Given this is the sixth time John Schneider has sat with media for a casual pre-draft conversation, he’s comfortable and genial in the way he avoids specifics and dodges requests for actual information.
He can’t be giving away any secrets, of course.
Schneider even broke physical contact with his phone, usually an ever-present electronic appendage. And as he set the phone down on a table, it was easy to see a bright yellow rubberized bracelet on his right wrist.
The message on it read: “What’s next? Compete.”
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It’s likely he was looking at it late Wednesday night, after everybody left the room and he was driven to continue his study of the Seahawks’ board of draft possibilities.
That’s how a general manager competes.
He looked over the team’s NFL-high 11 picks, and started imagining the almost infinite combinations of selections and packaging that will be possible when the conscription of rookie talent starts on April 30.
“It gives you a lot of flexibility,” he said, even citing the possibility of moving up in the draft, fearing coach Pete Carroll will start getting antsy having to wait until pick No. 63 for the first shot at taking the next Seahawk.
Schneider remembered Carroll’s anxiety in 2010 when they traded back 20 places before taking Notre Dame’s Golden Tate late in the second round. “I just asked him to go outside and shoot hoops for a while,” Schneider said of his ploy at relaxing Carroll.
Carroll could be shooting hoops for days this year as nine of the Hawks’ 11 picks are on Saturday, in rounds four through seven.
Schneider said the self-
evaluation process is ongoing, as he tries to learn from the hits and misses of each draft. But the original blueprint he had in mind for approaching the draft hasn’t changed from his first in 2010.
“The most important thing is knowing our team first, and how our (draft) board reflects our team,” he said. “It’s our primary mode of acquisition.”
Primary, but not sole, and that adds to the complex calculus of roster construction and maintenance. Free agency influences the draft, and the draft influences decisions on cap casualties or trades.
Having 11 draft picks this time around gives Schneider even more moving parts to shuffle.
He knows what he’s looking for, though, and that hasn’t changed, either. When he and Carroll started their successful collaboration, they examined the top rivalry in the league, Pittsburgh versus Baltimore. The success of those teams, they decided, was built on their physical play.
Schneider and Carroll agreed: “That’s where we have to be; that’s the standard we have to get to,” Schneider said. Picking five eventual All-Pros in their first three drafts accomplished the goal of establishing an expectation of physical competitiveness every day in practice as well as on game day.
There’s no golden wand to help see what’s in a player’s heart, he stressed. And even more difficult is to know how a highly motivated player in college will respond when he starts getting his first big paychecks.
And now the standard they go by is the one set by their own players. They look at prospects and try to visualize them in practices squaring off against a combative corps of talent that has gotten the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls.
“You’re going to have to have some unique qualities about you to be able to compete with those guys,” Schneider said. “They can’t back down.”
In the absence of a golden wand, Schneider said they go through what they know of prospects with sports psychologists, trying to gauge players’ motivation.
They look at what players have done in college and ask the question that Schneider wears on his wrist.