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Commentary: Seahawks must do all they can to keep John Schneider from leaving

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 4, 2021

Schneider  (Ted S. Warren)
Schneider (Ted S. Warren)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

The Seattle Seahawks head into the NFL playoffs with the usual assortment of nagging concerns and burning questions:

What’s wrong with the Seattle offense, which has been struggling at the precise moment the defense appears cured? Has quarterback Russell Wilson’s vaunted long-ball touch gone missing? Is it a good or bad thing to be playing the Rams again after vanquishing them two weeks ago?

Those are some pressing, front-burner worries – with many others bubbling just under the surface – now that the season has segued into “win or go home” mode. But on Sunday, a few hours before the Seahawks played, and won, what turned out to be a meaningless (at least in terms of playoff seeding) game against the 49ers, a more long-term concern presented itself.

And this one could have ramifications in Seattle that go well beyond this year’s playoffs. A report by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport on NFL.com, the league’s official media arm, said the Detroit Lions “are plotting a potential blockbuster move.” And the move, Rapoport said, is that “the Lions plan to pursue Seahawks GM John Schneider for their vacant GM opening, a hire that would send shockwaves around the NFL.”

That report should also send, if not shock waves, then certainly deep concern to the Seahawks and their fans. And it should put a new item on the agenda of Seattle upper management as the Seahawks prepare to play the Rams on Saturday at Lumen Field: doing everything in its power to keep Schneider in Seattle.

It’s impossible to understate just how invaluable the close working relationship between coach Pete Carroll and Schneider has been to the Seahawks’ sustained success. In the 11 years of their marriage, the Seahawks have nine consecutive winning seasons after two 7-9 years, nine playoff appearances, five division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl victory.

There might be legitimate quibbles with various personnel decisions by the duo over that span. But you can’t argue with the overall results of their collaboration. No other team save the Patriots has managed to do so well in bucking the NFL’s proclivity for boom-and-bust stretches. And coming off a 12-4 season with a still-elite quarterback, the potential is there to remain near the top in the foreseeable future. They have transitioned from the Legion of Boom years and remained at playoff caliber.

This season has given new evidence of Schneider’s success in tweaking the Seahawks roster on the fly. Before the season he pulled off a gutsy trade for safety Jamal Adams that came at a huge cost (two first-round draft picks) but has had the desired effect. Coupled with two other shrewd Schneider pickups – cornerback D.J. Reed off waivers from the 49ers and defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap in a trade with the Bengals – the Seahawks believe they have a defense capable of a deep playoff run.

There might be two lures for Schneider to listen to overtures this offseason from not just the Lions, but other teams that have GM openings – a list that includes the Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Jaguars and Washington Football Team.

One is the natural desire to have full authority over building a team. As collaborative as the working arrangement between Carroll and Schneider has been, it is the coach who has the final say on personnel decisions. And considering that back in 2010 it was Carroll who was hired first and then helped pick Schneider as his partner, Schneider might relish the chance to select his own coach. Not to mention to be the main architect of rebuilding a downtrodden team.

The Seahawks can’t do much to scratch that itch if it’s truly a motivator for Schneider to get out from Carroll’s shadow. There have been absolutely no signs of friction. By all indications, their relationship remains as tight and amicable as can be. But Schneider wouldn’t be the first person who wants the chance to run the show.

Carroll recently re-upped with the Seahawks through the 2025 season, when he’ll be 74. That might – might – be the end of the line for Carroll, and Schneider might be willing to wait that long, when he’ll be in his mid-50s, for full autonomy.

But the other potential lure for Schneider to consider a new challenge such as the Lions job is one the Seahawks most certainly can, and should, address. As Times reporter Bob Condotta pointed out, Schneider’s contract expires after the 2022 NFL draft, in the spring following the 2021 season. That’s not too far away.

Pro Football Talk reported that Schneider “isn’t paid at the top of the GM market. He’s believed to be prepared to become a free agent in 2022, if he doesn’t get a market-value deal from the Seahawks.”

That should become an imperative for the Seahawks – wrapping up Schneider with a contract commensurate with the NFL’s top general managers. Because he has shown himself to be exactly that.

The proof is in the standings, not just this year but virtually every year. All you have to do is look at the Seahawks’ recent past to see how delicate this balance can be, and how coveted this current arrangement should be. They had success under Mike Holmgren as a dual coach/GM, but ultimately holding both jobs proved too taxing and Holmgren stepped down . Seattle hired Bob Ferguson, who barely lasted two years. Ferguson’s successor, Tim Ruskell, reportedly never quite clicked with Holmgren and was eventually forced out.

Now the Seahawks appear to have the perfect arrangement – a coach and general manager who genuinely like and respect each other, have a similar vision of team-building and have forged an ability to work in lockstep to realize that vision. There’s no guarantee you could replicate that with a new hire.

There is some question whether another team would have to offer compensation to Seattle to hire away Schneider. But that shouldn’t be a factor.

Seattle should do everything in its power to keep him around.

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