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John Schneider honed his skills while working with some of the best in the business
Before John Schneider became the Seahawks’ general manager in 2010, he was director of football operations with the Green Bay Packers. Before that, Schneider was a personnel analyst to then-Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman. Before that, Schneider was vice president of player personnel for the Washington Redskins. Before that, he spent 2000 with the Seahawks as director of player personnel. Before that, Schneider spent three seasons as director of pro personnel with the Kansas City Chiefs. Before that, he was a pro personnel assistant with the Packers.
Before that, the persistent Schneider earned a summer internship with the Packers in 1992 by basically pestering then-executive vice president/general manager Ron Wolf into giving him a job – any job – in the team’s scouting department.
The most-remarkable aspect of Schneider’s well-traveled, multi-tasking resume is that he won’t turn 42 until next month, despite working in the league for 21 years.
But the most-telling aspect of Schneider’s path to his current position with the Seahawks is the people he has worked for and with – Wolf and current Packers GM Ted Thompson; former Chiefs and Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer; and Reggie McKenzie and John Dorsey, who this offseason were hired as the general managers of the Oakland Raiders and Chiefs but also worked with Schneider in Green Bay.
Schneider, ever the sponge, has incorporated what he learned from those personnel men – especially Wolf – into the philosophy he uses today, and will be display during next week’s NFL Draft. And that is, build the roster through the draft, supplement it through free agency and look beyond the obvious.
“It all starts with Ron Wolf, who was actually more of an educator than he probably thought at the time,” Schneider said recently while sitting in his office at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “He included pro personnel staff with his college staff in 21 day meetings, which were the primary draft meetings where he built the board.”
The same type of meetings Schneider is now conducting with the Seahawks. And by doing it the Wolf way, Schneider also has been influenced by the late Al Davis – the former owner and coach of the Raiders who was to Wolf what Wolf became to Schneider.
“So at a very young age, I was exposed to the way Ron Wolf did things, and Al Davis and a lot of veteran scouts – three of them who had coached and/or played for Vince Lombardi,” Schneider said.
That trio was comprised of Ray Wietecha, Red Cochran and Dave Hanner.
“You listen to these guys and it’s a huge learning process just from the get-go,” Schneider said. “They were longtime scouts so it was constant stories and comparing to older players that I didn’t even know.
“It was like information overload.”
But it also helped Schneider learn how to manage the glut of information that is comes with the draft.
It’s easy to say that Schneider’s best move in any draft was the selection of quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round last year. Easy, but not comprehensive, because it diminishes the success he has had with third-day picks in his first three drafts with the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll.
Consider the following: In their first draft together in 2010, Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety Kam Chancellor was selected in the fifth round; in 2011, it was All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round, as well as starting linebackers K.J. Wright in the fourth round and Malcolm Smith in the seventh, with a supplemental pick no less; last year, they added guard J.R. Sweezy in the seventh round, as well as situational players in running back Robert Turbin in the fourth round and defensive backs Jeremy Lane and Winston Guy in the sixth round.
What’s Schneider’s secret?
“We don’t conduct ourselves like we have it all figured out,” he said. “We’re constantly asking questions and searching for knowledge.”
Those are lessons that Schneider learned the hard way.
“Obviously you learn your lessons from guys that you feel like you’ve evaluated them inappropriately,” he said. “It’s, ‘I wish we would have done this.’ Or, ‘I wish we would have researched this a little more than we did when we thought we knew we had the answer.’ ”
It goes back to the way he was “raised,” and the influence the teachers of his teacher had on the process. In Kansas City, the draft board was built in an entirely different manner than the way he had learned under Wolf in Green Bay. It also was while with the Chiefs that Schneider was exposed to calling other teams and working trades.
“That was a little nerve-wracking for a 25-year-old guy,” Schneider said. “But that was a great experience.”
The connection between Carroll, who was hired eight days before Schneider in January of 2010, was instantaneous and their on-the-same-page way of looking at things so simpatico it’s uncanny. Carroll looks for players with unique skill sets. Or as Schneider put it, “Pete is not afraid to play with people with different dimensions.”
Schneider has become ridiculously proficient at finding them – in the draft, in free agency, even by signing players “off the street.”
“I take great pride in the chemistry that John and I have about figuring things out and him doing what he does and me doing what I do and then we come together,” Carroll said. “We have a tremendous relationship.
“We have found kind of the center of what we believe in and what we’re trying to create and made a big effort to get together. We need to get our heads together so that we can offer this program a clear thought on what we’re trying to do and a clear message and all.”
In their first year together, Schneider and Carroll made 284 transactions. The next year, it was 231. The method behind this perceived madness – and that constant looking and searching – is a 2013 offseason roster that NFL.com recently rated the best in the league.
“John’s been incredible,” Carroll said. “He’s had tremendous freedom and I trust him in every way. And he trusts me in every way. It allows us to really function at a high level and function quickly and be involved in everything.”
But the most likeable thing about the likeable character that is Schneider has to be the lack of ego and desire to share success with those on his staff – in this case, senior personnel executive Scot McCloughan; director of pro personnel Tag Ribary, assistant director Trent Kirchner and pro scout Dan Morgan; director of college scouting Scott Fitterer and area scouts Jason Barnes, Matt Berry, Todd Brunner, Ed Dodds, Aaron Hineline and Tyler Ramsey; college scouting coordinator Kirk Parrish; and vice president of football operations Matt Thomas, who manages the team’s salary cap.
In fact, the interview for this story started with Schneider asking, “Do we have to talk about me, or can we just talk about the draft process and all the work everyone else does?”
That’s John Schneider. Quick to accept any blame. Even quicker to share any success.