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The Seahawks' Silent Partner, Scot McCloughan

Much has been made of the complete roster rebuild that has been going on in Seattle for the past two seasons after Pete Carroll and John Schneider took the reins of a Seahawks franchise that was seemingly spiraling downward. The club was given a nearly complete overhaul over the past two seasons and most people would say there is now a revived sense of potential and upside for the team. There's been a lot of fanfare for the relationship that Schneider and Carroll maintain and their apparent closely-aligned philosophy in roster building and shared desire to get bigger, faster, stronger, and younger.

Davis has taken us to school on the Green Bay model of roster building and cap management that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have partially adopted here in Seattle, and I've become more and more intrigued with the brain trust that has been empowered with the stewardship of this franchise by Paul Allen. When we're talking about the front office, we usually refer to Carroll and Schneider as one - "PCJS". "Q/PM" (Queen/Prime Minister)", but as I've dug further into the people responsible for decision making for this team, one major player is pretty consistently forgotten - Senior Personnel Executive Scot McCloughan.

On June 21, 2010, several months after being ignobly relieved of duties as San Francisco's General Manager only five weeks before he was supposed to be running their Draft, McCloughan was hired by the John Schneider and the Seahawks.

A little history should be noted, as McCloughan shares a very similar lineage and pedigree to John Schneider. "In 1999 Mike Holmgren took McCloughan [from Green Bay, where he had also worked with Schneider] with him to Seattle to become the Seahawks' director of college scouting. A year later, Holmgren hired Thompson to run his personnel department, and from 2000 through 2004, McCloughan worked closely with Thompson [and Schneider in 2000] on the Seahawks' drafts."

The Seahawks went to the Super Bowl in the following 2005 season, and on that roster, 25 of 28 draft picks on McCloughan's draft scroll were still on the team when he left his position to join the 49ers.

More - "When the Packers hired Thompson as GM in 2005, he wanted to bring McCloughan with him, but the 49ers hired McCloughan that same offseason to run their personnel department."

McCloughan was the vice president of football operations from 2005-2007, then GM for the 49ers from 2008 to 2010, running their Drafts and free agency from '05-'09.

McCloughan's first pick was Alex Smith, which could be either ridiculed or praised (or both), depending on whether you're talking about his first six years in the league or this season and his probable re-signing for next year, as Smith has emerged as a prototypical 'game-manager' that simply doesn't turn the ball over. Regardless, it's not fair to judge McCloughan for one pick, and as Mike Silver put it in a recent article on the subject, he was largely responsible for assembling the 49ers roster that finished this year 13-3 and the 2nd seed in the NFC. Included among his acquisitions:

"[Frank] Gore, a third-round pick in '05, has been one of the better backs in football during his seven-year career. Starting guard Adam Snyder was also drafted in the third round that year. Tight ends Vernon Davis, a Pro Bowl participant two seasons ago, and Delanie Walker, who has emerged as a major weapon in Harbaugh's offense, went in the first and sixth rounds, respectively, of the '06 draft. Parys Haralson, a starter at outside linebacker, was a fifth-round pick that year.

"The '07 draft was a bonanza, with a crop that included five current starters: star inside linebacker Patrick Willis (first round), left tackle Joe Staley (first), defensive tackle Ray McDonald (third), free safety [and Pro Bowl starter this season] Dashon Goldson (fourth) and cornerback Tarell Brown (fifth)."

Silver points out that the following two Drafts weren't as spectacular. "In '08 he drafted a pair of current backups (guard Chilo Rachal and safety Reggie Smith) and promising wideout Josh Morgan, who's currently on injured reserve. The prize of the '09 class was first-rounder Michael Crabtree, and backup nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois went in the seventh round."

Another bust for McCloughan in San Francisco was late first-rounder Kentwan Balmer, who was later acquired by McCloughan and the Seahawks for a 6th round pick. We all know how that worked out. So, rest assured, I'm not trying to tell you that Scot McCloughan is never wrong. That said, he did make the call to draft Michael Robinson in San Francisco in the 4th round of the 2006 Draft and when he was waived from there, McCloughan was most likely the man who called up John Schneider and insisted they bring him to Seattle. Mike Rob is now a Pro-Bowl alternate for the Seahawks and vocal leader in the locker room.

As for free agency, McCloughan stuck to the Ron Wolf, Ted Thompson modus operandi in San Fran of mostly staying away from free agency and its trappings. Per Silver, "however, it should be noted that defensive end Justin Smith - the veteran Jim Harbaugh described as "our most valuable player" following [the 49ers] 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers - was lured away from the Cincinnati Bengals following the '07 season with a six-year, $45-million deal. Until this season Smith was regarded as a solid player who was probably a bit overpaid. McCloughan, however, never saw it that way, reasoning that Smith was the type of hard-working, no-nonsense leader he sought as an organizational tone-setter on the field and in the locker room."

There was much made about McCloughan's departure from San Francisco, and since most of it is conjecture, I'll just leave it at the fact that it was for 'personal reasons' and not job performance. When he left, McCloughan was apparently going through some hard times. "I understand now that the job can't consume your life,'' McCloughan then told the Boston Globe. "I'm still young, and I still love football. But it was consuming my life, and it's just not as important as your health or taking care of your family.''

Apparently, McCloughan had become overwhelmed. He said, "I got almost numb. And I had no one to blame but myself. I was losing my family, and I sat back and had to think about that. As we know in this business, jobs come and go. Family doesn't. Those three kids, you've got a chance to impact their lives, and I wanted to be a part of that.''

In an attempt to alleviate some of these issues, the Seahawks have given McCloughan 'some leeway.' He is now based out of Northern California and operates as the Seahawks' national scout. Officially, the Seahawks hired Scot McCloughan as 'Senior Personnel Executive.' Per the press release issued by the team, in this role, "he will assist General Manager John Schneider and Vice President of Football Operations Will Lewis in all aspects of building the roster."

As Mike Sando pointed out when he was hired, "McCloughan and Schneider are similar in age and overall approach; both are known to relish the grunt work of personnel evaluation. Said JS, "We're very fortunate to add someone of Scot's caliber. Scot is not only an experienced leader but he is also extremely loyal.

"It's huge for us because Scot is one of the most respected personnel people in the league. He played a critical role in helping the Seahawks become a Super Bowl team (in 2005) and did a great job in rebuilding the 49ers over the last few years."

Though his actual reach is impossible to guess, McCloughan's fingerprints of influence and philosophy are visible on this roster, and essentially match up with Schneider's. The Seahawks have gotten bigger and nastier in the two seasons since McCloughan has joined the front office and this doctrine is something you hear from Schneider constantly. The result has been bigger cornerbacks, bigger offensive linemen, bigger receivers, bigger defensive linemen, and a bigger safety.

"I'll never lose sight of this, and maybe I'm a dinosaur in this, but it's a big man's game," said then 49ers-general manager Scot McCloughan . "That's from the standpoint of holding up through a season durability-wise, but also in the playoffs. You have to have some size and some power and strength, I think, to be a contender year in and year out."

This goes back to what I've said recently and to Davis' research into the Green Bay model. The parallel and congruent philosophies of the personalities assembled in this front office is a definite asset, and one that could possibly reap benefits for the Seahawks.

Rob Rang had high praise for the now-Seahawks senior personnel exec, when he was on the outs in San Francisco, saying, "McCloughan has a very good eye for talent. His ability to read the board and project which players will rise or slide is acknowledged by other teams throughout the league. He'll be missed in the San Francisco draft room.."

There's no real endgame to this piece, and really it's just more of a collection of quotes I was able to find, but to me the group of individuals that have been assembled to run this franchise are exceedingly interesting.

I saw a recent article on Jimmy Johnson, and as he put it,"You don't want an owner in there trying to make decisions when he doesn't know anything about football. So you've got to avoid that. But ownership in my opinion is one of the least important things."

Paul Allen, by and large, stays on his yacht and out of the way.

"I think the No. 1, most important person in your entire organization is your talent evaluator, whoever that guy is. And when I say talent, not necessarily just the players. Talent evaluator as far as your coaches, your assistant coaches, the people in your organization.

"Your talent evaluator is the most important person there. Now it might be your general manager, it might be your director of player personnel, it might be your head coach. That was my responsibility when I was back in coaching. I think he is more important actually than your head coach."

I'd say that Pete Carroll and John Schneider share this role, and it's been widely speculated that Carroll takes in a lot of input from his coaching staff on personnel decisions.

As that article points out, "Johnson had total control over football personnel in both Dallas and Miami, but he suggested the modern NFL has become so complex, so all-consuming, that model no longer is feasible. And he's not the first to come to that determination."

Johnson goes on..."Some people have a dual role. In New England, right now it's [Bill] Belichick. He does both. But there's very few in the NFL right now that's doing both. ... Really it's an overwhelming job with the salary cap and free agency. You really need to separate."

Paul Allen hires Pete Carroll. Paul Allen/Pete Carroll hire John Schneider. Carroll retains final say on the 53-man roster and will have input on trades, draft choices and free agency. PAPCJS hire Scot McCloughan as de facto top scout and retain John Idziik as the salary cap wizard.

Johnson: "It's really too much of a job. Even if you hire one of these guys that say, ‘Hey, I want control,' they're really not going to do it. They're going to be the head coach and maybe they're got the final say, but the nuts and bolts of it, 80 percent of the work will be done by somebody else. So he's going to have to have him somebody really good as a talent evaluator to do the job. Even if you give that guy the title, he better have somebody with him that's doing it really good."

John Schneider is head talent evaluator. I like to think he's doing it 'really good'. He takes input from Scott McCloughan, who has a track record of doing it 'really good'. Schneider and McCloughan, in turn, take input from Vice President of Football Operations and former scout/personnel man Will Lewis and the Seahawks' regional scouts.

Johnson: "Pete Carroll is trying to do some of this [in Seattle]. It's swallowing him up. He can't do it."

Wait... What? Uhhhhhhh. Now. I find that final sentence pretty puzzling because up until that I was like, "yesssssssss, this goes perfectly with my story."

But then again, this quote was taken back in November when the Seahawks were 2-6. A lot has changed since then in terms of national perception (and local, really) and to be frank I'm not sure how much Johnson has a pulse on what's going on in Seattle. To me, what Johnson is describing above pretty much perfectly fits what Pete Carroll is doing in this organization.

Carroll is the football czar. He has empowered John Schneider to do the "the nuts and bolts of it, 80 percent of the work" on scouting and personnel evaluation. Carroll and Schneider have brought in more talented personnel people and coaches in McCloughan and Cable, and they both, in turn, take input from them as well.

Regardless though, in terms of personnel, it all comes back to JS. As we've said here before and was originally coined by Scott Enyeart, "John Schneider sets the buffet, Pete Carroll picks what goes on the plate."

As of now, I'm finding myself pondering who else helps Schneider set that buffet, and it's plausible that Scot McCloughan's influence and stamp are a big part of this team.