RENTON — If there was a connective theme to John Schneider and Pete Carroll’s pre-draft news conference Thursday, it was the sense of excitement that is pervading the Seahawks organization.
They spoke repeatedly of the buzz in the air as the NFL draft looms in one week.
“I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s a certain energy in this building right now,’’ Schneider said. “There’s a certain refreshness and juice.”
It’s partly from the restoration of near normalcy after two years of COVID isolation. Cynics might even say that the departure of Russell Wilson has lightened the mood. But it stems mostly from their sense that the Seahawks have a golden opportunity to reshape the organization and build a new championship nucleus, just as the Carroll-Schneider brain trust did a decade earlier.
Now, this belies the prevailing feeling that the Seahawks, in the wake of the Russell Wilson trade and Bobby Wagner departure last month, are entering a period that resembles a rebuild, even if no one at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex will ever utter the “R” word.
In response, they point to the 2012 draft that was the piece de resistance of a three-year stretch in which the Seahawks drafted with astounding success — as productive as just about any team in NFL history. In 2010, the first draft of the Carroll-Schneider era, they landed Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. In 2011, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin (the latter an undrafted free agent). And in 2012, Wagner and Wilson.
That’s four future Hall of Famers (five if you count Marshawn Lynch, acquired in a 2010 trade) and three more likely Ring of Honor selections — the foundation of the Seattle powerhouse that won the Super Bowl in the 2013 season and nearly did again in 2014.
The Seahawks have been chasing that draft success, to little avail, ever since. As influential as the early drafts were in building a perennial contender and the historic Legion of Boom defense, the underwhelming results of recent drafts has contributed to a stretch where the Seahawks have been unable to get further than the divisional round of the playoffs since 2015, and plummeted to 7-10 last season.
That makes the 13th draft for Carroll and Schneider a vitally important one for the Seahawks, particularly in light of the fact that they have replenished their stock of picks with the Wilson trade. After drafting just three players last year, and trading away two No. 1s in the Jamal Adams deal, they go into next week’s draft with eight picks — though Schneider’s propensity to wheel and deal makes it likely that their ledger will be radically different by the time the draft ends on Saturday.
Still, the Seahawks own a top-10 pick (No. 9 overall) for the first time since 2010, when Schneider’s first selection as GM was offensive tackle Russell Okung at No. 6 overall. They have four picks among the first 72, which gives them an opportunity they haven’t had in awhile to acquire talent that will make a significant impact.
It’s highly possible that the run of talent acquired by the Seahawks from 2010-12 was a once-in-a-career stroke of genius that will be impossible to replicate. That kind of mojo is hard to get back, as the Seahawks have proved. And with Wilson’s departure, they still need to solidify the quarterback position, whether by coaxing the type of stellar performance out of Drew Lock that evaded him in Denver; landing Baker Mayfield and maximizing his skill set; or drafting a QB who can lead them to greatness much like Wilson did a decade ago (with plenty of surrounding help).
Schneider believes the Seahawks can repeat history and recapture the team-building magic that allowed them to go from 7-9 their first two years in Seattle to 11-5 and the playoffs in 2012, and then the Super Bowl title in 2013.
“I don’t want to sound like I work out all the time, but I was getting a workout in yesterday morning watching TV,’’ Schneider said. “And, they were talking about the NFC West and all the problems that everybody has and everything. And I don’t know, it just brought me back to this energy of the 2012 draft when we overdrafted a pass rusher (Bruce Irvin) and we drafted a linebacker that didn’t have any instincts (Wagner) and we drafted a quarterback that didn’t fit the height mold (Wilson) and we overdrafted a nickelback (Jeremy Lane) and we overdrafted a third-down back (Robert Turbin) and we converted a defensive lineman to an offensive lineman (J.R. Sweezy), who is still playing, for those who are keeping track — or he was last year.
“And then afterwards everybody giving us Fs. But the message is that in this building, we were super excited. We knew where we were headed. Pete and his staff had a great plan.”
The crux of the current plan, according to Carroll, boils down to this: “I want to make that (their sub-.500 record in 2021) a blip on the screen.”
In fact, Schneider says the Seahawks have “a little bit of an underdog feeling. It’s refreshing and it feels fun. It feels as competitive as crud.”
The results of the upcoming draft will go a long way in determining if 2021 was a blip, or the foreshadowing of a Seahawks era of gloom.