During the roughly 40-minute news conference when he was introduced as Seahawks general manager Jan. 20, 2010, John Schneider never actually uttered the phrase “consistent championship-caliber football team” that has come to define his Seattle tenure.
But soon, that phrase stuck to Schneider, not only as a self-described definition of his guiding philosophy for the Seahawks, but as a description of what they have accomplished in his first decade as the team’s GM.
By any measure, Seattle has indeed been a consistent championship-caliber football team since Day 1 of the Schneider/Pete Carroll era.
The Seahawks were one of just five teams in the past decade to win 100 or more games, which had been done only 12 times previously. They went 100-59-1 (and you don’t need a math degree to realize that averages out to 10 wins a year, which the Seahawks had done only five times previously before 2010).
The Seahawks also made the playoffs eight times in the past decade, tied for second most in the NFL behind the Patriots, and Seattle’s 17 playoff games the past decade ties the amount of playoff games the Seahawks had played before the Schneider/Carroll arrival in 2010.
Still, the amazingly quick ride to a Super Bowl title just four years into Schneider’s tenure has led to the inevitable feeling of wondering if the Seahawks could have done just a little bit more in the time since then, especially with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in his prime in Russell Wilson leading them.
Since “the play that shall not be remembered’’ in Glendale, Arizona, the Seahawks have bowed out of the playoffs in the divisional round or earlier each year (missing the postseason entirely in 2017).
And that leads to the question that hovers over the 2020 season, the beginning of Carroll/Schneider’s second decade: Do they have one more Super Bowl run in them?
Does advancing age mean increased urgency?
To be clear, the Carroll/Schneider legacy as the best coach/GM duo in Seattle professional sports history is secure.
But getting to another Super Bowl would put a far bigger bow on their resume and would be a potentially fitting coda for Carroll, who turns 69 on Sept. 15 and has one year remaining on his contract after this season.
That isn’t to suggest that Carroll is leaving anytime soon, only to note neither Carroll nor the Seahawks are as young as they used to be.
When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season they were the youngest team to ever do so, with an average age of 26.4, and the second youngest to ever play in the game behind only the 1971 Miami Dolphins. That Dolphins team went on to go 17-0 the following season and win the next two Super Bowls before the WFL helped upend its dynasty.
That Seahawks team had only six players who were 30 or older and only two who were full-time position starters — guard Paul McQuistan and defensive end Chris Clemons.
Of the Seahawks’ roughly $123 million in salary cap in 2013, just $15.5 million was tied up in players 30 or older, about 12.6%.
The team’s youth was part of why Carroll memorably said at the Super Bowl parade, “We’re just getting warmed up. We’ll be back again.’’
Now, the numbers are starkly different.
Of the Seahawks’ top eight salary cap numbers, six are players 30 or older, all key players at key positions — Wilson (amazingly now set to turn 32 in November), middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (30), left tackle Duane Brown (35), weakside linebacker K.J. Wright (31), tight end Greg Olsen (35) and strongside linebacker/rush end Bruce Irvin (32).
And of their roughly $205 million in salary cap, $87.5 million is tied up in players 30 or over, about 42%.
“The Seahawks are one of the older teams in the NFL,’’ wrote salary cap analyst Jason Fitzgerald of OvertheCap.com via email. “They have about $87.5 million in cap used up this year on players over 30. That’s fourth most in the NFL behind the Eagles, Steelers, and Saints. They are tied for seventh with 12 players who are at least 30 this year. So, definitely, they are a team relying more on older, expensive players than most other teams.’’
But if age leads to the idea the Seahawks are feeling more of a sense of urgency this season, Carroll isn’t letting on.
“We’re always trying to put together a championship club,’’ Carroll said. “I think John’s had a fantastic offseason. From the draft on through with his guys they’ve done a great job of making this a really competitive roster again with some big bold moves and some great foresight and vision and all that.’’
Still, at least one move this offseason seemed to speak of a front office that feels at least some sense that the future, more than ever, is now: trading 2021 and 2022 first-round draft choices to the Jets for safety Jamal Adams.
Past big Seahawks trades never gave up close to that much draft capital, even the now infamous trade for Percy Harvin, which cost a first and seventh in 2013 and a third in 2014.
The Jadeveon Clowney trade consisted of defensive ends/linebackers Barkevious Mingo (who was widely expected to be cut) and Jacob Martin and a third-round pick. The trade for Sheldon Richardson in 2017 was similar — receiver Jermaine Kearse and a third-round choice. And Seattle got Duane Brown for second- and third-round picks.
Adams is just 24 and could be a foundational piece for a long time, which means the move should pay off for years to come.
Fitzgerald notes that it’s not as if first-round choices don’t come with a heavy investment, and that getting a proven player such as Adams makes sense given the Seahawks’ situation.
“I think sometimes people do overlook the fact that the money saved on those draft picks can be used to go back into the free agent pool to sign a player or two,’’ Fitzgerald said. “It’s a large amount to give up for a safety, but I will say when you look at the age on the team at some spots and the age of the coach, I can see where they envision this as a time that is crucial to win now, and in that respect Adams is going to provide a ton more value than any future draft picks who really won’t contribute until 2022 and 2023, respectively.’’
Have the Seahawks acquired enough superstars?
Wilson set the theme for this offseason when he said in a January ESPN interview at the Pro Bowl that the Seahawks needed to add some more “superstars,’’ specifically referencing Clowney.
They didn’t re-sign Clowney, who simply wanted more money than the Seahawks felt he was worth, which led to a perception that Seattle hadn’t really met Wilson’s request until the trade for Adams in late July.
It was the fourth time since 2018 that a team dealt two first-round choices for a player, and to Fitzgerald, it might be the wave of the future.
“Teams have short windows of opportunity, and the best chance to find immediate talent is not going to be through free agency or the draft but with aggressive trades like this one, unless the free-agent pool gets larger and younger,’’ Fitzgerald wrote. “Let another team absorb the cost of the draft pick and keep him for a few years and if the team is still struggling entice them with more draft picks to rebuild while you take their better pieces.’’
The addition of Adams helped spur unbridled optimism at the VMAC this summer, with some around the team feeling they have the best top-to-bottom roster since the 2012-14 glory days.
They might need that caliber to win a loaded NFC West where every team has legitimate playoff aspirations and each of the other three teams has advanced further into the postseason since 2015 than Seattle has (each at least made a conference championship appearance in that time).
Conversely, the NFC seems wide open with no real dominant team, there for the taking for a team like the Seahawks with a proven quarterback and skill players on offense and a defense that, on paper, should be better than a year ago.
“We’re really excited about this club,’’ Carroll said on the day training camp wrapped up.
Now to see if the Seahawks can fulfill Carroll’s “We’ll be back’’ pledge before they start to run out of time.