John Schneider gave a shy grin and deflected the question.
RENTON – John Schneider gave a shy grin and deflected the question. A reporter wondered last week how the Seahawks must respond to being a model franchise and potential copycat victim in the NFL draft.
The general manager chose not to loiter in the praise.
“I think that’s really nice of you to say,” Schneider said, “but I don’t think about it that way.”
How does he think about it? Like every draft is its own beast. And the Seahawks, despite their success the past three seasons, are always starving to acquire more talent.
Seahawks 2015 Draft
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- Position review: Offensive line
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They may be considered on the cutting edge, but that just increases the odds of getting gashed.
Greatness makes addicts of all achievers. There is no pinnacle, only the next challenge. For Schneider and the Seahawks, it’s not enough to have one championship and back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. They want all they can get out of this era.
So the job gets tougher, not easier, even though the Seahawks are comfortable and confident about all their scouting methods. Schneider doesn’t feel pressure, but more than anyone in the organization, it’s now his responsibility to ensure the Seahawks sustain success.
Yes, the Seahawks will continue to specialize in collaboration, with the Schneider-Pete Carroll duo remaining the key relationship. Carroll, the head coach and executive vice president, is as engaged as ever and still possesses final say on personnel matters if there’s a disagreement. But unlike the early years, when Carroll was fresh from USC and seemingly recruited half of the players eligible in his first few drafts, he no longer has that special insight into each class. He must rely on the scouting department. Naturally, that makes Schneider’s expertise even more critical.
Schneider recalls Carroll’s influence on their first few drafts and says, “Initially, it was big because he knew all the guys. He literally knew their families.”
Now, Carroll is closer to the typical NFL head coach, if it’s possible for Carroll to be typical. His ability to evaluate talent hasn’t changed, but he becomes more familiar with the prospects after the season. He doesn’t have a head start anymore.
The Seahawks could have a mediocre draft this week and still be the favorite to win an unprecedented third straight NFC championship. But as good as things are now, they’re in need of a considerable haul of young and cheaper talent if they want to keep their window open for as long as possible.
Salaries are rising as the rookie deals of core players expire and the Seahawks work to retain as many of their stars as they can. Every starter can’t make $6 million or more, and every valuable role player can’t make $2.5 million. There must be a diversity of salaries on the 53-man roster for the Seahawks to maintain a deep and competitive team. An infusion of youth also keeps the team hungry.
I think we’re constantly in a self-evaluation state of mind. It really never stops.” - John Schneider
The Seahawks dealt their first-round draft pick in the blockbuster trade for tight end Jimmy Graham, but they still have a league-high 11 draft picks. Their areas of concern are clear: the offensive line, where starting spots are open at center and left guard; defensive-line depth; secondary depth; and wide receiver. It may sound like a lot, but really, they’re not looking for saviors, just good players who can handle manageable roles.
And for the future’s sake, it wouldn’t hurt if Schneider managed one or two of his famous mid-to-late round steals.
The Seahawks need to be thinking two years ahead in order to manage the salary cap. It’s impossible to retain every good player — Golden Tate? Byron Maxwell? — so they have to duplicate the draft success that turned them into an elite team.
That’s life in the NFL. You’re on top, but you’re still worried about the bottom falling out.
In the five drafts of the Carroll-Schneider era, the Seahawks have selected 13 significant, multiyear starters. That doesn’t include Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith and other valuable spot starters or major role players such as Jeremy Lane, Robert Turbin, Jordan Hill, Luke Willson, Tharold Simon and Paul Richardson. It also doesn’t include undrafted free agents such as starting wide receivers Doug Baldwin Jr. and Jermaine Kearse.
Six Carroll-Schneider draft picks have made at least one Pro Bowl: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson. But those players were taken in the regime’s first three drafts. The past two drafts have yet to yield such a star.
Is that slippage? Or is it harder to find immediate impact players when the team is successful and drafting lower and already has a loaded roster?
Schneider spends much time evaluating how the Seahawks can be better. He enjoys a good critique as much as a compliment.
“I think we’re constantly in a self-evaluation state of mind,” Schneider said. “It really never stops. If we don’t make the correct decision, it’s important to recognize that and how soon you can fix it. You have to admit it and rectify the situation.”
If you’re itching for the Seahawks to nail a draft like they did in 2010 (Okung, Thomas, Tate and Chancellor) or 2012 (Wagner, Wilson and Bruce Irvin), imagine how eager Schneider is. The guy won’t even allow himself to be flattered at this time of year. If you figured out how to make him a pillow out of the Seahawks’ laurels, he’d never get any sleep.
He’s a greatness addict. There’s always more to achieve. Why did Schneider trade for Graham? Because the Seahawks shun complacency.
For all the success the Seahawks have had, they’re in constant pursuit of the next challenge. So Schneider already understands the mission: He must be on his game this week.