard the goal was that he would someday take over.
“In a sense, the goal was change,’’ Smith said.
As for why now, Smith said: “I think (Carroll) just wants more of that run-around type of energy that I can’t give. Heck, I’m 62 years old. I don’t run around like I did when I was 32. So I think that was important to him, and that’s where he went. I may not like it, but that’s his decision and I’m fine with it.”
Smith was a member of Carroll’s original staff in 2010, one that has undergone a fair bit of turnover the last few years — there are just seven assistants left who arrived with Carroll in 2010.
The running game took a significant step back in 2016, with Seattle ranked just 25th in the NFL at 99.4 yards per game after averaging at least 136.8 each of the previous four years.
Smith reiterated what were the obvious reasons for some of the falloff — a developing offensive line and injuries at the running back spot.
But he also said the loss of Marshawn Lynch was deeply felt throughout.
“No Beast Mode,’’ he said. “That made a difference. Marshawn made a lot of things that were wrong, right.
“. … Marshawn brought that intimidation factor, brought that awareness factor that this is a guy that you have to contend with. … And we didn’t have that this year. Teams came in this year saying, ‘I’m glad we don’t have to deal with Marshawn.'”
Smith said he thinks Thomas Rawls can be an able successor to Lynch but has to return to the style of running he showed in 2015.
“That was no fluke what he did,’’ Smith said. “The guy is a lot better than what people think he is, a lot faster, more elusive. I just think what he has to do sometimes is free his mind up. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself last year, just the expectations that ‘okay, I’m the guy.’
“Thomas put a little more pressure on himself that he wanted to make the perfect cut every time and when he didn’t he would get frustrated. … his rookie year he wasn’t worried about being the guy, he was just out there running and having fun and if he can get back to that he will provide a great running game for the Seahawks.’’
Smith said he doesn’t know what he will do next.
The Seahawks have yet to officially announce the change to their coaching staff, which also include a decision by assistant linebackers coach Lofa Tataupu to get out of coaching for now.
Additions to the staff could be made to replace Smith and Tatupu.
Smith, 62, was taken in the second round by the Seahawks in their initial draft in 1976 and played with Seattle through the 1982 season, gaining 3,429 yards on 810 carries, leading the Seahawks in rushing every year from 1976-79 and again in 1982. He remains seventh all-time in Seahawks history in attempts and rushing yards and is fifth in rushing touchdowns with 28.
After spending one season with San Diego in 1983 he returned to the Seattle area and was a teacher and coach at Redmond High for five years before getting into coaching at the college level in 1990 at Miami (Ohio). He entered NFL coaching in 1995 with Tennessee and was the offensive coordinator at Washington in 2008-09 under Jim Zorn. After Zorn was fired, Smith then was hired by Carroll with the Seahawks.