Former Assistant Coaches Land New Positions
February 12, 2010
By Bill Boehlke
One of the original players from the Seahawks’ inaugural season has returned to the fold, and several former assistant coaches have found new positions in and out of the NFL.
Sherman Smith has joined head coach Pete Carroll’s staff as running backs coach for the Seahawks. Smith was drafted in the second round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Seahawks as a running back, the first offensive player picked by the new expansion team in its first season. Smith led the team in rushing in his first four seasons, eventually amassing 3,429 yards and 28 touchdowns in his seven years (1976-82) with the team. He also caught the ball 210 times for a total of 2,445 yards and 10 touchdowns. He played sparingly for the San Diego Chargers in the 1983 season.
After his playing days were over, Smith embarked upon a second career as a football coach, starting in high school, then college, and finally back in the NFL with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Smith left the Titans to join the Washington Redskins as offensive coordinator, reuniting with former teammate and Redskins head coach Jim Zorn. Zorn was let go following the 2009 season and replaced by Mike Shanahan after the Redskins went 4-12.
Nolan Cromwell was the wide receivers coach for the Seahawks from 1999-2007 before moving on to Texas A&M as offensive coordinator. Now Cromwell has returned to the NFL as receivers coach for the St. Louis Rams, where he began his coaching career (in 1991, when the team was based in Los Angeles).
Cromwell was special teams coach for the Packers from 1992-1997, and coached receivers for the Packers in 1998 before joining the Seahawks in 1999.
Nicknamed “The Ransom Rambler”, Cromwell was an All-America quarterback for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams as a defensive back in the second round, pick 32, in 1977 and played his entire 11-year career in Los Angeles. Cromwell was selected to play in four consecutive Pro Bowls (1980–1983), and after retirement he was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
Former Seahawks tight end Mike Tice is the new offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears. Tice was the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings prior to becoming their head coach in 2002, and most recently was assistant head coach/tight ends coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tice’s hiring gives the Bears’ beleaguered offensive and defensive lines the distinction of being coached by former head coaches in the division. The former Minnesota Vikings head coach will oversee the offensive line, while former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli, the assistant head coach, is slated to coach the defensive line.
Tice played tight end for the Seahawks from 1981-88, returning for the 1990-91 season, with a career lasting 14 NFL seasons with three different teams.
Seahawks Ring of Honor member Jim Zorn has joined the Baltimore Ravens as quarterbacks coach. Zorn spent the past two seasons as head coach with the Washington Redskins, and moves up the East coast for his new position. Zorn was quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks from 2001-2007 before moving on to the Redskins in 2008. His previous NFL coaching experience included a stint in Seattle from 1997-1998, and he was quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions from 1999-2000.
Former Seahawks running backs coach Lyvonia “Stump” Mitchell is the new head coach at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
After a stint as running backs coach for the Seahawks from 1999-2007, Mitchell joined the Washington Redskins in 2008, coming from the Seahawks staff with coach Jim Zorn. Mitchell had been an assistant coach in the NFL for 11 years. He also spent three years as the head coach at Morgan State prior to coming to Seattle.
Mitchell was a ninth-round draft pick for the St. Louis Cardinals out of the Citadel in 1981, and played his entire NFL career with the Cardinals. His biggest season was in 1985, when he ran for 1,006 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 502 receiving yards and three TD catches.
Mitchell becomes the 17th head coach for Southern University.
Cleveland Browns President Mike Holmgren has hired former Seahawks assistant Keith Gilbertson as Director of Pro Personnel. Gilbertson, who brings more than 30 years of coaching experience, spent the four seasons (2005-08) assisting with the Seahawks’ offense, including the first three under Holmgren.
He served as offensive consultant in 2005, assistant offensive line coach in 2006 and 2007 and receivers coach in 2008. It was his second stint with the Seahawks, the first coming in 1996-98. He also coached at Utah State (1977-81), Idaho (1982, ‘86-88), Washington (1989-91, ’99-04), Cal-Berkeley (1992-95) and with the L.A. Express of the USFL from 1983-85. He is a native of Snohomish, WA.
Holmgren also tapped former Seahawks offensive coordinator Gil Haskell as Senior Advisor to the President. The two go back to 1992, when Haskell was running backs coach (1992-1994) and receivers coach (1995-1997) before moving on to Carolina in 1998 as the team’s offensive coordinator. Haskell rejoined Holmgren in Seattle in 1999, where he was offensive coordinator through the 1998 season.
Haskell began his career in the NFL as a ball boy with the San Francisco 49ers while his uncle, Dr. William O’Grady, was a part owner of the franchise. After 22 years in various roles in the 49ers organization, Haskell left for USC, spending 5 seasons as an assistant coach. He broke into the NFL as a coach in 1983 with the Los Angeles Rams, coaching special teams, running backs and tight ends for nine seasons.
And the San Francisco 49ers have hired Mike Solari as their new offensive line coach. Solari was the tight ends and assistant offensive line coach for the 49ers from 1992-96, and he has spent more than 20 years in the NFL, most recently working the past two seasons with the Seahawks. When he joined the Seahawks staff, he changed the offensive line scheme to more zone blocking.
He previously had served as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach from 1997-2005, and was offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.