Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, GM John Schneider made all the right moves at NFL draft.
The collaboration was a joke.
No, literally, it was.
In celebration of their confidence-inspiring first NFL draft together, Pete Carroll and John Schneider traded quips Thursday night about bowling with new Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung during a recent scouting trip. Carroll teased Schneider and Okung because both rolled embarrassing 63 scores. He joked that a bowling alley employee escorted them out early.
Then Schneider, the 38-year-old general manager whom Carroll helped hire, shot back, playfully mocking the coach’s mantra.
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“Win Forever,” he said, referring to Carroll’s mantra. “Pete won.”
The moment was as telling as it was hilarious.
The two felt like equals.
For the first time since they became a team, Carroll and Schneider looked like a natural pair in public. Fittingly, they had some results to go with those appearances. Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke sought a “fantastic collaboration” when he put them together, and for a change, you could laugh at his fantastic word choice because his vision became real.
The Fantastic Collaborators, as a reader sneeringly calls them, were legit last week. They turned the draft into a declaration that change will be a good thing during this new regime. And though it’s a tenuous emotion, they’ve acquired trust from a fan base that feared the worst just a few days ago.
In the biggest event of their inaugural offseason, PC and The Schneid — sold as an instant bromance three months ago — enjoyed a revealing coming-out party by using smarts, luck, chemistry and a former college coach’s insight.
The Seahawks drafted nine players, and at least six of them figure to play important roles next season. Three are likely starters: Okung, safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Golden Tate. The team also used the draft to trade for two running backs, LenDale White and Leon Washington, who will factor into improving a flat-lined rushing attack.
Throw in the earlier trade for backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who currently stands as the heir apparent to Matt Hasselbeck, and the Seahawks shook every apple out of the 2010 draft’s tree.
Draft analysts are praising them. The fans are starting to hope again. All their decisions won’t pan out, but surely they have done enough to gain some momentum in this massive rebuilding project.
What’s more, the draft did much to clear up misconceptions about the new front office.
Schneider isn’t a Yes Man. He controlled the draft, trusted his scouts, listened to his coaches and led the Seahawks to making wise decisions. His job was made easier because Okung fell to the Seahawks at No. 6, Thomas was still available at No. 14, and Tate was the clear choice at No. 60. But on Day 3, Schneider got creative in trading for Washington and White to solve (temporarily) the Seahawks’ woes at running back.
And Carroll isn’t so obsessed with USC, his old team, that he can’t think straight. He wants to build a winning team, not prove what a good recruiter he was in college. When the Seahawks chose Thomas instead of trading down for USC safety Taylor Mays — a decision that contributed to the former O’Dea High School star’s angry outburst — Carroll proved as much. The Seahawks did trade for White, a USC guy, and draft Trojans tight end Anthony McCoy, but those were logical, low-risk moves made on the draft’s final day.
Instead of offering a bias, Carroll provided insight. Perhaps the most optimistic theory of why the Seahawks will succeed under Carroll centers on his understanding of college talent. He recruited or competed against most of the elite players, and for the next three years or so, the Seahawks can use that to their advantage — as long as Carroll isn’t overbearing in his assessments. It worked for Jimmy Johnson when he left Miami to rebuild the Dallas Cowboys. It worked for Tom Coughlin when he transitioned from Boston College to Jacksonville. It worked in this draft for the Seahawks, too, especially with Tate (an old Notre Dame nemesis of Carroll’s) and McCoy.
“I just got used to talking about all of this stuff, and I just dumped what I knew, and what our guys knew about players, and tried to utilize that information the best,” Carroll said. “It was somewhat of a discipline for me to not talk too much about stuff early on, to not taint the guys’ views on stuff. I really wasn’t very good at it all the time.
“We won’t have this advantage very long, so we have to take full advantage of it when we do. We tried to, and hopefully it helped.”
Carroll came out of his shell this past week. During his first three months as the Seahawks coach/vice president, he kept a low profile. The team hired a rock star, and then he turned into a recluse. It was by design, however, as the Seahawks didn’t want to reveal too much about their draft plans.
Now, the affable Carroll is back. Standing next to him is Schneider, who’s just as personable in his own way. In January, they were thrown together and hyped as a great team. Last week, they truly became one.
The Fantastic Collaborators aren’t a joke anymore.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer