Something that gets less coverage in the NFL relative to its influence, over time, on seasonal outcomes, is how well front offices work together. Apart from the sort of data that covers things like drafts and free-agent signings, my observation is that most front offices operate somewhere on a continuum between The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
I mean, no one is being killed, but few get out without being humiliated.
I bring this up during playoffs week because it’s also Black Monday, when lives across the NFL landscape are disrupted because most ownerships think they know the difference between 7-9 and 9-7 is to fire everybody, thus showing their deep concern to the fan bases.
BM this time has also touched the Seahawks, albeit only with a plausible rumor. So far.
The league’s house organ, the NFL Network, reported Sunday that the Detroit Lions would like to hire away John Schneider from the Seahawks to fill their general manager vacancy.
The Lions have not won a playoff game since 1991.
Think about that for a minute. We’re talking prehistory here. Not only was the most recent win 16 years before the first smart phone, Fred Flintstone was still having to use his feet to start the car.
Most bad NFL franchises stay bad because ownerships love the glamor and wealth of being part of a monopoly operation that most everyone thinks is cool, but don’t know a thing about how to succeed with it.
That certainly was the case when Ken Behring owned the Seahawks. He and his family, henchmen, and assorted California goombahs nearly ran the Seahawks into the Orange County ground before selling to Paul Allen in 1997.
But since the hire by Allen’s then-chief sports executive Tod Leiweke of Schneider and Carroll in tandem in 2010, the Seahawks have been second only to the New England Patriots in terms of sustained NFL operational success.
Since the 2002 realignment to the current NFC West, the Seahawks have won nine division titles (four under Mike Holmgren, five under Carroll). The 49ers are second with four, and the Rams and Cardinals have three each.
Prior to Allen’s death, the through-line from owner to Carroll/Schneider to QB Russell Wilson (since 2012) has been the axis upon which the franchise smoothly rotated. It worked primarily because Allen, the richest owner in the NFL by a factor of at least four, had little to no ego invested in the football success relative to his other passions.
He loved his NBA Portland Trail Blazers. The Seahawks’ acquisition was a civic favor, although he enjoyed Super Bowl confetti as much as anyone
The Lions have been owned by the Ford family nearly since Flintstone was in charge of the automobile dynasty’s ignition systems. A new generation took over in June, when Martha Firestone Ford was succeeded by her daughter, Shelia Ford Hamp.
I don’t know a thing about Hamp, but I do know that busting a move is the natural order of business for a generation trying to make a mark where mom, pop, grandparents have failed. The hire of Schneider would qualify.
Asked by Steve Raible Sunday on Schneider’s weekly pre-game radio appearance on ESPN 710, he didn’t dismiss the report.
Calling his morning “interesting,” he said, “Tracy (his wife) and I love it here. Great team, great ownership, coach Carroll, the city as well, everything. This is the worst weekend in NFL, people losing jobs and moving. Tons of rumors. People are looking at our coaches and personnel people.”
His closed out by saying, “That’s about that. We’re good.”
Parse it as you will. He didn’t say definitively he was shunning the Lions. Why would he?
Schneider’s contract expires after the 2021 season, but the Seattle Times pointed out that the deal runs through the April 2022 draft. Nevertheless, after the news earlier of Carroll’s extension through 2025, Schneider may see this as a proper time to get paid commensurate with his standing.
Pro Football talk reported Schneider’s compensation is “not at the top of the GM market,” without citing salary figures: “He’s believed to be prepared to become a free agent in 2022, if he doesn’t get a market-value deal from the Seahawks.”
Carroll chipped in Monday morning on ESPN 710 with his endorsement of his friend and colleague.
“I think it’s been everything to the organization,” he said. “I think it’s from the very first day that we started, this was the key relationship that would give us a chance to be successful.
“Having been in situations (as head coach of the Jets and Patriots) where guys didn’t fit together as well as they could, and didn’t kind of enhance each other’s strengths, I saw what happened. This relationship was designed to be powerful and supportive and forward thinking.
“I think we’ve done pretty good together. John and I have had a blast. It’s been a great relationship. We’ve taken our shots, we’ve maybe been conservative at times, but we’ve always been competing. I think that this was a particularly good year, in the things we went after, and things that came through.”
It sounds as if Schneider and Carroll might be working a public double-team on Jody Allen, trustee of the estate of her brother. That is, presuming Schneider wants to stay.
The one thing he doesn’t have in Seattle is final say. That belongs to Carroll. From outward appearances, it’s worked out harmoniously. But Schneider is 49, and if he has ambitions to his own empire, now, after 11 successful seasons, might be his apex moment.
Short-term in Seattle, Schneider is facing twin hazards. He spent a lot of draft capital in the attempt to build a Super Bowl contender, and has only four draft picks at the moment in the April draft. And like all GMs, he’s staring at a pandemic-induced cut in the 2021 salary cap, a development that hits harder the contending teams with more quality veterans who may have to be moved.
As we have seen this year, with the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and the Pats out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008, things change quickly. And the pandemic changes many things too. The Seahawks have increased their regular-season win count by one each of the past four years. When does that ascent stop?
Jody Allen obviously has the resources, and sufficient endorsements, to beat anything the Lions or any of the half-dozen other teams with vacancies may offer. There’s no salary caps for the front office.
But she can do nothing about the timing for a good employee to leave at the top, thus avoiding the curbing of enthusiasm.