by JDCam 02.01.15
John Schneider is on a mission. With the Seahawks miraculous come from behind victory over a stunned Green Bay in the NFC Championship game, Schneider could be on the verge of an improbable Super Bowl double, which would push him into the upper echelon of executives across all of the major four US sports, not just football. Schneider possesses a remarkable blend of self-belief, ambition and an acute and expert eye for player talent, particularly under the radar player talent. In 2010 Schneider said of the Seattle franchise that he had been handed the keys to just weeks earlier; ‘I won’t be totally jacked up until we start winning championships and other teams are calling to acquire our players’. Part one achieved. His second stipulation maybe more difficult however, as few players who match Schneider’s thirst for success seem to want to go anywhere anytime soon.
Schneider first worked in the NFL as a scout for the Green Bay Packers. From there he worked in a variety of roles for the Chiefs, Seahawks, Redskins and Packers for a second stint before being brought on as Seattle’s GM a week after the Pete Carroll hiring in 2010. One of Schneider’s first major moves in 2010 was acquiring Marshawn Lynch from the Buffalo Bills for fourth and fifth round draft picks spread out over two seasons. What a bargain that turned out to be, but then, Schneider has always had an eye for an undervalued player.
In his almost five years as Seattle’s GM, Schneider has been the poster boy for balancing building a franchise through the draft and spending wisely in free agency. This is not to say Schneider hasn’t made mistakes (Percy Harvin cough), he has however, accepted them and limited the damage they caused.
Rewinding to the 2010 draft, Schneider’s first with the franchise and the night that really made the Seahawks. Seattle was in the enviable position of having both the number 6 and 14 overall picks courtesy of a trade with Denver in a loaded draft. Schneider made the most of his first two picks, tabbing Russell Okung, a refrigerator sized offensive tackle sure thing good for the next decade or as long as the Seahawks keep him. With the number 14 pick, the Seahawks took Earl Thomas, who has since become the best safety in the league. Schneider’s most surprising victory, it has emerged, came in the 5th round, where he took Kam Chancellor with the 133rd overall pick. Chancellor has combined with Thomas to become part of the most formidable backfield in the league, with his unusual combination of size and speed proving tough to ward off.
In 2011 Schneider was back at it, proving that the most legitimate contenders not only create depth from the draft but hit the lottery on their later picks. Schneider’s consistency in the later rounds however, is too frequent and too impressive not to turn heads. The Seahawks most impressive contributors again came in later rounds, with K. J Wright being drafted in the 4th round (99th overall), Richard Sherman (an All-Pro in consecutive seasons, in the 5th round (153rd overall), and Malcolm Smith in the 7th (242nd overall). While Sherman’s outspoken and thoroughly entertaining success is well documented, Smith is the definition of a clutch contributor, catching Colin Kaepernick’s ill fated, Sherman tipped pass in the NFC Championship game before a pick six, forced fumble MVP performance in the Super Bowl XLVIII stomping of the Denver Broncos.
Schneider’s uber-drafting will no doubt continue, Seattle’s anemic receiving corps already receiving a boost from Luke Wilson, a 2013 5th round pick out of Rice (anybody betting against Paul Richardson or Kevin Norwood become significant contributors moving forwards)? As is the case with most pro sports and particularly football, Seattle will eventually fall victim to its own success. Thomas and Sherman have already been paid, (Sherman’s ‘I know what it feels like to be a 1st rounder’ comment ringing ironically and painfully on the ears of GMs who didn’t consider him in the draft’s earlier stages). Russell Wilson is up next, his current $798,000 salary as part of his rookie contract being arguably the best value deal in the league. Wilson needs to get paid, which will undoubtedly be a hit on Seattle’s salary cap flexibility.
If Seattle repeats they will face the inevitable burden of an increasing number of free agents looking to cash in on championship success. With few key pieces becoming impending free agents however, extending Wilson will remain the Seahawks top priority. Schneider’s greatest challenge ahead may lie in the Seahawks 2016 class of free agents, a truly formidable group. Seattle will certainly not become the 2014 Baltimore Ravens. If there is one constant in Seattle, it will be Schneider. His ability to seek out undervalued and overlooked players may give Seattle the ability to replicate the long term success of their Sunday opponent, the New England Patriots, the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions.