John Schneider’s view of fun may differ from the view held by many, unless you think that walking across the swamp on the backs of alligators is a hoot. On the other hand, the Seahawks general manager’s multiple uses Friday of the phrase “fun,” to describe the attempt to recover from 2017’s plummet from the NFL summit, may signal a bit of post-traumatic stress.
I’m guessing the latter.
“We entered training camp thinking we were a damn good football team,” he told reporters Thursday at the interview podium at the annual NFL combine in Indianapolis. “Didn’t see ourselves going 9-7 . . . We’re pretty disappointed the way the season ended. We went 9-7, and you’d have thought we’d won two games. It sits in your stomach.
“We feel excited about the challenges ahead. We want to get rolling on it.”
Part of the “excitement” includes breaking in six new assistant coaches, including both coordinators, only $14 million of space currently under the salary cap and no choices in the second and third rounds of the April draft, a result of emergency trades in 2017.
It’s a definition of excitement only Pete Carroll could love.
“We went for it,” he said of the deals that brought DT Sheldon Richardson and LT Duane Brown at high cost in the draft. “We always will. It’s a kind of fun challenge — how do we compensate for that?”
One way might be a trade of DE Michael Bennett for draft choice(s). ESPN cited an anonymous source Friday saying the Seahawks are looking to move Bennett, who will be 33 next season and is coming off an injury-hampered 2017.
As Carroll did the day before in Indianapolis, Schneider skirted the topic of Bennett’s future, which suggests that they’re ready to move on from one the team’s core players, who also made himself into a national figure with his candor and humor.
“I was reading about that last night,” Schneider said. “We don’t get into people’s contracts. I understand why that’s out there. This combine has developed a lot like the baseball meetings. I’ve been in meetings the whole time.”
Which is GM-speak for: Yes, we seek to move him.
A trade would save Seattle $2.2 million against the cap, but with two years left on his deal, it seems unlikely that a team would part with a high draft pick, or any pick at all if they believe the Seahawks are willing to cut him.
Schneider made it clear the Seahawks wanted to return to the top shelf and will consider everything.
“Part of our challenge now is sustaining the level of success we’ve had,” he said. “We’re open to anything. We’re going to be open to every deal. You don’t want to miss any opportunity. That’s how we built this thing; that’s how we’re going to continue to build it.”
That’s not really anything new with the Seahawks, but context is everything. This is the first time in the Carroll-Schneider era that the combination of aging, expensive veterans and an absence of younger replacements creates a roster low on peak-career producers.
In a wordy sort of way, Schneider acknowledged the obvious lack of quality drafts recently, but also defended himself by saying his first drafts provided immediate starters that precluded playing time for more recent draftees.
“It’s a fun re-set,” he said, with a straight face. “How did we get here? We got here drafting players and putting them on the field (right away). It’s been hard over our last several drafts — don’t get me wrong, we haven’t made some great decisions, the best decisions in certain situations, I don’t think anybody does — it’s been hard (for more recent draftees) to get out there, especially on defense.
“We played young players right away . . . it’s a challenge to put (younger guys) out there. Nobody’s talking about (2017 DB draftees) Delano Hill or Tedric Thompson, but those guys are good football players. No disrespect to the guys we’ve drafted in the past, but it’s been hard for those guys to get out there.
“(Our draftees) now are saying, ‘Wow, I get to play with Kam Chancellor.’ (No) you get to compete with Kam Chancellor. That’s the mindset we got to get back to. They’re a little bit in awe. They were in eighth grade” when the Seahawks rose to prominence.
Another way to put it is the Seahawks defense became older and more injured nearly at once, and unproven players could be asked to fill several spots in the fall.
One guy the Seahawks would like to keep is Richardson, acquired from the Jets to fill in for the colossal bust of Malik McDowell, the top 2017 draft choice who missed all of last season with a severe concussion following a summertime ATV accident.
But since Schneider said they have no plans to place a franchise tag on Richardson (one year salary cost: $14 million), he will be an unrestricted free agent likely to draw interest from several teams.
Schneider said he wants to keep all of Seattle’s top free agents, including WR Paul Richardson, TE Luke Willson and LG Luke Joeckel, but the lack of cap room — unless Seattle moves an expensive veteran — precludes doing much to keep up with the market.
On the personal side, Schneider said there was nothing to the notion right after the season that he would bolt Seattle to fill the GM vacancy of his hometown team, the Green Bay Packers.
“I understood what was going on — it’s natural (speculation), what happens at the end of every year,” he said. “We love it in Seattle, and we’ve create a high standard there . . . The city and the Northwest have embraced everything we want to do. We love where we’re at, and jacked about what’s going on.”
But he was less than jacked about having to fire coordinators Darrell Bevell and Kris Richard, as well as line coach Tom Cable, who helped the Seahawks reach two Super Bowls.
“It’s not fun; it’s part of our business,” he said. “They’re all really good people who worked their tails off. We’ve accomplished great things together, talked about a lot of things together.
“It just seemed like it was time, not that any one of those coaches can’t do something. It’s more about how do we move forward to the next level.”
Despite the changes to date, it remains unclear how the Seahawks, with such constrained resources, propose to move (back) to the next level. That must be the part about walking on alligators.