In a move that will have major ramifications for the Washington football program, defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach Pete Kwiatkowski has reportedly agreed to take the DC job at the University of Texas. The news of the potential move was first reported by a Texas team site but has since been confirmed by Softy as well as Football Scoop .
Can confirm that Kwiatkowski is leaving for Texas. UW needs a new DC https://t.co/OlTlc51d56— Dave “Softy” Mahler (@Softykjr) January 19, 2021
Kwiatkowski served as the defensive coordinator under Chris Petersen at Boise State and joined him at Washington when Petersen took the job in 2014. Since that time he has been either the defensive coordinator or the co-defensive coordinator and presided over one of the most consistently excellent defenses in the country during that time. In 2018 in an effort to help keep Jimmy Lake on staff, Coach Kwiatkowski agreed to accept a co-defensive coordinator label and even allowed Lake to take on defensive play calling. When Lake was then promoted to head coach Kwiatkowski resumed his role as the full-time DC again.
This upcoming season Kwiatkowski was scheduled to make $1.1 million at Washington which made him one of the highest paid assistants in the conference. We don’t know the exact figures just yet of his contract with Texas but we have to assume that Kwiatkowski got a substantial raise as part of the move. Last year Texas’ DC Chris Ash made less that Coach K but their offensive coordinator made $1.7 million and with a new regime in place led by ex-Husky head man Steve Sarkisian it wouldn’t be a surprise if they ponied up to put forth a similar figure for Kwiatkowski.
That leaves us with where Washington goes from here and what this turn of events says for the program. Let’s start with the next steps. There’s not an obvious internal candidate available. Ikaika Malloe has a co-defensive coordinator label attached to his official position and would clearly be the next in line. He has helped develop a string of NFL talent with Vita Vea, Greg Gaines, Levi Onwuzurike and recruited some high 4-star talent like Tuli Letuligasenoa, Jacob Bandes, and Fa’atui Tuitele. If the Huskies were to look internally he would be the guy but it seems more likely they make an external hire.
The John Donovan addition is the other major coordinator move we’ve seen Lake make so it’s not unreasonable to think that it could serve as a template for what he wants. Lake heavily values NFL experience and I could easily see him reaching out and grabbing a position coach from those ranks.
The most obvious candidate that will come up is Miami Dolphins DB coach Gerald Alexander. He spent a year at Washington in 2014 as a graduate assistant so he is familiar with the program. In 3 years as the DB coach at Cal he helped develop the closest secondary in the conference to UW before coaching one of the best secondaries in the NFL this past year with Miami. Considering that the Huskies already have 2 DB coaches it would likely mean that one of either Harris or Brown would be replaced by an OLB coach if they brought in another coach with a DB background.
Now we get to what this says about the program. Pete Kwiatkowski was comfortable sacrificing play calling duties to help support Jimmy Lake’s career. He did essentially everything possible to keep Lake in the program. Now after one year underneath Lake he’s moving. Is there a chance that it just was too difficult to shift from having Lake go from a mentee to a peer to a boss? Possible but I don’t know that it could explain a move after one season.
Kwiatkowski is a Pacific NW lifer. He has spent the last 33 years of his career in either Montana, Idaho, or Washington (with 1 year in Utah). Unless he’s making more than double his current salary it seems hard to believe that he’d be willing to head to Texas unless he really wanted to get away from the current situation.
The most consistent strength of the Husky program has been Kwiatkowski’s defense. He wasn’t a recruiting force but he’s one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the country. It seems extremely difficult to believe that if everything were hunky-dory within the coaching staff that Kwiatkowski would take a lateral move in a totally new region of the country just for a raise given his history.
This is an extremely worrisome sign after year 1 (albeit a bizarre shortened one) of the Jimmy Lake era. For the relationship between Lake and Kwiatkowski to seemingly fray this quickly would require some substantial difficulties. Now Washington will have to find a replacement for the seeming irreplaceable while a certain rival school one state down is also looking for a defensive coordinator. Let’s hope that Lake can knock this hire out of the park but given Lake’s early track record of hires I recommend mentally preparing yourself for a reaction of “who?” when the replacement is announced.