I will make you Hurtt
How Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt got from Gates Chili to Seattle, Washington: Seaside Joe 1546
I’ve long lived my life by the philosophy that it’s a waste of emotion and energy to instantly react to an event or situation and judge that it must have been “really good” or “really bad”. Getting fired from your job? It could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Winning the lottery? It could be the worst.
That’s why I like food. We recently went to one of the best steakhouses in Los Angeles and you know what? It was really good. That’s a value judgment that I actually can guarantee.
When Clint Hurtt got an offer to play football at the University of Miami in the late ‘90s, that was a cause for celebration. Had he known that his college playing career would be short-lived and his time at Miami soon forgotten, would that have made it easier to accept his fate?
When a knee injury ended Hurtt’s football career, surely that was a disappointment. But if he hadn’t gotten that chance to get an early start on his coaching career, first rising through the college ranks, then advancing to the NFL, and now a 44-year-old defensive coordinator with plenty of time left to potentially run his own team if he can turn the Seahawks defense around soon, perhaps Hurtt would have viewed the worst day of his life as a player instead as the first day of his life as a coach.
Clint Hurtt is entering his second year as the defensive coordinator and seventh year as an assistant coach on the Seahawks, so as we run through the origin stories of Seattle players, I feel it would be a good time to get a refresher on the guy who is responsible for putting many of them in a position to succeed.
From recruiting Teddy Bridgewater to Louisville, getting in trouble with the NCAA, and taking a page from Vic Fangio, this is a brief history on Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.
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Imagine if you could have gone to ‘Gates Chili’ high school
The only thing cooler than being a Gates Chili student would be if your name was Chili Gates. Now that would make a great athlete name.
But Hurtt settled for just being a standout football player at Gates Chili in Rochester, New York in the mid-90s prior to transferring to Milford Academy as a senior to continue his development as an athlete and person.
In a 2020 article by Democrat & Chronicle, teacher Donna Bazer described Hurtt as a kid who had some issues acting out (the story mentions his mother passing away prior to him moving to Rochester to live with his father) but showed a desire and willingness to mature.
“When he was younger, he had problems acting out, and then he came back to the high school and he was a teenager who would push the boundaries a bit,” Bazer said. “But you could see that he was somebody who wanted to better himself. When Martha and I tried to rein him in, he allowed himself to be reined in and that was the wonderful thing. He didn’t push back. He appreciated the love and attention that we had for this guy that we saw so much potential in, and he appreciated that and responded to it.”
High school coach Jim Briggs, still close with Hurtt, described him as “a first-class kid” and the football team won the “Section V Class A championship” in 1995 with Hurtt on the All-Greater Rochester roster that season. Still, Hurtt acknowledges that he wasn’t always the easily-coachable person that he became and the team leader that he is today.
“Oh absolutely, because when I was in high school, anybody that knows me knows I definitely wasn’t where I’m at now,” he said. “I was a bit of a hothead and I still had a whole lot of growing up to do. They were always very direct with me when I wasn’t right, but they were also patient with me, almost like mothers in a sense, and I’ve always remembered that.”
Hurtt was getting attention as a football recruit and then transferred to Milford, eventually choosing Miami over “dozens of scholarship offers” despite how badly his father didn’t want him to move all the way to Florida. But getting far away from home is what Hurtt wanted and he was elated to be a part of a Miami recruiting class that would soon help the team become of the strongest programs in the nation.
“I knew once I went down to Miami, the personalities of the players and the guys that were going to be in my freshman class, it just fit.”
The Hurricanes did have a lot of success under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, but Hurtt would be playing for Butch Davis and Miami went from 1995 to 1999 without a 10-win season which is a big deal for them. Either way, Hurtt wouldn’t play much of a role for a team that featured teammates like Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, and Santana Moss.
At the U (as player and coach)
As mentioned before, Hurtt’s career as a Miami football player has far fewer footnotes than his stint as a Miami football coach in later years.
He spent three years with the team prior to a “severe knee injury” that ended his NFL dreams. However, it did allow him to start his career as a coach, first by working two years as a student assistant beginning in 2001 under new head coach Larry Coker.
That season, Miami went 12-0 and won the national championship capped off by a 37-14 Rose Bowl victory over Nebraska. The roster featured players like Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Ed Reed, Phillip Buchanon, Vince Wilfork, Antrel Rolle, and Jonathan Vilma.
With Sean Taylor at safety in 2002, the team again played for a national championship but this time lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Ohio State and finished 12-1.
Hurtt officially became a Miami graduate assistant from 2003-2004, with the U going 20-5 over those two seasons, then he got his first job as a position coach by going to Florida International University in 2005 to coach defensive line when FIU moved up to Division-IA for the first time. Though FIU went 5-6 in their inaugural Division I season, the NCAA retroactively vacated all of their wins that season because of “major violations in the football program”. Essentially, ineligible athletes were allowed to play.
Hurtt would spend only one season under Don Strock at FIU before going back to Miami in 2006 and coincidentally (I think), a brawl broke out between the two crosstown schools in a game that October, an incident that resulted in 31 one-game suspensions for both teams combined.
First major college coaching stint and recruiting scandal: Miami 2006-2009
Despite Miami firing Coker in 2006 and replacing him with defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, Hurtt was able to retain his job as DL coach in 2007. Shannon himself played at Miami in the late ‘80s and was an assistant defensive coach for the Hurricanes during Hurtt’s playing days.
Not only would Hurtt coach the defensive line but he became the recruiting director, which would be a blessing and a curse.
As a coach, times were not good enough by Miami’s standards. The Hurricanes went 5-7, 7-6, 9-4, and 7-6 during Shannon’s four years at the helm. But Hurtt did get to work with some notable defensive linemen, including Calais Campbell, Allen Bailey, Sean Spence, and Olivier Vernon.
But Hurtt was also in charge of recruiting and that got him some major accolades—and eventually bad attention—in the future:
Hurtt is the man who orchestrated the recruitment of Miami's No. 1-ranked recruiting class in 2008 and has been responsible for recruiting some of our best players over the years. In his role as defensive line coach, he has coached former Hurricanes Vince Wilfork, Damione Lewis, Calais Campbell, Baraka Atkins, and many others.
As of late, the defensive line play has not been where it needs to be, but you can argue that youth and injuries have played a major factor in that area. The main reason this stings a bit is because the Hurricanes were hoping to finally enjoy some stability on their coaching staff.
It was at the time of that article that Hurtt was leaving Miami for Louisville, where he would again coach defensive line and be in charge of recruiting players, which then included quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Teddy Bridgewater is taking his talents to Louisville, Ky.
The nation's No. 2 dual threat quarterback and a top recruiting priority for the University of Miami before Randy Shannon was fired decided over the weekend according to his mother he will be following his Miami Northwestern teammate and favorite receiver Eli Rogers to Cardinals Country. Both players were recruited by former UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt.
"Man, more than anything it came down to playing time," Bridgewater told Scout.com "With me enrolling early I can come in and compete for a starting spot. When I visited I had nothing but love from all the coaches but especially coach Hurtt and coach [Charlie] Strong."
Strong, a longtime defensive coach at Florida, was hired as the head coach at Louisville in 2010 and managed to get Hurtt to join him after Shannon was fired from Miami in 2011. That also helped Strong land Bridgewater, who immediately took over as the starting quarterback as a true freshman and then Hurtt was named “recruiter of the year” by ESPN for his work. In 2012, the Cardinals improvd from 7-6 to 11-2, and then the next year they went 12-1.
But it wasn’t all good, with Hurtt then being investigated by the NCAA and found responsible for recruiting violations while he was still at Miami, which would mean he could also no longer recruit for Louisville:
However, in 2013, an NCAA investigation found Hurtt guilty of several recruiting violations committed during his time at Miami and it led to sanctions, including a ban on recruiting for Louisville.
The issues stemmed from his relationship and dealings with U of M booster Nevin Shapiro, according to reports:
A source told Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com that the NCAA had called defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt about some dealings he had with University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. Hurtt was an assistant at Miami before coming to Louisville three years ago.
This isn't a complete shock for Louisville fans. In August of 2011, Shapiro told federal agents that Hurtt was a part of several recruiting violations and NCAA violations including being paid to bring recruits to Shapiro's mansion and taking interest-free loans.
Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports, “Clint Hurtt became a really good friend of mine. He kept me posted on what was going on with the recruiting inside the university. I lent Clint $5,000, which consisted of two $2,500 payments. One, I wrote him a check. The other I gave him cash. He repaid both loans to me.”
Sports Illustrated went further:
The NCAA also said Shapiro loaned Hurtt and a Hurricanes volunteer recruiting assistant at least $7,025. Hurtt received an interest-free $2,500 loan in April 2009 and repaid it four months later.
He also sent 41 text messages between 2007 and 2009 and made several phone calls to recruits in '07 that the NCAA considers impermissible.
But ultimately how serious are these allegations and to what degree can former USC coach Pete Carroll pass judgment? At the end of the investigation, Hurtt and the U were reprimanded by the NCAA to the degree that they felt necessary and relatively it wasn’t that bad; Strong stood by Hurtt and Louisville didn’t fire him despite not being able to recruit for them for at least a year and he was subject to a few rules and requisite meetings.
However, it was partly a result of these sanctions that caused Hurtt to finally jump from the college ranks to the NFL (he wasn’t allowed to accept another college position than his current one at Louisville for two years) and I go back to my previous belief: We can’t predict what’s actually “good news” or “bad news” when the news drops.
Said Hurtt at the time: "My ambition is to build a career in the NFL. I made a mark in recruiting and coaching at the collegiate level, but I think I can improve my career and begin a new one in the NFL."
Hurtt goes to the Bears
When Charlie Strong left Louisville for Texas in 2014, that’s also when Clint Hurtt decided to try his coaching talents out with the pros and I can find quite a few compliments for his coaching methods and styles from his college days:
WE don't stray too often from our commitment to be "the fan voice for UofL women's sports"... but after hearing Clint Hurtt speak to a capacity crowd at the June Sportsmen's Supper Club meeting...we are fired up about UofL 2011 football.
Clint Hurtt is what is what is right about UofL athletics and the passion involved toward the sports provided at Louisville. To hear him speak about college athletes in general is awe-inspiring. To hear his story on the path that led him to UofL as the football teams defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator is magical.
Clint Hurtt "gets it" and isn't shy about telling you about it.
We've heard the raves and rants about how well he sells himself, the University of Louisville and life itself to potential college athletes. Until Thursday night, though, we never had the chance to hear him pour his heart out about his passions and beliefs.
I wish I was 18 years old again and a D1 prospect worthy of his attention. This man is for real. I'd follow him to Alaska.
(Emphasis my own)
And from a 2009 article while he was at Miami:
When Clint Hurtt or Micheal Barrow stand on the sidelines at practices or at games, they are looking for more than just effort and big plays. They want to know about his character. They want to know: How does this recruit interact with his teammates? Is he a leader, a good follower or is he a selfish player? What are his eating and preparation habits? Does he work hard in the classroom and the weightroom? Is he a knucklehead? Can I trust him? Is he smart or are we going to have to babysit him?
And let’s not forget how players like Bridgewater described being recruited by Hurtt when he had countless colleges vying for his services. The man just knows how to motivate. Former Louisville player Lorenzo Mauldin:
"He's taught me pretty much everything I know, and I wanted to oblige that by inviting him to Senior Day to walk me out with my family," Mauldin said after the Cards topped Kentucky in their regular-season finale. "... I hope to talk to him throughout my entire life."
Mauldin also said that Hurtt taught players how to properly handle adapting and to ‘just play your game’:
“Dealing with a guy like Coach [Clint] Hurtt, he was our former D-Line coach at Louisville, now coaches for the Bears, dealing with him, we always got our butts whipped about not finishing and listening to outside people and being able to cope with that type of stuff,” Mauldin explained. “He’s taught us so well to forget that type of stuff and just play your game wherever you are. He told us at Louisville, ‘They may change your position when you get to the league. You have no control over that unless you don’t want your paycheck.’”
He also won me over with some of his own words, like writing this post on Facebook—yes, remember when people posted on Facebook?—when trash talking Kentucky while at Louisville:
"Alright I had some idiot Kentucky fan say to me we need to get ready for the Wildcats because their young players got better because they play in the SEC ..." Hurtt posted to his public Facebook account. "I said correction you don't play in the SEC you just participate. You only play when you actually WIN."
That’s the real fun of football. I’m only made that he deleted it four hours after he posted it.
Hurtt was hired by the Chicago Bears in the second and final year of head coach Marc Trestman, who in 1995 coordinated “opposite” of Pete Carroll as the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. And the Bears defensive line coaching job was only open because Trestman fired Mike Phair in 2014, who was on Seattle’s staff when Carroll took over in 2010. Carroll kept Phair on as a defensive assistant for one year prior to him going to Chicago.
It was during that first year that Hurtt coached alongside Sean Desai and also got to work directly with veteran Jared Allen, as well as Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Jay Rattliff, and Stephen Paea. The Bears would fire Trestman after the season and replace him with John Fox, who also hired Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator but retaining assistants like Hurtt and Desai.
However, what did change was his role as Fangio moved him from defensive line to outside linebackers, which is where he stayed from 2015-2016. That put him directly in charge of Chicago’s top pick in 2016, Leonard Floyd, who had seven sacks in 12 games as a rookie.
Hurtt mentioned the influence that Fangio had on his schemes when Pete promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2022:
"The 3-4 system is something that I've really embraced, obviously Vic Fangio being a big influence on that," Hurtt said. "So with that being said, there are going to be some element of that—I would say we're going to be multiple. One thing that is going to be significantly different this year, we are going to be aggressive. We want that. The aggressiveness is going to have to come from our guys up front getting after the passer, continuing on being strong in the run game like we have been in last few years. That's the mentality of a defense that we want to have, and our players respond to that mentality. Obviously, that comes down to one, how you coach it, and two, how you call it. So the aggressiveness and attacking offenses, but at the same time challenging the quarterback and making it hard on him not just with a rush but also with coverage. That's where we're going to be and that's what we want to make big improvements."
So good was Hurtt as an assistant in Chicago that when offensive coordinator Adam Gase was hired to be the head coach of the Dolphins in 2016, he tried to hire him to become Miami’s defensive line coach but was blocked by the Bears. They had no problem letting some others go.
But his time with Fangio would be short, just two years, prior to joining Pete’s staff in 2017 when the timing was just right.
There’s not much I need to say to Seahawks fans about Hurtt’s time in Seattle. Either that or I think enough has already been said to catch fans up to speed on some Clint Hurtt history that you may not have known about already.
In 2017, the Seahawks hired Hurtt as defensive line coach, moving Travis Jones to “Senior defensive assistant” and then in 2018 added the Assistant Head Coach title shortly after parting with Rocky Seto, Tom Cable, and Michael Barrow over the previous couple of years.
“I’ve had great head coaches that I’ve worked for, or even played for, for that matter, so getting that opportunity with Pete was a big deal to me,” Hurtt said. “I knew it was a long way away, and I’d never been on the West Coast, but I think you can’t be afraid of change if it can help you grow professionally.
“You would never know that he’s the oldest coach in the league. The guy has energy and juice every day that he brings to work. A very passionate guy, never gets too high, never gets too low. He stays very consistent with his emotions and how he responds with his coaches and the players, and it’s something I appreciate.”
In 2018, the Seahawks got 10.5 sacks from Jarran Reed and 13 sacks from Frank Clark, allowing them to trade Clark to the Chiefs in 2019 for first and second round picks. To be completely fair, Seattle has had issues with their defensive line for most of the last five years but they’re hoping that recent investments now pay off with Hurtt as the defensive coordinator and Damione Lewis as the defensive line coach. Will Tukuafu is also serving as an assistant defensive line coach.
There are reasonable questions to be answered about the effectiveness of the 3-4 alignment in 2022 and whether or not the Seahawks have the personnel capable of being a top-five defense again like Pete hopes they will be become. But not questions about Hurtt’s ability to motivate, to teach, and to inspire people to believe in him and put their trust in him, not only the players but also the many coaches and organizations who keep coming back to him in spite of his flaws.
The Seattle Seahawks defensive was bad last season. Because they knew it, acknowledged it, and made some changes to it, maybe being bad will be the best thing for everyone.
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Great read, Thanks-
I have really been stumped as to what failed last year on the defense especially against the run. Early on Josh Jones at safety was a major contributor of missed plays and then replaced by Neal after he came off being injured. Diggs may have been still coming back from injury as his first quater wasn't so hot. Seattle did improve for awhile, then from the Tampa game on was a disaster epecially against the run again. So what were the problems. From the film I saw was poor LB play at times and missed tackles across the board. Failing to seal the edge and being able to run through the gut of the defense. The worst of both scenarios.
I watched the video on Fangio's defense that Max put up and came up with some of my own uneducated conclusions. Seattle was really counting on stellar Safety and LB play which honestly didn't really materialize. Adams MIA, and Wagner's departure played a role in that. Seattle added a real Fangio disciple Desai (now with Philly DC) as assistant head coach, along with a 3-4 scheme and nothing really seemed to jell, yet Philly makes him their new DC? One would have to assume that most of the fault last year 25th ranked defense lies with Hurt (league opinion?). During his years with Seattle as DLine and other positions Seattle has ranked defensively 14th, 11th, 22nd, 15th, 12th most of that under Norton to 26th last year under Hurt. Seattle added Roy Anderson who coached DB's at Minn last year and worked with Karl Scott our defensive passing coordinator in the past. The passing defense ranked 26th for Minn in 2022.
Well if that doesn't call for a Rolaid I don't know what does, but before I sink the ship let me take a few things into context. Minn had a new headcoach last year and a new DC Ed Donatell (Fangio disciple).
2022 was the first year with a true 3-4 scheme for Seattle. Seattle had problems at LB and safety. D Line with the ends just didn't get it done. Some of the problem was the nose but Al Woods actually had an Ok year 68.2. (Mone was 52.7..ohhh)
Seattle added Jones and Reed at DT in FA. Safety Love FA and Reed drafted at safety. Young at NT and Morris at DT in the Draft. 1 guy from the XFL at NT and the guy from the Chargers. Wagner back with Devin Bush at LB. Rhatigan returns from IR all last year along with Vi Jones and right now Brooks is projected to be at camp. Adams...well enough said.
The question that arrises is this:
Did Seattle not adjust the scheme accordingly to the team they were playing?
Was year one too much confusion with the new scheme?
Did Seattle do enough this offseason to fix personel issues?
Did Seattle suffer more from poor personel or defensive scheme?
How will Pete effect the defense this year?
Can Hurt adjust his defensive scheme with more press coverages when called for (especially with Witherspoon and Wollen)?
I am curious what you think.