When the Oakland Raiders fired Ken Norton Jr., I saw scores of fans saying how happy they were following the move. Every Raiders fan I personally know was sick of Norton’s defenses, and the comments over at SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride were ... not the nicest comments you could find, let’s say.
Raiders fans thought Norton’s defenses were flat, with little potential for big plays. They were unable to create turnovers, especially via interception. Norton’s defenses never ranked higher than 20th in the league in points allowed. They were fairly mediocre throughout, even with a standout like Khalil Mack on the roster.
But when the San Francisco 49ers brought Norton in as an assistant head coach/linebackers, many people here at Niners Nation were happy about it. It wasn’t just that Norton was a valuable player in the 49ers’ history — there were many who felt strongly that he could have a positive impact on the 49ers linebackers.
Specifically: Reuben Foster. The troubled 2017 first-round pick had an excellent season, but has had off-field issues in the past and who was recently arrested in Alabama for Marijuana possession. Many felt that Norton would be a strong influence for Foster at this point in his career, and I agreed. I also noticed people here being glad that Norton wasn’t the defensive coordinator.
Now, 49ers fans are disappointed that Norton is gone, and unable to help Foster. Norton has signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive coordinator, or he’s going to in the very near future. There are some Seahawks fans who are pumped with the move, but a casual glance at SB Nation’s Field Gulls reveals quite a few people who are unhappy with the selection.
Seahawks fans have felt like a change was needed for awhile now, but multiple people in the comments are calling the hiring “uninspired” and suggesting that Pete Carroll was eschewing his core beliefs of trying new things. They view Norton as too old school.
Maybe Norton has earned that reputation — I’m not super familiar with his work as a defensive coordinator outside of what I’ve heard from folks in the media and the fans I’ve observed. Fans aren’t necessarily the best place to get reasoned critiques, of course, but it’s interesting to see the massive swings in opinion depending on Norton’s level of involvement in the defense.