San Francisco 49ers

Hi and goodbye: Ken Norton Jr. won’t be with 49ers after all

Ken Norton Jr., formerly a linebackers coach with the Seattle Seahawks, is rejoining the team as defensive coordinator. He was hired by the 49ers last week but has left the team to reunite with coach Pete Carroll in Seattle.
Ken Norton Jr., formerly a linebackers coach with the Seattle Seahawks, is rejoining the team as defensive coordinator. He was hired by the 49ers last week but has left the team to reunite with coach Pete Carroll in Seattle. Associated Press file

Ken Norton Jr.’s stint with the 49ers lasted less than a week.

According to multiple reports, including one from the NFL Network, Norton will take over as the Seattle Seahawks’ new defensive coordinator. The 49ers announced on Jan. 8 they hired Norton, 51, and gave him the title of “assistant head coach; defense/inside linebackers.”

The Seahawks’ coordinator position opened last week when Seattle parted ways with Kris Richard. Norton spent the 2010-14 seasons as a linebackers coach in Seattle before becoming the Raiders’ defensive coordinator in 2015. Oakland fired him in November following a 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots in Mexico City.

“Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said in a statement. “Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position.”

When they announced Norton’s arrival, the 49ers said that last year’s linebackers coach, Johnny Holland, would become the run game specialist/outside linebackers coach. With Norton on his way to Seattle, Holland’s 2018 role is not yet known. Also unknown is whether the 49ers will retain assistant Jason Tarver, who has worked with outside linebackers in the past and whose contract runs out this year.

Norton won a Super Bowl when he played linebacker for the 49ers. He not only was familiar with the team’s defensive scheme but had worked alongside San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in Seattle.

The 49ers also liked the idea of someone with Norton’s background and bold personality working with Reuben Foster, who had an excellent rookie season but who team officials felt could use a heavier hand at linebackers coach. That impulse seemed to be bolstered last week when Foster was arrested for marijuana possession in Alabama.

Norton has a long history with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. In addition to working under him as Seattle’s linebackers coach, he worked on Carroll’s staff at USC from 2004-09.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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