On the NFL Draft and Rebuilding a Roster: Pete Carroll and John Schneider, a Year Later Part II

Part I is here. As I said in then, the following quotes are all from a few interview transcripts I found on the Seahawks media site, and are from just under a year ago, taken just before and just after the 2011 Draft, I believe. I bring them to your attention for two reasons. One, I just found them. Two, I find them interesting.

As I mentioned in part one, John Schneider and Pete Carroll had some interesting insight into their methodology and philosophy in regards to drafting and the Draft. These philosophies highlight their perspective on building a roster and running a pro football team in general. From an outsider's perspective, I find these quotes to be little windows into the organization that otherwise is rather secretive, as you'd hope. As with most coachspeak/GMspeak, you have to take it with a grain of salt, but nonetheless provides some interesting discussion points.

The Seahawks appear to have had fairly successful drafts in the past two years and thus far only two of the eighteen picks they've made are no longer with the team, and that's not counting the players that have been obtained using Draft picks as capital.

A large part 'successful drafting' and roster building is evaluating a player's fit and determining his value, and one of the first things that comes to mind when you're talking about the Draft and its complex nature revolves around a GM's ability to know when to take a player that's on your board. Because a draft involves 32 teams with thousands of moving parts it becomes very difficult to know what another GM will do. When asked how well the Seahawks do at knowing what other teams are going to do with any given pick, Schneider had a sarcastic response.

"We're phenomenal; we're really good at it (laughs)."

He continued, referencing, specifically, their methodology for just the first round..

"There's so much information now. It's almost like you have to go purely on what your pro staff is saying based on the teams needs and evaluating the team on where they are and with their unrestricted free agents. Rather than going on mock drafts. I couldn't imagine doing it."

"We have a clump of players once we get done with our pre-combine meetings where we feel like one of these 10 players is probably going to be our guy - if you are talking strictly about the first-round guys."

Narrowing it down from there is the hard part. So what happens if coach and GM don't agree completely on a pick, in the first round or all the way into the the seventh? What do Pete and John do in that inevitable situation?

Schneider - "Spend a lot of time talking through it. And they're philosophical discussions that aren't ended in two minutes. You know what I mean? It's a long process. Again, we've been doing this. This is a process that started 11 months ago. So now Pete and his staff have been drawn into it as soon as the season ended and now it's just that they're more involved, so it kind of dwindled it down and Pete and I will talk through some things and work it out."

Again, the close relationship of Carroll and Schneider is reinforced with the way they make decisions. Carroll adds his thoughts...

"We operate with the thought that we want to bring out the best of what we have in our thoughts and so we put them together and we work it out. We have a relationship where we can keep pounding away at stuff until we get to what we feel we agree upon. We have never had an issue with that thought. We're trying to figure it out so sometimes you got to battle back and forth and you dig and you scratch and claw to find out your answers and we're more than willing to compete to do that so it hasn't even been an issue for us."

Always comPete.

"But we pool our ideas and our thoughts and we use our coaches too and we use our scouts - we use everybody. We want to take in all the information we can get and feel comfortable that we can come to a good conclusion by working through it. That's how we've done it and we plan to do it with whatever comes along."

For whatever reason, I feel like Pete's being sincere here. He does strike me as the type of coach (who is ultimately responsible for the final decisions) that relies on his coaching staff and scouting department to make decisions. I have no doubt he delegates and empowers his subordinates to become a part of the process. This is apparent in the free agents that have been brought in as well, players that were likely championed by their respective former coaches or personnel execs, whether it were John Schneider, Scot McCloughan, Tom Cable, Darrell Bevell, or an obscure and rather unknown assistant coach.

John Schneider highlights this...

"I would say everybody feels very comfortable with their specific role in our football operations department in terms of their opinions and as long as they've done the work, they're free to be able to express their opinion and their philosophy and how they felt about a player coming out of a school and then we just continue to discuss it."

"There's a lot of talented people in this building and it just so happens at the end of it that Pete and I have to figure it out. I have to say that Pete's not a head coach that's going to slam his fist on the table and say, ‘This is how it is.' And that's probably the most intriguing thing about this job and one of the reasons why the two of us hit it off last year when we started. Plus we spent a lot of time together last year."

So, more specifically and interestingly, how do they present their opinions? How do they weigh all the ways to evaluate players - game film, combine, all-star games, interviews, pro days - and how do they decide or conclude which performances or sources carry the most importance for evaluation? This is the meat and potatoes that I find so fascinating.

Schneider:

"Wow, that's a great question. It's really a... I mean, you have medical, psychological, you have security backgrounds, and then you have just different flavors of ice cream for different positions, you know what I mean, which coaches like a certain type of player and I think it's just a constant process of melding those together."

Pete Carroll adds:

"There's no one way. There's no one way that is THE way. That'd be too easy. There's a lot of varied aspects that we have to take into account and some of them weigh more heavily because of the individual strengths or weaknesses than others but we try to encompass all that's available to us and really in tireless fashion just keep on putting it together and taking our time and being patient and not rushing to judgment on anything and utilizing all the information that we have."

Does this harping and arguing and delving further into certain players ever show more about a prospect than had been previously seen in evaluations?

Petey:

"Absolutely. Yeah, there's been those ‘AHA' moments both for and against, you know, and that's why we just keep on looking. We were talking about it today that if you keep looking, you get closer to the truth. You just have to keep working through it and never rush to judgment. You always take the time and use all the time available and eventually you will get there."

JS:

"Part of the duty of our system is that we don't - and this isn't something I ‘developed' or anything - it's a scouting philosophy where we don't hold our scouts true to their grades throughout the fall. They have the freedom to go back into the school and not feel the pressure of saying, ‘Hey, I got to have this guy right right away or I'm going to get scrutinized because I didn't have him.'"

"You know, they have all the way to the middle of January to put a grade on a guy and there's a certain freedom there. We all put pressure on ourselves to do a great job - I'm sure you do too - so this just allows people to be able to constantly go back and review. Well, once we bring the coaches in the process, we do the same thing."

Shockingly, Pete Carroll comes back to a word he seems to use a lot...

"It wouldn't surprise you, to me it's a competition. You're battling to figure it out. How many different ways can you look at it? How much information can you draw? How many phone calls? How many creative ways can you go about looking at the information in different ways to get to the essence of what you're trying to find? We battle. We're battling to figure it out. That's kind of how we all take it on."

"We're trying to get it right. We're trying to win each situation that way. All of our coaches are battling in the same sense. But I think what's exciting to watch the process here is our guys, we've created an environment where they feel comfortable telling us what they feel."

"They're not hiding behind their numbers and their grades and things. We've made it so they will speak out and we will hear them and let them feel comfortable about it. Then if we agree, we agree. If we don't, we all deal with that and we have to understand how that works and even more so [this year] with both sides, with the coaches being able to be so involved with it. We want the input and we feel like we can figure it out and make sense of it at the end of it. So we are getting everything that everybody has to offer, we hope. That's kind of the background goal is to draw out the best that everybody has to offer."

Now, I'm sure this isn't a unique trait in NFL front offices but it does seem to be heavily focused on. The collaborative nature of their decision making is most apparent with their 'leave no stone unturned' roster churn, both in rookie free agency and on the waiver wire. A lot of players have come and gone, but there's no denying that this methodology of openness and shot-taking has panned out for several players. As for the Draft though, this 'leave no rock unturned' philosophy extends to scouting small schools and weaker levels of competition. This begs the question of how the Seahawks approach this.

Schneider responds:

"Great question. There's several Division-III guys this year. Receiver from Mount Union, in particular, he was able to go to the All-Star game and compete there [I believe he's referring to Cecil Shorts III, who was drafted by Jacksonville in the fourth round]. You definitely have to weigh the level of competition and we do that by conference with big-school guys, you know? Big-10 vs. the SEC or something. So we weigh each guy depending on their competitiveness or athleticism, their character and obviously their physical characteristics. If you have a Division-III player that's kicking butt that looks like me, we're not going to pay any attention to him."

[haha]

Pete Carroll adds: "We use the experience of our staff too, seeing guys over the years and being able to measure the level of play and how that translates and stuff. That conversation goes on all the time, comparing guys with other guys and stuff. That's what the combine offers you an opportunity to get guys on a kind of level playing field when you can but it's not always possible so you've got to go with that experience of understanding that level of play and translate that into information that makes sense to us."

This little blurb is interesting because the Seahawks took a chance soon after this conversation on Appalachian State's Mark LeGree and unfortunately for both parties, it didn't pan out. I do love that they're willing to take chances on those guys though and one thing that is clear is that the Seahawks cast their nets far and wide. You will see a large number of small-school guys come through in training camp and this is all just part of their churn to find talent.

Now, obviously, with the Draft, you only have so many chances to get things right and every pick is worth so much to this front office, so it's imperative to do your homework.

How can you guess how a prospect is going to react to getting his first paycheck?

Schneider: "That is a very hard thing to evaluate. I think that is something you concentrate on and our scouts do a great job of it. And they dig and they dig and they talk to equipment guys and they talk to everybody they possibly can to find out who is this guy at his core? It's hard to figure them out. I think that goes to more of the unrestrictive part - knowing who to reward."

As I said before, there is no real thesis or endgame for these articles, but I just find these quotes intriguing. What stands out to you guys/gals?

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