Friday, February 25, 2011

Decoding John Schneider

Seahawks GM John Schneider graciously dropped us a few small bones today as he spoke to reporters at the Combine. In these days of CBA limbo, we're desperate for any scraps that fall from the table, are we not?

I wanted to take what we heard and turn it over a little bit in my mind. Not that I have any idea what Schneider is really thinking, but hey, we're all doing this, right?

On Matt Hasselbeck:

“It’s going good. We’re having great dialogue. Matt’s Mr. Seattle, and he’s done a ton of great things for the city, on and off the field. We’ve had good dialogue. I think you’ve heard me say it before, the head coach and the quarterback are the most important people in the building.”

The "Mr. Seattle" comment might scare a few of the Seahawks fans who are waiting urgently for Hasselbeck to retire and quit throwing interceptions, but this says little that we didn't already know.

The signs have already been pointing towards an extension for Hasselbeck, perhaps a modest one that lets Seattle move towards a new QB without undue cost. The draft QB's are risky, and it's not as if free agency will be around to provide any relief - meaning keeping Hass around is suddenly an insurance policy. There's still room to hope that Seattle will be proactive in finding that QB of the future instead of blindly sticking with Hasselbeck. The current Super Bowl champion (Schneider's former employer) was built around such a move, so evidence of the wisdom of that sort of move is there for all to see.

On Brandon Mebane:

“Brandon played well. I think Brandon’s a steady pro. Definitely, we hope we can have him back. We talked to his guys last night, and we’re having good discussions with them.”

Again, very thin. The real question, that I wish someone would ask, is still why Brandon Mebane isn't being played at his position of strength. Carroll made some comments a little while ago about regretting not switching to a more traditional D-line front, but that could mean anything. With the decision not to franchise Mebane, the Seahawks have even more of an impetus to have a deal waiting once a new CBA does appear.

On Nate Davis:

“He had a great preseason with the Niners, so he’s just coming into this thing. He’s got his eyes wide open right now. But it was an opportunity to look at another guy.”

I think the Seahawks' willingness to look at other quarterbacks says more than anything else about their opinion on our current QB situation. It's a positive sign, even if Davis probably will never see the active roster. It also further highlights their belief in low-profile QB competition.

On Charlie Whitehurst:

“Charlie had the one game and he did a good job. He just hasn’t had the opportunities that other people have had. I think the St. Louis game was a perfect example. It was really the first week that they put a nice game plan together for him, and it was a huge game for us.

You know, those two games at the end of the year, they don’t get any bigger than that. And that’s what Pete’s been preaching for a championship atmosphere, and Charlie stepped into a championship atmosphere that night.

But we’re always going to be trying to find those guys to compete at that position. It’s the most important position on the team."

Quoting QB as the nexus of the team is reassuring but easy to say. I still count myself amongst those who believe that Schneider is regretting overpaying for Whitehurst and that the team is not sold on his ability to run an offense. It's the most natural explanation for why Carroll was so reluctant to bench Hasselbeck during his self-destruction in December.

Should Seattle look for another option in the draft, it'll be hard to see Whitehurst keeping a place in the competition - but on the flip side, do Carroll and Schneider believe enough in what he does have (arm strength and mobility) to where they can justify passing on the draft quarterbacks and continuing the Hass/Charlie showdown?

On offensive linemen:

“Coach Gibbs liked a little bit lighter player, and Tom is willing to play with a bigger man. So, as we’re putting our board together, that helps us.”

Seattle would never tip its draft hand, but if this is genuine, I like it. The tools of size and strength are really not as negotiable on the offensive line as some say. This area, however, could be dealt with in free agency (if it's ever restored to us) if Raiders linemen and Tom Cable proteges Robert Gallery (G) and Samson Satele (C) decide to follow Cable to Seattle.

On Dexter Davis:

“A guy like Dexter Davis, he’s been hearing that he’s an under-sized guy his whole career. And he just has a natural feel, God-given ability to rush the passer.”

After watching successful small pass rushers from Nick Reed to Elvis Dumervil, and after watching Tim Ruskell consistently find solid players in the 7th round during his tenure, I'm the last guy to count out Dexter Davis. But he'll need playing time. I sometimes question whether Seattle's desperate need for pass rush kept Clemons on the field and Davis buried more often than either would have liked.

On Max Unger:

“But ideally his spot I think probably will end up being center.”

This caught my attention. I don't think Max Unger is cut out to start in the NFL. He doesn't have the strength at the point of attack.

But this could also be jockeying for trade value. Schneider spent last offseason insisting that WR Deion Branch and RB Julius Jones would have a role in Seattle's new offense; instead, both were gotten rid of. The idea had obviously been to jack up trade offers by hinting that Seattle still planned to keep those guys. Unger could be getting "teased" around the league in a similar attempt, especially since the Seahawks can keep Chris Spencer around, and since out of all the guard projects Seattle brought on board in 2010, most didn't perform any worse than Unger.

On roster moves:

“Last year when we cam into Seattle there were a lot of issues we had to deal with. And that’s why you saw so much activity, turning over the roster a bunch. Hopefully we’re not going to do that. I mean we’re still going to be competing, but we had a lot of stuff to do. So I think we’re kind of at a point where we can take a deep breath now and just kind of move forward.”

Well, with Brandon Browner, Caz Piurowski, Paul McQuistan, Chris Carter, James Brindley, Jay Alford, and Barrett Moen already coming in and out, it doesn't look like the revolving-door roster has slown down yet. It does, however, speak to the existence of a "satisfaction point" for Schneider/Carroll that guys like Roy Lewis, Isaiah Stanback, and Chris Henry have been re-signed.

So, at the very least we can glean that the Seahawks are actively engaged with their free agents and getting stuff done. Haggle while you can, John. It could be a long offseason.

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