USA TODAY Sports
Last year, the Seahawks turned heads by making the playoffs. Today, their GM, John Schneider spoke to the media about the upcoming draft and the direction in which his team is heading.
What are your overall impressions of the strengths and weaknesses in this draft class?
"I would say, I think it's a good group all the way through. Obviously the juniors have helped out a lot, like every other year. Specifically to not answer your question (smiles), I think it's a good group all the way through. There are just different parts of the draft that are nice in a couple of areas, nothing real specific. But there are a lot of good players."
Do you think other teams are looking for this year's Russell Wilson?
"It's hard to say right now. I don't know what other people are thinking about the position. But sure, I think there are probably a couple of guys that are going to step forward that maybe people don't expect."
Did you see franchise-player talent when you selected Wilson last year (in the third round)?
"We like him a lot. For me to tell you that he was going to do what he did in his first year, I'd be lying to you. We were able to acquire Matt Flynn, so we just had a great setup either way around, all the way around. Tarvaris Jackson actually did a lot of good stuff for us, too, the previous season. So we felt like we had a good setup. But to say that I thought he was going to do everything he did, I'd be lying."
What did Wilson have that allowed him to do that?
"Well, kind of what you see. I didn't think it would happen this fast. Just a very poised, smart, intelligent, accurate, great feet, hardworking guy that is eventually going to out-will you."
How do you justify targeting a player at No. 15 in the first round that might not be rated that high?
"(Smiles) Are you talking about last year specifically (when the Seahawks selected Bruce Irvin at No. 15))? The draft has so many different components to it - the evaluation process; knowing other teams, our personnel staff is very involved as well trying to figure out what other teams' needs are. Really, I thought our pro staff did a great job last year identifying who would be the teams that would be involved or interested in specific players. So we just had to look at our board and kind of work with specific teams and see what types of different trades were available to try to put us in a position where if we went back we weren't completely losing a player. Say maybe we had one of three players. Last year, it was one of two players. So we felt if we went back we'd be able to get one of those two players."
How difficult is it for a scout to avoid the group-think situation?
"We take a lot of pride in giving our scouts a lot of leeway in terms of their opinions on players. So there is a concern about that. But in giving our guys a lot of leeway and confidence in the job they do, they know they're going to be heard and at the end of the day we're going to take all the opinions and put them together. I don't feel we do anything necessarily different than other clubs. We try to work it where we feel like we don't have all the answers all the time. We're looking for more and more questions, and answers to be questioned. If that makes sense to you."
As a scout do you find yourself trying to protect against that?
"I think early in the process when you start, sure. Because you're looking at young guys. I know when I go to schools early in the season, that's where I see it the most. That's when you get in the most trouble because you're evaluating guys on maybe one or maybe two games and then maybe two games the previous season. So you're looking at it and going, 'OK, what does this mean?' You know what I mean? So I think that happens initially early in the season. But hopefully we give our guys enough confidence in their ability that they can just have their opinion and just keep working."
What are your plans for Matt Flynn?
"I think we have a great setup. I feel very blessed that we have two quarterbacks, to starting-caliber guys. What happened last year didn't really have a reflection on what Matt did, or Tarvaris for that matter. It was really what Russell did in terms of just kind of stepping forward and taking charge. From the way he performed in the preseason it was really hard to argue - I think it was like 12 of 18 possessions (that he led scoring drives). We just feel really blessed with our situation right now. It's so early. Everybody is in the middle of the draft process. So it's not like I've had a chance to sit down with other general managers and some of the people I know around the league to talk about what their situation is. As you guys well know, we're always going to listen to everything and if we're not doing that, we think we're not doing our job. That doesn't necessarily mean we will do something with Matt."
What are your thoughts on Russell running the zone-read?
"I think Russell can do that. I don't think there's any question. I think he showed towards the end of the season we could do that. But I think also is a guy that can stay in the pocket and deliver the ball, and deliver it on time. He's a guy who has a unique ability to find passing lanes, and slip and slide."
What did you see in Gus Bradley that made you think he'd be a good head coach?
"Gus is fantastic. He has incredible people skills. Very strong leader of men. When I talked to Dave and a couple of the people down there (in Jacksonville), I just thought he was a perfect fit. He's a guy who has a ton of energy. His work ethic is off the charts. And just ethically, he's just a really good man."
On having Dan Quinn back in Seattle.
"That worked out great for us. Dan was with us our first year here, and he wasted to have some of those head coaching leadership skills, and he felt like he needed to go do that. For us to make that transition really helps, because he has a feel for Pete's defensive philosophy, as well as some of our players, like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Brandon Mebane -- some of the guys who are still there."
On what he's hoping to see in Russell Wilson from the first year to the second.
"Relaxing. getting a break. Taking a vacation. He needs to get a way a little bit, you know? I was telling him the other day that he went from the Rose Bowl all the way through this process -- he did the Jon Gruden QB Camp last year, went through the draft, was in it right away, studied his tail off, and just competed like crazy. He was over at the University of Washington, throwing to some of our receivers and some of their receivers. Then, he came into a very long rookie season, going as far as we went, and then he went to the Pro Bowl ... he went to the NFL Network and did the whole gameday coverage for the championship weekend, and then, after that, he went to the Pro Bowl. Then, he went to the Super Bowl and did all the stuff down there. I saw him the following Monday after the Super Bowl, and I said, 'Man you've gotta take some vacation,' you know? You need to get away a little bit. But I guess he was in there working yesterday, so..."
On what the Seahawks saw from Bruce Irvin in his first season.
"Bruce still has a huge upside -- he's only rushed the passer for three years now. From a technique standpoint, there are a lot things he needs to improve on, and he knows that. But it's very rare to find somebody with his ability to jump off the ball, and his speed around the corners, and ability to work his way back to the quarterback. I think he knows that the frustration kinda came out in the couple time he wasn't quite able to finish on the quarterback. But it's not always about quarterback sacks -- it's about moving the quarterback, and he was able to move the quarterback a ton. So, there are some things that don't show up, but I think he would tell you that he has some work to do. In terms of going back and thinking about the pick, we're obviously still very excited about it."
On how the Seahawks set third-day draft picks up to succeed.
"I can't speak for other organizations, but as for our group, we know our coaches have trust in us as far as acquiring players that fit what they're looking for , or fit a certain position. They're going to compete, and obviously for them to do that, the trust in the coaches to teach, work, and develop those players. And Pete's main philosophy is all about competition. So, he opens that door, and you have a chance to play."
On what happens if he and Pete Carroll don't see eye-to-eye on a particular decision.
"Pete and I have a great relationship, so we're able to talk through everything, really."
On how Jason Jones played, and if the Seahawks would like him back.
"Jason did a nice job. He's one of those guys, like we were talking about earlier, where he did move the quarterback a lot and he was disruptive. I don't think he finished as much as he would have liked to, but he's still a guy we're going to keep a close eye on, for sure."
On looking into draft prospects Twitter and Facebook accounts.
"You'd be shocked. Our security guy does a Twitter and Facebook count. It goes both ways, through. There are some guys on Twitter, and it's like they're trying to be Eddie Haskell now. They're putting out, 'Oh, I'm going to work out and it's 3:30 in the morning.' That's kinda weird, you know? But it does go both ways. You see some things that are very alarming. The Facebook stuff -- a couple years ago, you had that one guy who had a pile of coke and a couple guns sitting there. I don't think that bodes very well. I know my boss wouldn't really like that."
"Yeah, Richard was just on TV. We know Richard, and to us, it's not a really big deal. It's what makes him who he is. It's one of the things that made us fall in love with him, and it gives him the confidence to play the way he plays. He feels that he's the best cornerback in the league, and God bless him."
On whether Seattle's previous drafts change this draft for them.
"We grade for our team; we don't grade for the league. Our board basically represents that, if that makes sense to you. We grade a guy based on whether we think he can compete with Bruce Irvin, or Malcolm Smith, or Bobby Wagner, and that's the way our board falls."
On how much the Senior Bowl affects his draft evaluation.
"I think it's huge. Guys that turn it down and don't go -- if they're injured, I get it, but that's kind of the ultimate stage. If I was able to play in the Senior Bowl, I'd jump all over it. It would be outstanding. In terms of interviewing guys and grabbing them right after practice, or being able to be right on the field, which is a huge deal. Phil Savage did a great job with that this year. But in terms of watching how they lead, and how they work with the coaches, it's a great evaluation piece. It's great for the guys, too -- getting ready for the next phase in their professional careers."
On matching up with the 49ers.
"It's turned into a great rivalry. I think it's two of the more physical teams in the NFL. Really, I just feel that we need to keep working our system, and trying to get better every single day. That sounds like a cloche, but we're trying to get better at every single position and do things better than anybody's ever done, really. That's our goal, and whether or not we get there is kind of a different deal, but we feel confident that we're approaching that. We struggled against them the first time we played them down there, and played well at CenturyLink Field."