Last year, in his first informal pre-draft chat with the media, John Schneider was asked what it was like to be a newly minted general manager in the NFL, to be “the man” with the Seahawks after a long managerial apprenticeship in Green Bay.
He conceded to having some butterflies, and quickly pointed out that he actually was “the man sitting next to the man,” as a reminder that head coach Pete Carroll also shouldered a great deal of front-office control.
Carroll wasn’t there that day, but it seemed that Schneider mentioned him so often that he sounded like a kid with one of those imaginary friends.
Probably the most important revelation was that Schneider was more interested in getting the job done than in ego-driven self-aggrandizement or personal power plays. It didn’t seem to matter to him who got credit for decisions, as long as they were good ones.
A year later, when we met with Schneider on Monday, he seemed to allow more of his personal style to emerge. No butterflies this time around.
He kidded with reporters, and downplayed the high grades resulting from the last draft, saying his son could have come away with good picks for the Seahawks at No. 6 and 14 last season. Making No. 25 work next week will be a bigger test.
He was frank and realistic about the team’s roster and its needs. At one point he acknowledged that he can say things about the team’s status that Carroll – as somebody who faces players every day – cannot.
This time, the setup for the draft is entirely the way he wants it.
“When we got here last year, we didn’t want to change (the scouts’) grading scale and what they had going,” he said. “This year, we’ve had our own grading scale, we’ve added a grade; we’ve done a lot of great things.”
The current labor dispute has left coaches with nobody to coach, so they’re taking a larger role in the prospect-evaluation process, Schneider said. The added manpower makes him more comfortable in finding players of potential impact in the lower rounds.
While so much of what comes from front-office folks in the weeks before the draft suspiciously resembles games of liar’s poker, Schneider tossed a few things out there that were obvious messages to other teams.
He’d love to trade out of the first round to pick up more choices – specifically to recoup the third-rounder he gave up last season for backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
While it was important to Carroll last season to find veteran free agents to plug into certain spots to stay competitive, Schneider said it’s crucial that the Seahawks get younger.
“We want to be young, tough, smart, fast and aggressive,” he said. “We want that to be our staple and get this roster where every year we go into the draft and that’s what we’re doing.”
In the final week of last season, a number of fans questioned whether defeating St. Louis to win the NFC West Division title would be worth surrendering 17 draft spots in the first round. We wondered if Schneider had any of the same thoughts.
Actually, it crossed his mind at the time.
“It was a great way to start, but it makes (the building process) more challenging,” he said. “… To have the Rams game and to be able to beat New Orleans here (in the first round of the playoffs), that’s pretty special stuff.”
Without coming right out and being blunt about it, Schneider saw what so many fans saw last season: a team that was pieced together with duct tape and baling wire to compensate for myriad injuries and several seasons of weak drafts and spotty personnel moves.
“Where we are as a team? We still think we are in the infancy of our development,” Schneider said. “No disrespect to the players that are here, but we think we have a long way to go to be a consistent championship-caliber football team, and the draft is our primary avenue for creating that success.”