And entering their sixth draft together, the Schneider-Carroll partnership is viewed by many as the model for running an NFL team.
Attempting to explain the key to success for one of the better teams in the NFL, former coach Brian Billick pulls out a statistic.
This one, though, is about an even more universal topic.
“What’s that they say, 60 percent of marriages in this country end in divorce?’’ Billick asks.
Begins Thursday. The Seahawks do not have a first-round pick but do have 11 picks overall, the most in the NFL. Their first selection will No. 63, in the second round.
The number actually is closer to 50 percent. And the relationship being discussed — that of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider — isn’t technically a marriage.
But Billick said it’s best viewed that way, carrying many of the same challenges and stresses.
“Just like any marriage, if you have the right two people it’s pretty good,’’ said Billick, who coached the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV win and is an NFL Network analyst. “If you don’t, it’s hell on Earth. They’ve been able to sustain it.’’
The final play of the most recent Super Bowl aside, the Schneider/Carroll partnership has been more than “pretty good,’’ with the Seahawks averaging 10 regular-season wins a year since the two arrived, including the team’s first Super Bowl win following the 2013 season.
And entering their sixth draft together, the Schneider-Carroll partnership is viewed by many as the model for running an NFL team — the Seahawks have a deep-pockets owner who doesn’t meddle and a general manager and coach working in collaboration.
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Schneider is perceived as having final say over the 90-man roster the team brings to camp each year, with Carroll having final say over who is kept on the 53-man regular-season roster. If there have been disagreements, they apparently weren’t major, and they weren’t public.
“It’s really a great study in how to operate a franchise,’’ said Bill Polian, a longtime NFL exec with the Bills and Colts and now an ESPN analyst. “ … They’ve got a great working relationship with a great understanding of what fits their system, and they’ve executed it perfectly.”
Seattle’s mode of operation is far from the only way to run an NFL franchise. And in something as complicated as running billion-dollar businesses, every team has some unique characteristics in how it operates.
But in general, there are a few basic NFL organizational structures.
When (their moves) don’t work, they aren’t afraid to admit a mistake and let them go. That’s critical.” - Jed Hughes, consultant who helped connect Schneider with the Seahawks
There are teams where owners are heavily involved and call just about every shot — Dallas with Jerry Jones the most notable example (and the Raiders in the Al Davis days).
There are teams with strong general managers who essentially have all the power when it comes to personnel — think Denver with John Elway.
There are the teams with coaches calling all the shots — New England with Bill Belichick, and now, after an offseason housecleaning, Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.
And then there is the collaborative approach with a GM and coach largely sharing responsibilities, one that has been the norm in the NFC West with partnerships such as that of Seattle’s as well as GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians in Arizona, and GM Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco.
Most around the league view a buddy-system approach as the best way to go, given the complexities of the modern-day NFL.
“It’s beyond just one man,’’ Billick said. “This (collaboration) is the model.’’
But as the recent Baalke-Harbaugh breakup after just four years illustrates, sustaining a partnership isn’t easy.
“A lot of it has to do with ego — I don’t need you anymore,’’ Billick said. “Trent Baalke doesn’t need Jim Harbaugh now. So now we are going to find out whether he does or not. And sometimes it’s one side saying ‘I need more input’ or ‘I had more to do with this than I am getting credit for.’ ’’
So far, those are pitfalls that have escaped the Seahawks, and one reason may be the way Seattle’s braintrust was assembled.
Carroll was hired first in January 2010 after the firing of Jim Mora. He was told by CEO Tod Leiweke he could be his own general manager.
But Carroll, having been fired already by the Jets and Patriots, had a clearer understanding when he got to Seattle of what he thought would work.
“I knew that I couldn’t do that (be general manager),’’ Carroll said. “I wanted to find a guy like John Schneider if we could, and between that process we were very fortunate that we hit it right, and we figured out through the interview process that John would be an extraordinary partner to do this with, and on we went.’’
As the story has famously been told, Schneider had a job offer waiting for him before his plane landed back in Green Bay, where he had worked the previous eight years in the personnel department.
“It was a vision that Pete put in place right away, that all he cared about was that he wanted to have an influence in who the general manager was going to be so that in his mind he could make it like the best relationship that ever existed,’’ Schneider recalled this week of that initial meeting. “That was his goal — that he wanted to do it better than anyone has ever done it before.
“So that, the way it was presented to me, and then being able to just have that inspiration and that confidence that what he was saying, and that it was ego-less, I think that’s probably where that trust level comes in that he had a clear vision in mind of how he wanted to interact with a general manager. And that’s why it was such an attractive job, in my mind.’’
That both arrived at the ground floor of a rebuilding process hasn’t hurt, many say. There have been no conflicting agendas between a GM looking for the long term and a coach wanting to win immediately, a common malady in sports organizations.
Jed Hughes, a consultant for the search firm Korn Ferry, which helped connect Schneider with the Seahawks, points to what might be the biggest personnel misstep of the Schneider/Carroll era — the trade for Percy Harvin — as a sign of their strong relationship.
Teams often feel compelled to hang on to disappointing players to try to improve the public perception of the move. But Seattle’s trade of Harvin last fall is only the most notable example of the Seahawks being willing to move on quickly from something that wasn’t working.
“When (their moves) don’t work, they aren’t afraid to admit a mistake and let them go,’’ Hughes said. “That’s critical.’’
Carroll signed an extension last year keeping him with Seattle through the 2016 season, matching an extension given to Schneider the year before.
In the news conference announcing his extension, Carroll spent most of his time deflecting praise to Schneider.
“When we came here we really set a vision in place that started with the relationship between the two of us,’’ Carroll said. “I felt like we had an opportunity to demonstrate to professional sports how powerful and how crucial this relationship is. … I hoped that someday that we would be able to say that so other teams could see it and see that this is a format that is really a great way to do it.’’