The Schneider Way

The Schneider Way

New Seahawks GM John Schneider is a Ron Wolf disciple, a former Mike Holmgren colleague, and a recent pointman in one of the draft-friendliest front offices in the NFL. Todd Webb reads the tea leaves to tell us what this brings the Seahawks from a personnel perspective.

On Saturday 1/23/10, John Schneider joined 710 ESPN's John Clayton in the 11:00 hour. In case you were still hitting the snooze button, here is a link to that interview. It's definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.

http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=577&a=14235&p=8&n=John Clayton

As a rule, good GMs tend to keep their ways, plans, etc. as carefully guarded as Smaug's treasure from The Hobbit. During that interview however, Schneider cracked open his treasure chest and gave fans a glimpse of a few of his well guarded gems – insights into his philosophies as a GM, where those philosophies have come from, … and perhaps given some hints as to what we should look for as far as player personnel moves this off-season.

As an admitted Ron Wolf disciple, Schneider admitted that he has certain player standards …

Schneider: "We have standards at certain positions, and if a player doesn't fit those standards he has to have certain criteria that compensates for those deficiencies, meaning that he has to be a phenomenal football player – to play with a ton of passion."

Standards? … What standards? …

Wide Receivers – "big receivers that can run, are physical." From Mike Holmgren, Schneider said that he learned that receivers must have the ability to "run after the catch."

Cornerbacks – as a rule must "have size and length and [be] able to run."

Schneider: "It's a big man's league – it has more to do with the corners and receivers than any other position." Schneider noted that at the combine three years ago that there were 22 or 23 receivers that were 6'4" and taller.

A quick glance at the Packers' Roster testifies to that, as the shortest WR [Greg Jennings] checks in at 5'11" … and the shortest CB [Derrick Martin] checks in at 5'10". Given that, take it to the bank that Deion Branch and Josh Wilson types will be a rarity on this roster.

Linebackers, Defensive Line, Offensive Line …

Schneider: "When it comes to linebackers, runners, defensive line, and offensive line, you're really talking more about trying to fit the players to the specific team scheme that you're going to run."

Schneider: "With the hiring of Alex Gibbs obviously we're going to be a zone team. It definitely changes the way you look at offensive lineman. This guy's an incredible teacher. He's kind of the godfather of the zone run scheme."

Offensive lineman. – because the Hawks are going to be a zone blocking team, Schneider said that they will be looking for "quick, agile, real smart offensive lineman who can be a little lighter. They don't have to be the big hulking 320 pound hammers in there."

Running backs -- Schneider said that he will be looking for ones "that can really put their foot on the ground and get upfield. Not a lot of dancing. And have great vision for the cutback. Envision Terrell Davis – always looking for the cutback and the quick feet to come back across the grain." He must have a "really good feel for the flow."

Quarterbacks – Clayton asked Schneider about quarterbacks, noting that Ron Wolf always would take a quarterback every year. You can never have enough quarterbacks. Schneider acknowledged that this fits with his philosophy as well. If you have quality people to work with them, especially in the Spring … they "can have serious trade value."

Schneider: "Actually Jeremy Bates and I were just in here talking about that this morning. It's one of those deals where there's certain criteria in a quarterback that with redeeming qualities. Where if there's a guy 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th round … even a Free Agent like a Tony Romo who stands out regarding his athleticism or something. You continue to add a new young guy to the mix every year and then guess what, then all of a sudden you start having a Ty Detmer, a Mark Brunell, and an Aaron Brooks, and a Matt Hasselbeck. … It's a philosophy that you can never have enough of those guys and if you have quality people to develop them in the Spring and work with them, especially with there not being an NFL Europe system anymore, it's really critical to the success of your football team. If you have four, everybody's looking for one. So, a guy like Matt Hasselbeck – that guy had serious trade value."

Schneider noted that Green Bay's trade of Hasselbeck to Seattle netted the Packers a 2nd round pick that year.

Punt Returner – Schneider said that he learned a lot about punt returners from Holmgren and honestly believes that returning punts is "the hardest thing to do." Schneider: "If a guy was going to be a good punt returner, he was going to be a good West Coast receiver. If you're a punt returner in this league in my opinion, it's the hardest thing to do and it makes sense. If a guy has the courage to be fielding punts, and then going to be able to run with it after the catch, he's going to be able to run a slant and make somebody miss and have the toughness to take a hit over the middle."

Who he's learned from …

Schneider acknowledged that he has learned a lot from Mike Holmgren as far as quarterbacks and receivers are concerned – the criteria of what you want to look for in those positions.

Schneider said that he's learned a lot from John Gruden, Andy Reid, Dick Jauron, Sherm Lewis, Ray Rhodes, Steve Mariucci, and Marty Mornhinweg.

Ted Thompson – taught him about linebackers and special teams and philosophically his patience in dealing with players.

Marty Schottenheimer taught him "general toughness" that you need to have toughness – Schneider: "you have to run the ball. You have to have tough people, you have to have mentally tough people. You have to have guys who are willing to work."

Terry Bradway – "being more of a laser attitude, being a shotgun, everywhere. Being prepared and all over the place."

The John Schneider Way …

Schneider: "It's really truly a daily process of evaluating of every position on the team and what's out there in terms of trades, waiver claims, free agency, free agent guys with low tenders … pinpointing guys who may be cap casualties – really, truly exploring every avenue."

Schneider admitted that he tends to be more aggressive than Ted Thompson is.

Schneider characterized his GM philosophy as: "an aggressive, comprehensive coverage philosophy in terms of player acquisition. We're going to be out everywhere. We're going to be involved in everything. You can always say "no." I don't think you ever take yourself out of something too early before you explore every option." He gave the example of Charles Woodson and the original reservations that they had on him early on in Green Bay. The more they studied him however, the more they envisioned him doing good things in their system and with a new change of scenery.

Schneider said that they are going to be "extremely selective with the people who they think will fit the scheme."

Preview of Coming Attractions …

So, what can Seahawk fans expect as far as moves this off-season are concerned? I believe here are a few:

1) They will be truly out everywhere and will leave no stone unturned when it comes to improving this roster.

2) Notice if you will the positions that he specifically addressed during the interview --- Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Offensive Line, Running Back, Quarterback, and Punt Returner. Any serious Hawk fan who has any attention to this team knows its deficiencies already (No Duh!), but I don't think it's coincidental at that these were specific positions he chose to address.

3) Look for this team to look to bring in taller and quicker WR's and CB's that can really run.

4) Brandon Marshall. Believe those rumors of the Seahawks interest in him (though I'd sooner believe that Bigfoot is going to run for president in 2012 than to believe that the Hawks will actually give Denver its 1st Rd. Draft choice back to them).

5) Bank on the Hawks taking a quarterback somewhere in the draft this year, either to develop as a quarterback of the future or for trade value.

6) Given that this team will be running a Zone Blocking Scheme, look for Schneider et al to acquire quicker, agile lineman who have good footwork, rather than simply big brutes who will simply to overpower guys.

7) That the days of Julius Jones as the starting HB on this team are over. Look for the Hawks to select one somewhere in the draft. Honestly though, I'd personally believe they can find good ones even into the 3rd and 4th rounds in this draft.

8) I'd look for the Hawks either to draft a Punt Returner in the later rounds (6th or 7th) or bring one in as an Undrafted Free Agent in order to take Nate Burleson out of the mix.

9) That he will be looking for tough, hard-working players, who may even be "dirtbags."


Todd Webb is a Scout.com writer and has been a loyal Seahawks fan and a faithful follower of the team for the past 32 years.  When he is not writing for Scout.com, Todd can be found passionately teaching young people in the public school system. Feel free to e-mail him here.

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