To listen to John Schneider and Pete Carroll tell it, one of the reasons the Seahawks find themselves in a tumultuous offseason is that they permitted too many cooks to spoil the stew of recent NFL drafts.
Ahead of the start of the draft that begins with the first round Thursday, the coach and general manager admitted at a press conference Monday that in recent drafts, they let the their board numbers — the pool of players under Seattle’s consideration — get out of hand, to the point where it became unwieldy.
“For one reason or another, we continued to add more and more players (to the draft board),” Schneider said. “It was just too much.”
Schneider called the bloat “making excuses” for deficiencies in areas of health, psychology and character that should have eliminated players from consideration.
“Sometimes, you can make excuses in all those areas because a guy has a specific skill-set,” he said. “What happens is you kind of ignore some of those red flags if you feel you have a specific need. It’s happened in the past, it’ll probably happen in the future. We just want to limit those.
“You never truly know the whole package. You never know what’s in a man’s heart. We’re just working our tails off to try to find it out.”
While Schneider didn’t mention him by name, the reference was plain: The Seahawks had a lost season from their top pick a year ago, Michigan State DE Malik McDowell. Taken in the second round with the 35th overall pick, McDowell, then 20, was considered a top-10 talent but fell out of the first round over questions of maturity and character.
The Seahawks took the risk anyway, and were stunned to learn that an ATV accident in July in Michigan left him with a serious concussion. No police report or news report of the episode has emerged, and the Seahawks have remained mysteriously sketchy about the accident and his future with the club, including Monday.
“There’s a lot of things we can’t get into,” Schneider said. “It’s a really unfortunate situation, on both sides.”
But there’s no dispute that he didn’t play a down in 2017. Carroll wrote off the episode as an example of the unforeseeable.
“Some things you can’t predict; there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “Last year, our guy didn’t get a chance to play for us, and we were disappointed in that. There was nothing to tell us that was going to happen.”
While it’s likely that no one in pre-draft meetings should have been expected to ask McDowell, “What would you do if someone gave you an ATV?” the fact remains that other teams saw a first-round talent with higher risk, and passed.
But the Seahawks had a big need for a young pass rusher. They made the mistake of prioritizing need over the best available player.
Asked if, in scouting his past draft selections, it was fair to say he has sometimes chosen need over the best player, Schneider was candid.
“I think that’s fair in a couple of instances, sure,” And the fix?
“Doing a better job; being aware of it,” he said. ” It’s not like we have our heads in the sand. You can’t just go out there and create the perfect player. Otherwise we would be outside picking them off trees.
“Every (player) has deficiencies. We try to find guys where we can limit deficiencies and work with their strengths.”
A second episode occurred in 2013, when the Seahawks chose to ignore the red flags about WR Percy Harvin and gave a first-round pick to Minnesota for the mercurial talent. Harvin had some spectacular moments and helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl, but his practice fights with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, along with refusing to obey coaches, prompted the Seahawks to dump him at mid-season.
The McDowell selection ripples into this week because the Seahawks still have need of a young pass rusher. To fill in for McDowell in 2017, the Seahawks traded WR Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to the Jets for DT Sheldon Richardson. But he left in free agency, so the Seahawks were left with nothing from the costly transaction.
The Seahawks at the moment have the 18th pick in first round, but after that, won’t pick until the fourth round because their third-round pick went to Houston in a midseason trade for LT Duane Brown.
History and logic say the Seahawks are a decent bet to trade back in the first round to acquire more selections. Because of age, injuries and contracts pressing against the salary cap, the Seahawks are more needy at more positions that at any time in the Carroll/Schneider era.
Carroll said the reforms adopted for the draft will pay off.
“We’ve taken another step in refining the process,” he said. “I think we’re more precise about some things, and the information that we’re gathering. It’s allowed John to clean the board up more clearly than ever.
“We might not have as many numbers on the board because we’re more tuned in to specifically to guys that really fit. I think it’s a really positive thing. And it has to do with a lot of (other) factors too. It has to do with the background people that are helping us with our information-gathering and the assessment of it. We’re just better than we’ve been.”
Seattle fans figure to see that as belated but important development, because the Seahawks in the Carroll era haven’t had so many needs be so urgent.