Part three in the hypothetical journey of “what happens if somebody loses their job” is a day with John Schneider.
If any readers are also Seattle Mariners fans, this is a conversation all too familiar. While the Mariners have scuffled for a fortnight of years*, inevitably every February someone in Seattle media asks who is to blame: The chef, the ingredients, or the restaurant owner. Meaning, are the struggles because of the coach, the general manager, or the players themselves?
*unsure if this is allowable to signify 14 years, but it should be. A fortnight of years sounds cool.
There are many who believe that 2021 is the product of Russell Wilson floundering, and Pete Carroll’s insufficiencies, but behind both of those is a roster devoid of enough talent to be competitive.
Blame Carroll, be disappointed in Wilson, but fire Schneider.
So, let’s go there - what would the Seahawks look like without John Schneider?
Without Schneider, guaranteed improvement in Round 1
The easy target is the draft, and we’ll start there, although this will entirely be a nuanced draft conversation.
Here is the forefront of the Schneider problem:
It’s so bad.
This will mean one extension-worthy player out of 10 chances. Jordyn Brooks will probably be the least-known first-round pick since 2013, because everybody laughs at the other three so much.
So the first answer is the most obvious: there simply will not be a subsequent general manager this cavalier with first-round picks.
Technically, this is not true by volume of picks alone, because of what the Los Angeles Rams have done.
One was given to take a #1 overall QB. Two were traded for the game’s best corner, and two were traded to get a massive upgrade at starting quarterback. All three of those moves are better process than the actual draft picks the Seahawks used, one could make the argument for all four of Schneider’s firsts.
The Rams are choosing not to pick players, but they’re not trading firsts for draft picks they’re trading for elite starters, something Seattle does not do as often.
The frivolity of first picks under Schneider, is a combination problem. The first we discussed; he gets rid of them. The second is also bad: he bargain hunts in the first round.
My second contention for life after Schneider then is that no GM will use such a bizarre process with the most valuable commodity as Schneider.
Should you take the “best player on your board”?
But within reason.
Somehow Germain Ifedi might be the most sound process of the four, being a high second-round grade taken at 31 at a position of need. He just simply never got better. But L.J. Collier was insane gamble at this organization’s most desperate position for years. Nobody had Collier graded as high as the Seahawks at the time, in addition to the fact that Seattle traded down, passing on DE Montez Sweat who has ended up as one of the most valuable picks of the 2019 draft.
Last, and certainly least, Rashaad Penny. In 2018, running back was not the need. If it was, obviously Nick Chubb remains the greatest hindsight miss. Instead, Schneider took the man who has become statistically the worst #27 draft pick since 2012. [This is by approximate value over duration of rookie contract, and is a fascinating study that will be used again in three paragraphs]
Without Schneider, likely improvement in Free Agency
Yes, the Michael Bennett / Cliff Avril signings are famous. But so are the Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor draft picks. Both were...a long time ago at this point.
Like both the first round and frequent experiments on the lines, I am primarily interested in the bargain hunting Schneider pursues in free agency. Particularly on offense and pass rusher.
Using the same metric from earlier, Schneider has made multiple curious signings. In particular, Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo are the least valuable #3 and #6 draft picks made since 2012. Schneider signed them both. Follow up with an enormous list headlined by names like Luke Joeckel, Ezekiel Ansah, Phillip Dorsett, and Schneider has a proven track record of signing other people’s first-round picks, specifically all the failed and old ones.
It’s at maddening levels every offseason. Why Schneider insists on waiting nearly a month to overspend on the third wave of free agency is as mysterious as what Mark Sanchez was trying to accomplish that fateful day.
NFL free agency is a hot mess, driven not by great players but by good players. The great ones never even see free agency.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go sign all the bad ones. With all that money saved by not paying any first-round draft picks maybe, get an actual starter. It’s a hard pass on more signings like $4 million for Ahkello Witherspoon.
It was just last offseason I added up the dollars spent by Seattle and the big opportunities missed in free agency, and it wasn’t great for Schneider. Spending 65% of an A player to get a C player is not good football IQ.
Without Schneider, this team will never trade as well
And I mean never.
Because they took that $4 million failure and turned it into a fifth-round pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’s played 24 snaps for them.
For every Jimmy Graham or Percy Harvin people tend to complain about, there are that many Frank Clark and Duane Browns.
For the record I truly believe that. I think over 11 years, John Schneider is close to a 50-50 push on all significant trades, and that’s a win with every other GM trying their hardest as well, now that Bill O’Brien is no longer in the league.
It’s also a win because Schneider has come out even on big deals while absolutely crushing people with the smaller, late-round deals. Quandre Diggs, the 2020 version of Carlos Dunlap, both Jacob Hollister and Justin Coleman for sevenths.
Getting a good player from another team is extremely difficult. It usually requires giving up far more in potential value because certainty in the NFL is a precious commodity. It results in incredibly weird stuff like Brandin Cooks being traded for a first-round pick three different times.
The fact that Schneider has fleeced another professional scouting millionaire this many times is ridiculous. Being jaded that he’s trade happy and that not every single trade turns out stellar is a valid opinion, but not the right one.
Yet the reaper comes for us all
Still, after 11 years, an A+ at bargain trades and two years of drafts, alongside questionable grades everywhere else, is not good enough right now. Schneider is drafting better right now, the last two seasons, but I wonder.
If even one draft or one free agency class between 2014-2018 had been better, it could have gone a long way in curbing the enthusiasm of the “fire Schneider” crowd.
Which, unfortunately, of the three biggest players in the Seattle Seahawks organization (yes, I know you don’t fire Russell Wilson), might be the most helpful move.