As I'm sure you've seen/heard, John Schneider joined the Brock and Salk Show on 710 ESPN Seattle on Tuesday and chatted with those guys for about a half-hour. I went through and transcribed most of it below, because he had some very interesting comments. Let's go through it, point by point.
We started our process for free agency about two months ago, we started our Draft meetings when we were down in Phoenix, [so] we're just right in the thick of it. Last year we didn't have our free agency meetings until right after this process, and I felt like we were a little bit behind, so we did it earlier, so we could have a little better look at the landscape this year. I'm excited about that. We're like everyone, kinda licking our wounds a little bit and trying to move forward.
Schneider has mentioned several times now that he felt the Seahawks were behind in free agency last year so it will be interesting to see what comes of that this offseason. Seattle went fairly hard at a number of guys in free agency last year -- Jared Allen, Henry Melton, Jason Hatcher -- and didn't land them, so I wonder if Schneiz feels that they left some opportunities on the table or if he just didn't feel comfortable enough in all the options that were out there to try to sign.
Schneider was, naturally, asked about Russell Wilson's impending new contract:
First and foremost, there's really no handbook for this job we have, other than the fact that we're going to do what's best for the organization. That's the number one thing. I think that Russell Wilson wants to win Championships. We talk about being a consistent championship caliber football team, and that means thinking outside the box a lot of times. We will do that with Russell.
Obviously this is an intriguing comment, and of course people all assume that he means Wilson should be thinking about taking a discount in order to make sure the team remains competitive. With quarterbacks taking up such huge pieces of the salary cap pie, it can have a crippling effect on the depth and talent on the rest of the team, and what Schneider is inferring is that Russell knows this and shouldn't/doesn't want to hamstring the whole franchise by getting as much money as he possibly can.
Of course, this is just be talk from Schneider, and I am guessing that Wilson will still pursue, and get, top quarterback money. So, perhaps what Schneider is referring to when he says "thinking outside of the box" is to structure Wilson's deal in a way that makes both parties happy. Perhaps working with signing bonus, guaranteed money, or both, can get the two sides closer to a deal that would benefit everyone.
Russell knows there's certain dominoes that have to fall in place. I've talked to his agent now, much like several of our unrestricted free agents. He knows, he gets it, he wants to win for a long time. I'm not going to get into specifics of contract negotiations or anything like that, other than to say, "we're going to do what's best for this organization" moving forward first and foremost. That means that you don't just do exactly what everyone else has done around the league, I think we've proven that we've done things in the manner that we want to attack it.
"You don't just do exactly what everyone else has done around the league," means, to me, that the Hawks will not try to base Wilson's contract on previous deals that teams have given their franchise quarterbacks. That doesn't necessarily mean Wilson will get less money, it just means, to me, that he'll be structured differently. How that will work is anyone's guess.
Do players talk to Schneider about their upcoming deals?
We have a deal here where we think the guys feel that they can talk to me about the situation. We never talk specific numbers - Matt Thomas handles that with their agents, and myself, I'll talk to the agents about it. But, we never want to get this to anything real acrimonious or anything. We want to make sure we have a constant flow of information, and that they can feel they can come and talk to me.
How do you determine how much money to pay your players (ie, how to structure contracts)?
That's a great question, and one that I'm not going to share with you. I'm sorry, but just for competitive reasons, I would hope that the fans, and players, and everyone involved would respect that we're going to do it a certain way, and if we tell everyone what we're doing, then we're losing that edge.
Well okay then.
How is this year different than last, free agency wise?
Quite honestly I thought last year was extremely busy. You know, all the unrestricted guys that we had, the decisions that we had to make, I know we're going to be in that same situation this year, but my job is to attack this thing. Looking out a day, two days, two weeks, a month, you know, a year, three years, so that's what we do everyday.
I don't know if you can say that one offseason is going to be busier than the last, but I just know that when we got down to the Combine last year, meeting with all our guys, unrestricted free agents, they all had so much interest from other teams, and we were not in a position at that point to be able to make real distinct offers, or decisions, when we were at the Combine. We were primarily focused at that point on Golden, and Michael Bennett.
So we were trying to figure those two things out, those were our main two dominoes last year to move forward. This year we were blessed to put ourselves in a position to take care of K.J. [Wright] and Cliff [Avril]. Those were two huge guys for us moving forward, they're not part of free agency right now, and so our list has dwindled to a certain extent.
They can now focus on Byron Maxwell, primarily. James Carpenter, Kevin Williams, Jeron Johnson, Tony Moeaki are a few more they'll likely work with, but having just one "big time" free agent to worry about is nice.
This gives Seattle more time to focus on and pursue outside free agents, which Schneider seems to say is of interest to them.
There are a lot of guys - we feel like this is an attractive place - there's a lot of guys that may want to play here that may fit specific needs, and there's a lot of guys we'd like to have back on this team too. We have to make smart decisions as we move along here.
Do you mostly focus on the elite guys, or are the Seahawks more interested in role players?
All of that. I know it sounds vague, and I know you want me to say we need a 6'8 receiver that runs 4.2, I get that, that's cool, I would love to have one of those.
I think that really it's a combination of seeing what the landscape looks like in free agency, and then the draft, - the draft looks like it's going to be pretty cool - we're almost done with our Pre-Combine preparation, and you know, the board's looking really nice, it's pretty spread out, so it seems like it has some good balance to it, but we never really go into this thing saying "we have to have this" or "we have to have that" - I think that's when you get in trouble - in terms of overpaying, whether it's salary or compensation, and you know, we have to learn from previous lessons.
Schneider was asked about the Super Bowl, and taking the final play out of the equation, how he thought the team played and how he evaluated what went wrong. He responded, interestingly enough, that he creates a report for Paul Allen each week that breaks down each game and each player.
I do a deal for Mr. Allen every week where I do an evaluation of the game, every player, and you know, what the game looked like in particular, and this one is tough because everyone's focused on this last play. My job is to kind of step back and analyze the whole game, and when you look at the whole game, we started out offensively with three three-and-outs, and in a Super Bowl, that's not real great. Jeremy (Lane) makes a huge play, then he's out. We've got to do some shuffling on defense. We had 11 missed tackles, we gave up 196 yards after the catch. That's the most we gave up all season.
The big picture makes sense -- Russell Wilson didn't complete a pass until well into the 2nd quarter, the offense struggled to get a foothold, and after Jeremy Lane left the game, the Patriots started picking on his replacement in Tharold Simon. The defense didn't tackle well. The Patriots got tons of yards after the catch. There was more to this loss than just the final playcall.
That said, the Seahawks will try not to dwell on the past.
I think there's a full embodiment of this whole game, we're always going to feel that stretch down there right at the end, we're always going to feel that and it's going to sting, but we always talk around here like there's no finish line. We're moving forward. We were moving forward before that game. We have a plan in place, and we're going to keep attacking it.
Honestly, really the only thing you can do. I like the "no finish line" messaging personally, because it keeps the bigger picture -- "being a consistent championship caliber team," -- in front of mind.
He addressed that later in the interview.
We're always like that, Brock. We don't ever stop, we really don't. There's no finish line here. We want to be a consistent championship caliber football team, one that the fans are extremely proud of all the time, and feel like we have a chance to be in this thing.
I am proud of our team because of that. I'm proud of all the guys in the way that they came together, and what we've accomplished. We're the youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl. It's hard. You know, it's hard to win one game in this league. I'm talking about just in the league, in the regular season. The Rams game at home is a perfect example of that. It's hard to win one game.
This is the reasonable, rational outlook that I really appreciate about Schneider and it's an interesting contrast to Jed York and his staff in San Francisco, who apparently believe that anything less than a Super Bowl win is an abject failure.
"It's up to us to make sure we compete for and win Super Bowls," said York after firing Jim Harbaugh. "That's our only goal. We don't raise division championships banners. We don't raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners."
Then there was this whole back and forth:
There's being competitive, wanting to win, preparing to win, and putting yourself in the position to win, but expecting to win the Super Bowl every year just seems wildly irrational to me. Even more unreasonable to me is the idea that anything less than winning the Super Bowl should be met with punitive measures.
On the other hand, there's Schneider:
I think that's the thing that I share with people all the time, all the preparation that goes into it, to just one game, so this division - being in the West - being at 6-4, being able to come back from that and win the division, for me, I was just so proud of the guys. You know, hey, we had our hands full.
Hey look, he's giving his team credit for winning the West! What a lame concept!
Obviously, Carolina was playing very well at the end of the year, Cam was playing great at the end of the year there, and that was a good football team, a very hot football team right there. Obviously Green Bay coming in here, and then you know, we got into the Super Bowl, two great coaching staffs, ... I mean, if you were just a fan watching that game, I would think that you'd think that was a pretty doggone good Super Bowl to watch.
Hey look, he's giving his team credit for winning the divisional round game and the NFC Championship! Weird!
I know how much it hurts, I know how much it stings, and that drives us. I've been reading a lot about the San Antonio Spurs, you know, and what they went through in 2013, with Ray Allen hitting that three-pointer with six seconds left, and they didn't recover the next game, and they lost Game 7, they kinda got blown out, and how that drove them last year. and how they went through the Playoffs (this year).
This is a young, resilient football team, they're very confident, very prideful. I don't know if you've noticed that [laughs], but they're a pretty prideful group, so I just have the confidence in the coaching staff, and in everybody that we have upstairs, that we're going to get this thing back on track. Now, there's challenges, absolutely, but to have a head coach like Pete Carroll, to have players that at their core are true competitors, I think we have a great shot at this thing to be, like I said, to be a Championship caliber team for a long time.
Championship Caliber Team. Caliber is the key, deliberate, term there, and it's important.
Like everybody else - you talk to all these players, you talk to Pete, I want to be great, man. I want to win multiple World Championships here. To say that we were the first team to do it? That's a huge step for us. Like Pete said in talking to you guys, I'm not sure who he was speaking to, just the fact that we're so blessed that we did win that world championship last year.
People forget the manner in how we got to that game. It was an incredible play by Richard at the end of that game, and Malcolm, that got us to that Super Bowl last year. Then, you get into a game, where it looks like a mismatch, and it was not supposed to be that way. You go through a whole offseason of people talking about... you know, there's just a lot of, a LOT of love going around. All the way through the offseason.
And the Seahawks navigated that minefield and still went back to the Super Bowl.
This league, truly, because of the parity, drives you to 8-8.
That's a really important, interesting comment. This league, which has rules and mechanisms in place to not just cultivate, but manipulate parity, "drives you to 8-8."
You cannot get caught up in that (love fest). I think that guys learned a valuable lesson in terms of respecting each other, playing for each other, and I'm just so proud of the way that Pete brought these guys back together at that 6-4 mark.
As for his final season endnote for Paul Allen -- not just the Super Bowl, but the whole season -- where do the Hawks go from here?
He knows, he knows, just excited about how we're tweaking this thing. How we're going to be cutting edge, how we're going to be pushing the envelope in every different area. That's part of just our fabric. He loves that, he's very much outside the box himself, so I think he really likes that about Pete and I, that we want to push the boundaries in every direction, whether that's in our performance department, the equipment department, video, we're going to be doing whatever we can with anybody that touches the players, and with player acquisition, and with our coaching staff, - which, is coming together in a great manner - moving forward, I think those are the primary things that I could share with you.
How do you tell who loves football?
Just the way they play it. I mean, if you watch how Marshawn Lynch ran the ball in college, you could pretty much know that he loves playing football. Earl Thomas, the way he ran in college, the way he ran to the ball. We're going through it right now, we're watchcing players that don't finish plays - what does that mean?
There's a certain lack of intensity to them, and those players can't make it here. They will get passed over.
Keep this in mind when watching tape prior to the draft.
You can get tricked by the speed, or the athleticism, or the upside, and I mean, we've done that plenty of times here.
Hmmmm. I could make a list of players that fall under this subtweet umbrella, but it's an important concept to keep in mind -- we know the Seahawks highly value athleticism and explosiveness, that won't change -- but as we saw in this past year's draft, that "grit" factor to player personalities is becoming a much bigger focus.
You have to be able to avoid those mistakes. And, if you do make those mistakes, you need to compensate for them as quickly as you can.
As for finding guys that will fit into the culture of the team and provide some leadership, both in free agency and the draft?
Kevin Williams is a great example for that. There's guys that you know you need to lean on a little bit, and when you look at a guy like Kam Chancellor, he really stepped forward. He always has been [a great leader], I shouldn't say that - but he really stepped forward even more as a leader in the locker room, and in terms of acquisition, it's always really important to be able to see how guys are fitting into the locker room,.
How they're going to interact, are they going to just get run over? Are they going to have enough grit to stand up to these guys, and are they going to be able to get onto the practice field and compete with them?
I kind of love that they're aware that if you don't have a headstrong, confident personality, you're going to get ground up in the thresher that is Pete Carroll's Always Compete culture.