Pete Carroll and John Schneider once again came out to address the media, sitting side-by-side at a table.
They looked like pilot and co-pilot.
It’s not a bad metaphor, really, for how they’ve run the Seahawks’ football operations for the past eight seasons.
Some marriages don’t last this long. And many aren’t nearly as harmonious and productive.
If Schneider and Carroll were in show business, somebody would have come up with one of those mashed-up portmanteau names for this couple, let’s say, Schnaroll.
They joke and bust on each other and practically finish each other’s sentences.
It doesn’t have to work like this, but it’s an example of the collaboration and support that is rare in the NFL.
It was early Saturday evening and they had finished up selecting 11 new Seahawks.
The truth? I’m totally clueless how good these new guys will become. But so is just about everybody else who thinks they can predict how the human spirit responds to what might be the biggest challenges of their lives.
This much seems fair: For Schneider, Carroll and the Seahawks, the system worked again.
“This was an 11-month process,” Schneider said, before crediting the exhaustive research by scouts and coaches and medical staff.
The generally energetic pair frankly looked worn down by the process, but also relieved. Nothing jumped up to detour their typical draft blueprint.
They traded back early, built seven picks into 11, and then “we followed our board.”
Here’s how it works: Scouts know what kind of players the coaches want and need. This sharing breaks down the walls in the headquarters and everybody is involved.
They seem to cherish the full range of picks, as raw material they can shape, as much as they do high-end talent that can be plugged in as it is.
Carroll, in return, invariably gives Schneider and Co.’s picks a chance to prove themselves, regardless of their draft position.
Go back to the origin of this relationship, back in the winter of 2010. Schneider and Carroll took a road trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma. They were going to try to get to know Oklahoma State tackle prospect Russell Okung.
For some reason, they ended up taking him bowling. It was off-the-wall and out-of-the-box.
And I’d bet they ended up learning a lot more about each other than they did Okung. But there was real value in that, too.
While the core of the process hasn’t changed, circumstances have forced some alterations.
By the time Schneider traded down three times before joining the action, they had accumulated six picks in the first 106 spots. There’s never been that kind of high-end talent stack since 1976, when the Hawks were granted extra picks to help the expansion team fill the roster.
So, it was new territory. But not so very new.
By having the same GM and head coach, and having them operate in concert, the Seahawks are already ahead of about half the NFL teams that inevitably end up dealing with internal power struggles and having to fire somebody.
The value of this stability is beyond calculation.
How did this draft look different? Well, for one, reporters weren’t forced afterward to call district attorneys around the country to double-check on the status of criminal offenders who’d just been drafted.
This new bunch of draftees look like Eagle Scouts.
And they signed two offensive line prospects who actually played offensive line in college after a couple of attempts to convert defensive linemen over the years failed.
Right now, all the new young men are bright and shiny and new. They will be handed over to Carroll and his staff for indoctrination at the impending rookie minicamp.
On Friday night, Carroll was asked about the sometimes questionable effort of their first pick, Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell. He had just 1.5 sacks last season and 34 tackles.
Motivating a player, Carroll said, is not first about the player understanding the coach as much as the coach understanding the player.
“It’s the term ‘learn the learner.’ We have to figure out who the kid is, dig into him, and then make the connections that will really hit home,” Carroll said. “There’s a number of different ways, it just depends on the individual. … We compete like crazy to figure the kid out.”
Interesting approach. And apparently effective.
The Seahawks’ recent drafts have not been as successful at unearthing the hidden gems. But the team remained a contender.
It’s because somehow, between the efforts of Schneider and Carroll, the system continues to function.