It’s been four days since the Seattle Seahawks made their bewildering decision to spend a second-round draft choice on a player dismissed from his college football team following a domestic-violence arrest, and the question gnaws.
What were general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll thinking?
The most successful front-office brain trust in the NFL, responsible for a roster that is the envy of the league, put its sterling credentials to bed Friday with the selection of Michigan defensive end Frank Clark. During the five seconds required to announce Clark as the newest member of the Seahawks, five years of goodwill between a football team and the fans who support it was extinguished faster than a cigar match struck in the wind.
Again: What were Schneider and Carroll thinking?
My guess is the duo came to believe in the rave reviews that accompany virtually every roster move they make. When the world keeps telling a man how brilliant and shrewd he is, a man tends to believe he’s more brilliant and shrewd than anybody else.
Although Clark’s assault case was plea-bargained from a felony to a fourth-degree misdemeanor, the police report of the apparent beating his ex-girlfriend suffered in the hotel room they shared last November contained details vivid enough to convince 31 other teams to pass on him.
Not the Seahawks, who chose Clark because Schneider and Carroll are comfortable in the self-esteem department: They’re sure they know more than other teams and, for that matter, more than the police.
“There’s more than one side to a police report,” Schneider noted Friday, a few hours after six cops in Baltimore were arrested for manslaughter.
Carroll lauded the “thorough job” the Seahawks did during their investigation of Clark’s culpability in the assault. Turns out the coach’s definition of “thorough” might be at odds with a reasonable definition of “thorough.”
The Seattle Times on Tuesday reported that the two hotel guests in the room next to Clark’s — they heard something, or somebody, smashed against a wall, and saw a victim on the floor when the door was opened — never were contacted by anybody from the Seahawks. According to KING-TV, the hotel front-desk employee, who also saw the victim on the floor, wasn’t contacted by the Seahawks, either.
About the issues haunting Clark, which include a 2012 conviction for stealing a laptop from a fellow student’s dormitory room, Carroll insisted: “We really are concerned, of course we are.”
So there’s that.
Schneider and Carroll take justifiable pride in their defiance of conventional wisdom. The 2010 trade with Buffalo for running back Marshawn Lynch — he was sent to the Seahawks in exchange for the pair of mid-round draft picks that turned out to be Chris Hairston and Tank Carder — ranks among the most one-sided deals in NFL history.
Two years later, draft experts all but giggled at how the Seahawks wasted a third-round selection on 5-foot-11 Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, seen as too short to excel at the next level. Wilson was given the keys to the car, beating out ballyhooed free-agent veteran Matt Flynn in summer-camp competition, and the rookie’s quick ascent into a Pro Bowl quarterback validated the perception that Schneider and Carroll are geniuses.
The home-run swing acquisition of the versatile, volatile Percy Harvin turned out to be a whiff, but before Harvin was exposed as a source of major turmoil behind closed doors, he scored a touchdown on the second-half kickoff return that sealed a Super Bowl victory.
The Seahawks were in position to win another Lombardi Trophy — second down, needing less than a yard to take a last-minute lead against the New England Patriots — when Carroll remembered that the essence of being a brilliant tactician is the ability to deduce what nobody else is deducing.
How’d that turn out?
A typical coach might be humbled after giving his OK to the worst football play ever called, but Carroll is not typical. Nor is Schneider, who obviously relishes his reputation as an outside-the-box iconoclast.
The Hawks had surrendered their first-round choice to the Saints in the trade for touchdown-hungry tight end Jimmy Graham — still another widely applauded transaction — and by taking Clark in the second round, Schneider and Carroll were counting on long-term retrospectives in the tone of “wow, they did it again.”
At 6-foot-2 and 277 pounds, possessed of the kind of first-step burst that can distract any quarterback, Clark fits Seattle’s need for a powerful pass rusher. Heck, every team needs a powerful pass rusher, but it was the Seahawks — while espousing a no-tolerance policy toward players associated with domestic violence — who used the first draft pick available to them on a player associated with domestic violence.
The arrogance is appalling, but not surprising.
Schneider and Carroll are smarter than we are, smarter than the police are, smarter than the best and brightest minds in the NFL are. Schneider and Carroll do what they do, anticipating anything they do ultimately will be answered with hosannas in the highest.
As for turning the seemingly routine selection of a second-round draft choice into a national news story, I suppose the dynamic duo is due some recognition.
Congratulations, guys. You’ve jumped the shark.