John Schneider won’t be getting a ring from the Packers’ Super Bowl victory.
Just a little bit of validation.
That was undeniable after he watched Green Bay beat Pittsburgh with a roster he helped assemble.
“I definitely got in bed that night thinking, ‘All right, this is cool. We can do it,’ ” said Schneider, Seattle’s general manager. “Not that I didn’t think that we could do it before.”
Reinforcement never hurts, though. Schneider worked in the Packers’ front office from 2002 through 2009, and as Schneider prepares to run his second draft for the Seahawks, it’s worth pausing to look at Green Bay for hints of what Seattle hopes to be.
“The format that we have kicked in is very similar to how they structure their roster,” coach Pete Carroll said, referencing Green Bay. “How we look at things from the personnel side of things is very similar to how they’ve done it. We see eye-to-eye on it so it has been easy to accept.”
Not just to build through the draft and augment in free agency because that’s what every team wants to do. It’s a goal as unoriginal as a coach’s desire to prevent turnovers or a husband to lose 10 pounds.
It’s how Green Bay drafts that is truly instructive. The Packers Way isn’t a street in Wisconsin so much as an avenue for drafting around some nonnegotiable dealbreakers when it comes to size and speed.
“We call it the Mendoza line,” said Ted Thompson, Packers president. “There are certain areas that you just pass on. It doesn’t mean those players aren’t going to be great players in the NFL, Pro Bowlers and all the rest. It’s just that percentage-wise, we’d rather fail under our standards.”
These are the specific physical prerequisites, draft commandments if you will. Thou shalt not draft cornerbacks shorter than 5 feet 10. Linebackers shall be at least 6 feet in height. Trading down in the draft order is preferable.
Just don’t expect Thompson to help add to that list.
“Some of those are secret,” he said.
The Seahawks spent a good chunk of last year taking a sledgehammer to the existing roster, a demolition project that continued all the way up through the season. Now, they must rebuild the depth and there isn’t a position group on the team that couldn’t use an improvement this offseason.
Only one player selected in Tim Ruskell’s five years as president made a Pro Bowl: linebacker Lofa Tatupu. The Seahawks used the draft to patch holes more than build depth. Under Ruskell, the Seahawks chose a long snapper, a punter and a kicker who never played, but picked only two quarterbacks. They drafted three fullbacks and just one tailback.
Schneider’s hiring took the Seahawks back to the future in some ways, a return to Ron Wolf’s legacy of personnel evaluation. Schneider worked under Wolf in Green Bay. So did Thompson, who was part of the Seahawks front office from 2000 to 2004.
Schneider kept Seattle’s scouting department intact after his arrival, a marked change from Schneider’s experience in Washington in 2001 when he led sweeping changes under coach Marty Schottenheimer.
“I went in there and let a bunch of people go right away,” Schneider said. “I thought that was the wrong thing to do. So I think maybe from a maturity standpoint, I was able to just kind of go in and evaluate people all the way through our process. I thought the guys just did a great job and were willing to listen to what we had going on with our grading scale and our philosophies.”
But while the Seahawks’ eye for new talent hasn’t changed, the standards for choosing that talent has. A player’s citizenship is no longer the overwhelming trump card that it was for the five years under Ruskell. That soft spot for the vertically challenged has dried up, too.
Now, size and speed aren’t everything in Seattle’s evaluation. Friday, Schneider stood next to Seahawks personnel executive Scot McCloughan as they watched the offensive skill-position players get weighed and measured. Schneider made it clear that this process is about more than pounds and inches.
“A football player is a football player, you know what I mean?” Schneider said. “You can’t let that get in the way.”
It’s just there are some prerequisites now, specific physical prototypes.
“Do we have certain requirements?” Schneider said. “Absolutely. I think you recognize what that is. But you know, we’re going to continue to add good football players all the way through.”