As he continues trying to change the tires on a moving car, John Schneider sounded a little defensive. Apparently the Seahawks general manager has heard of the bewilderment/dismay/contempt by some in the fan base over the big overhaul underway in Renton. He attempted to slow their roll Friday.
In an interview on ESPN 710, Schneider fell back on a favored bromide of modern sports executives in charge of roster construction.
“Trust the process, man,” he said.
It was plain that Schneider was weary of those who say that letting go stalwarts such as CB Richard Sherman, DE Michael Bennett, TE Jimmy Graham and DT Sheldon Richardson, as well as role players such as Luke Willson and DeShawn Shead, for little or nothing in return, constitutes the definition of a rebuild.
That’s the word GMs avoid like a martini of radioactive waste.
“It’s a constant reset every single year, it doesn’t stop,” he said. “When I say ‘re-set,’ people are like, ‘Well it’s a rebuild.’ We’re not rebuilding; it’s just a re-set.
“We’ve got some pretty good players on this football team. And there’s a lot of young players that people don’t necessarily – they haven’t heard their names yet. I remember going through this when we traded (in 2010) Josh Wilson, and Kelly Jennings and Marcus Trufant (who) were here. And nobody knew who Byron Maxwell, and Richard Sherman and Walter Thurmond were . . .
“I’m telling you, man, there’s a lot of good young football players that people don’t know about.”
It’s true that the Seahawks have churned the roster before, to good result. It’s true that full judgments of the draft classes of 2016 and 2017 are premature. It’s true that Schneider is only half-done this off-season, given that the 2018 draft awaits.
But it’s also true that the current whirlwind has been populated by proven, well-known talents for whom first-year equivalencies will be hard to find. It’s true that coach Pete Carroll insists the franchise compete annually for championships, with no plan for a year of backsliding. It’s true that multiple unplanned vacancies coupled with little room under the salary cap have the Seahawks in a bind.
It’s also true that when Willson signed recently in free agency with the Lions, it exhausted Schneider’s 2013 draft class.
That’s the class that should be producing numerous contributors at their apexes in their late 20s.
Obviously, injuries, free agency and busts claim players from every team’s draftees. But by 2018, to have gone little-for-11 in 2013 is a significant reason why the Seahawks are in magnum “re-set.”
That is why asking the public to trust “the process” is a little more difficult right now, because Schneider has lost some credibility in the draft. From the 2014 draft, the Seahawks have only C Justin Britt, and from 2015, DE Frank Clark and WR Tyler Lockett remain.
The irony is Schneider has conducted over the past two seasons almost a personal re-draft of 2013’s first round, acquiring OL Luke Joeckel (second overall), DE Dion Jordan (third), LB/DE Barkevious Mingo (sixth), OL D.J. Fluker (11th) and Richardson (13th). Schneider clearly believes in second chances.
After paying all the young talent that was part of two Super Bowls, free agency also has been under-productive for Seattle because so little room remained under the salary cap.
So they have fallen victim to the scythe that NFL swings at successful teams: Parity through attrition.
One other matter bears mentioning here. Most fans understand the football consequences to Seattle of the retirement by RB Marshawn Lynch. But it took Bennett on a Bill Simmons podcast March 20 to explain the psychological consequences.
Asked what kind of a hit the locker room took, Bennett said:
“Oh yeah, man. Marshawn’s personality is so big and he’s such a . . . he’s one of those dudes, he’s really like Nina Simone: He’s just misunderstood. People misunderstand him all the time. He’s such a great guy when it comes to doing community. He’s such a great teammate. He’s shows up to everybody’s thing. He plays hard. When he practices, he practices hard. So when he left, you could feel it. He was just that guy that had swag that made the Seahawks feel like a different type of team.”
He explained that teams need a combination of sweethearts and badasses:
“You don’t want a whole bunch of Russell Wilsons. You gotta have three or four Marshawn Lynches on your team. At any moment, you never know what they’re going to do. Whether they’re going to come to work or dropkick the coach. You know, Latrell Sprewell. You just never know. You can’t have a whole bunch of nice people on a sports team. You need one good guy that does everything right, you know, prays and does all the stuff, then goes, “Yeah! Let’s go play!” Then you need some thugs. That’s just how it goes.”
There wasn’t much for Schneider and Carroll to do about Lynch: They couldn’t control him because all the players loved him. Nor could they succeed at the highest level without him. The fact that the fraught relationship between Lynch and Carroll was as long and productive as it was, is a tribute to both men.
It’s unlikely the Seahawks will get another talent and personality such as Lynch, so his impact will have to be made up elsewhere. How that happens is not yet clear, because as was said, Schneider is only halfway done with a single-season makeover. He did say they wanted to get back to the original formula. He was asked what that was.
“Smart, tough, reliable, fast, physical football team that’s competing like it has never been seen before,” he said. “And it’s this ultimate standard that you’re constantly trying to reach. There’s no finish line. Like, how do you get there? What’s out there?
“I was reading an article the other day about (Connecticut women’s basketball), just that standard that they put out there . . . they’re chasing something that’s never been seen before, done before. And we’ve done that and we’re continuing to do it.”
An admirable aspiration. But “the process” in getting there requires a steady pipeline of successful talent acquisition. Not perfection, not a total absence of missteps like Percy Harvin and Malik McDowell. Just steadiness.
The Seahawks have been unsteady for a few years. Public trust? That may have to be a re-set too.