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Schneider's schooling

A look at how the Packers approached the RB position and what John Schneider learned from it.


"You can't go through drafts and pass on talents like Christine Michael. When you start doing that, in my opinion, is when you start making a lot of mistakes." - John Schneider

In 2004 John Schneider was Ted Thompson's personnel analyst for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were coming off a 10-6 season in which Ahman Green, a 26-year old RB, rushed for 1,883 yards on 5.3 ypc - both career highs. Sound familiar? Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks' 26-year old RB, rushed for 1,590 yards on 5.0 ypc last season - both career highs as well.

Going into the 2004 season, the Packers had no reason to expect a drop in production from Green. He was only 27 years old and in the prime of his career. However, Green did experience a drop in production that season. He rushed for only 1,163 yards on 4.5 ypc. Respectable numbers but far from his 1,883 rushing yards and 5.3 ypc the previous year and despite a drop in production from Green, the Packers still finished the season at 10-6.

The 2005 draft rolled around and the Packers did not view the RB position as a priority. With 1,163 rushing yards on 4.5 ypc, Green was still producing at a high level and was only going to be 28-years old for the upcoming season. Not viewing RB as a priority, the Packers decided to draft WR Terrence Murphy with the 58th pick over Frank Gore - who was later drafted by the 49ers with the 65th pick. After being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, Murphy was released by the Packers after his rookie year. Gore went on to be a multiple Pro Bowl RB with the 49ers. You can't go through drafts and pass on talents like Michael. When you start doing that... is when you start making a lot of mistakes.

In the Packers' 2005 season, a 28 year old Green got hurt five games in. His production in those five games was pedestrian at best - he rushed for 255 yards on 3.3 ypc. Not being prepared for an injury to their lead RB was one reason the Packers ended up going 4-12 that year.

The 2006 draft came around and the Packers, banking that Green could return to pre-injury form, still did not see the RB position as a priority. They decided to draft OG Daryn Colledge with the 47th pick over Maurice Jones-Drew - who was later drafted with the 60th pick by the Jaguars. Colledge became an immediate starter in the NFL and is currently on the Cardinals entering his 8th year in the league. Jones-Drew went on to become a multiple Pro Bowl RB for the Jaguars. Colledge has had a solid career but it certainly hasn't been Jones-Drewish. You can't go through drafts and pass on talents like Michael. When you start doing that... is when you start making a lot of mistakes.

In the Packers' 2006 season, a post-injury Ahman Green was a shell of his old self and only rushed for 1,059 yards on 4 ypc. The Packers went 8-8. This was Green's final year with the Packers.

In the 2007 draft the Packers finally viewed the RB position as a priority. Green's tenure with the Packers was over and they needed to find a replacement for him. They had the 16th overall pick and were hoping that Marshawn Lynch would fall to them. Instead, the Bills drafted Lynch with the 12th pick and the Packers never got the chance to draft him. Unfortunately for the Packers, the talent in the 2007 RB class fell off significantly after Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. Having not yet filled the void left by Green in the 1st round, the Packers took Brandon Jackson in the 2nd. Jackson may not have been rated as highly as the Packers rated Gore or Jones-Drew in the past, but because they had a need at the position they were forced to take a RB in round 2. Jackson never became an impactful RB for the Packers and is now a backup RB for the Browns. You can't go through drafts and pass on talents like Michael. When you start doing that... is when you start making a lot of mistakes.

In the Packers' 2007 season their lead RB was former UDFA Ryan Grant, not 2nd round pick Jackson. Grant rushed for 956 yards on 5.1 ypc for a pass heavy Packers team. The Packers went 13-3 in Brett Favre's final year with the team.

Entering the 2008 draft the Packers had a 956 yard rusher in Grant and a former 2nd round pick in Jackson. Again not placing priority on the RB position, the Packers selected QB Brian Brohm with the 56th pick and DB Patrick Lee with the 60th over Jamaal Charles - who was drafted later by the Chiefs with the 73rd pick.

Brohm didn't even make the Packers' 53 man roster and was out of the NFL after the 2010 season, Lee has never started a game in the NFL, and Charles went on to become a Pro Bowl RB for the Chiefs. You can't go through drafts and pass on talents like Michael. When you start doing that... is when you start making a lot of mistakes.

Only people who were involved in the Packers' draft process or people Schneider may have confessed to later in life know how he felt about Gore, Jones-Drew and Charles as NFL prospects. Schneider could look at these guys with regret now and think "they should be in a Packers' jersey", or he could look at them like all the GMs on QB needy teams now look at Russell Wilson and think "man I sure missed the evaluation on that one."

He may have also been pounding the table to pick one of the guys, but Thompson had disagreed. Whatever the case is, Schneider now views that talent trumps need at the RB position and has the power to pick his players. Because of his experience with Green during his Packers' tenure, he knows that Lynch's skills could start diminishing as early as this upcoming season, and the addition of Christine Michael allows the Seahawks to hedge against a that possible dip in production. As Lynch gets older he will likely become less effective as a runner. When this starts happening, Michael may be able to transition immediately to the lead RB role without the Seahawks having to suffer through a post-Alexander to pre-Lynch type of period again. RBs have the reputation of being able to be easily replaced. The Packers organization probably feels different about this because Green hasn't played for them for 6 years and they are STILL looking for a RB (they drafted two this year). Schneider is certainly looking to avoid this predicament in Seattle.

Furthermore, Green ran the ball 355 times during his great 2003 season. In hindsight, it is no surprise that Green began to lose effectiveness in the following seasons. The Seahawks love to run the ball but they do not want Lynch to run it 315 times this upcoming season like he did last year. The addition of Michael allows the Seahawks' to maintain their run first offense while not depending on Lynch to do all of the work. The Seahawks will be looking to prolong Lynch's effectiveness and thus his career by cutting down his workload while not losing any productivity on offense. The addition of Michael allows them to do this.

Perhaps the greatest thing that Michael's addition provides is some insurance to the 2nd-worst-case-scenario the offense could face after a Russell Wilson injury: an injury to Lynch. Green got hurt and the Packers' went 4-12 despite still having Brett Favre. If Lynch got hurt next year, could it hurt the offense so badly that the Seahawks could fall to 5-11 from 11-5 just like the Packers fell to 4-12 from 10-6 the previous year? Schneider is certainly looking to avoid this predicament as well.

The way the Packers mishandled the RB position during the Ahman Green era could be why Schneider felt that a RB with the talent of Michael was too good to pass up despite already having Lynch and Turbin on the roster. Couple this with Carroll's affinity for multiple RBs and it makes sense why the Seahawks selected Michael in the 2nd round. Does Schneider fantasize about what could have been with Gore, Jones-Drew or Charles? Maybe. He certainly wasn't going to risk regretting not drafting Michael.