SEATTLE – There is no cure for Armchair General Manager Syndrome. It’s almost impossible to be a die-hard sports fan without thinking your favorite team’s personnel chief could do a better job if he’d just listen to you for once in his miserable, misinformed life.
There is, however, a drug that diminishes the urge to be a know-it-all. In Seattle, for the Seahawks, its name is John Schneider.
Are you gray-haired and red-eyed from mulling over how the Seahawks can use this NFL draft to sustain a Super Bowl-level of play? Here, have a little Schneider. His draft acumen is guaranteed to alleviate some of your concerns.
The greatest compliment you can give Schneider is that, in this world of reckless second-guessing, he makes it mandatory for you to pause and think. And he makes it easier for you to trust. In dealing with most general managers, you want to get inside their heads to help them find a clue. With Schneider, you trespass in his brain to get a glimpse of how nice it looks in there.
From Thursday through Saturday, the Seahawks’ front office must make good use of another year of amateur scouting. For the reigning Super Bowl champions, it’s another critical draft. Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are sitting side by side again, deadpanning jokes and trying to keep their plans secret. It’s the best partnership in the NFL currently, and their “fantastic collaboration,” as former team president Tod Leiweke once called it, is indicative of an organization that works together to select the right players and ensure they’ll receive a fair chance at making an impact.
But while the credit must be spread around, Schneider has been empowered to steer the wheel. He’s the one most responsible for making Carroll’s broad vision tangible. The spotlight and pressure are on him this week. Five years from now, we’ll remember the 2014 draft as either the one that solidified the Seahawks’ elite status or the one that caused them to regress.
You’ve seen, and fretted over, the turnover this offseason. The Seahawks have a $133 million salary cap to manage for 2014, and because they’re the best team in the NFL, the value of their players has skyrocketed. They’ve lost significant depth. They’ve lost starters to free agency such as wide receiver Golden Tate, right tackle Breno Giacomini and cornerback Walter Thurmond. And they’ve cut starters to create salary-cap space for now and the future.
Take a closer look, and you still see a championship roster with 17 of its 22 offensive and defensive starters still under contract. But the Seahawks need an influx of fresh talent.
They need it for depth in 2014. And they need it to maintain salary-cap flexibility moving forward. Just as they selected most of the 2013 draft class with an eye toward the future, they must find a significant number of starters in this class, even if they aren’t immediate-impact players.
In the past, the Seahawks have done it with an unpredictable approach, and that’s not likely to change. It makes little sense to alter the course now because it has worked so well. In the Schneider/Carroll era, the Seahawks have drafted 39 players over four drafts. A remarkable 25 of those draft picks, 64.1 percent, are still on the roster. They drafted 12 of their Super Bowl XLVIII starters, and that doesn’t include three players who received starter-level playing time for much of the season - Thurmond, offensive tackle Michael Bowie and Malcolm Smith, the Super Bowl MVP.
That’s an enviable draft record, and if you expand your thinking to include undrafted free agents, you find the Schneider/Carroll Seahawks have done an even better job when it comes to finding value in each draft class. They’ve uncovered plenty of undrafted gems, including wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, safety Jeron Johnson and offensive lineman Alvin Bailey.
And when the pressure has been greatest, Schneider has succeeded. The Schneider/Carroll Seahawks’ two most important drafts to date: 2010, their first, and 2012. They nailed 2010, with Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Thurmond, Kam Chancellor and Anthony McCoy in that class. It set the tone for the dominant team the Seahawks have become.
In 2012, with their rebuilding nearly complete, they pulled off a class that included Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, J.R. Sweezy and franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.