A Super Sunday for Schneider

Posted Feb 9, 2011

Before John Schneider became the Seahawks’ GM last January, the Wisconsin native worked for the Packers. What he learned along the way is helping him rebuild the Seahawks’ fortunes.

During Sunday’s lengthy buildup to the Super Bowl, John Schneider kept himself occupied with draft meetings at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

But once the game began, and especially after the Green Bay Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was over, the Wisconsin-born and Packer-raised general manager of the Seahawks allowed himself a way-to-go moment. Even if it was long distance.

“Absolutely, I’m really excited for everybody there,” Schneider said Wednesday during a break between – what else – draft meetings to get his staff and that of coach Pete Carroll on the same page before everyone heads to Indianapolis Feb. 23-March 1 for the NFL scouting combine.

“I’ve compared the people in Green Bay’s building in a very similar manner to the people here. As soon as you walk into the building here, you can tell there are just really good people and a vibe in the building.”

There also was a twinge of déjà vu for Schneider, who spent Super Bowl Sunday in 2006 in draft meetings at the Packers’ offices while waiting for the Seahawks to play the Steelers. With him on that Sunday were general manager Ted Thompson, who left the Seahawks after the 2004 season to return to the Packers; and Mike McCarthy, a former Packers assistant coach who had just been hired as the 14th head coach in the long-and-fabled history of the franchise.

“We were actually in our draft meetings in Green Bay that year, too,” Schneider said. “And Ted was really rooting for everybody. And he felt very badly for the people here that weren’t able to win the championship – the players, the coaches, the people in the building he was still so close to.”

The Seahawks’ Super Bowl team included 27 players who were acquired under Thompson’s watch (2000-04), and featured 13 who started against the Steelers at Ford Field in Detroit – running back Shaun Alexander, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck and Sean Locklear, defensive linemen Grant Wistrom and Rocky Bernard, linebacker D.D. Lewis, cornerback Marcus Trufant and safeties Michael Boulware and Marquand Manuel.

Just as Schneider had helped compile the Packers team that beat the Steelers on Sunday.

“There were mixed emotions,” Schneider said. “I wanted them to win and I was really happy for everybody. But my wife and I made a decision to leave and try to go build our own thing, and team up with Pete.

“It’s been an incredible experience so far.”

Still, he couldn’t forget the conversations he and McCarthy used to have. In addition being co-workers and striving to reach the same goal, they became close friends very quickly.

“One of the hardest parts was, right when he got there we always talked about building a championship team and holding the trophy and even, ‘Hey, maybe they’ll name a street after you some day,’ ” Schneider said, smiling as he recalled those close friend-to-close friend discussions.

Schneider then laughed as he added, “And jokingly saying, ‘Hey, maybe there’ll be a statue of you out there someday.”

Schneider watched on TV as McCarthy and Thompson hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night, again Monday when the team got back to Green Bay and yet again during the celebration ceremony at Lambeau Field on Tuesday – when it also was announced that the city does plan to name a street after McCarthy; just as it did after Mike Holmgren led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

“That was kind of hard,” Schneider admitted of watching the trophy hoisting from afar. “And it’s weird, because you spent so much effort in that mode – trying to get that trophy.”

But soon after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Arizona Cardinals last season, Schneider took the GM job with the Seahawks – and hasn’t had time to look back.

“And we’re still going,” he said. “So I look at what just happened and I can’t believe it’s been a full year and they’ve won the world championship.” 

You can take the boy out of De Pere, Wis., but you can’t take the lessons Schneider learned while working for the Packers out of the general manager he has become. And that’s a good thing as the Seahawks move into their second year of the Carroll-Schneider collaboration.

Schneider not only worked with Thompson and McCarthy in Green Bay, he also is a protégé of Ron Wolf, the Packers’ highly influential GM from 1991-2000. It was Wolf who gave Schneider his foot in the NFL door in 1992, as a summer intern while attending the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn.

It also was Wolf who, in order, hired Holmgren to coach the team (1992), traded for Brett Favre to quarterback it (1992) and signed Reggie White (1993) in free agency to underline the Packers’ return to prominence (six consecutive playoff berths and two Super Bowl appearances in White’s six seasons with the team).

Not surprisingly, Schneider has taken what he learned from Wolf and Thompson, as well as Marty Schottenheimer when both were in Kansas City and Washington, and made it his own as he moved into his first GM role.

“Like any student, if you will, you try to learn from everybody,” Schneider said. “I’ve learned a lot about study and patience and evaluation from Ted. There’s no question.”

Thompson also joined the Packers for his first stint with the team in 1992, four months before Schneider showed up.

“Ted has always been like an older-brother figure in the business, whereas Ron was more a father figure,” Schneider said. “Ron was kind of rolling and had his thing up and going.”

But don’t expect Schneider to follow that green-and-gold path exactly when it comes to the Seahawks. As much as he wants to get where the Packers are, he realizes every journey is unique.

“I think every organization is different; every path is a little different,” he said. “When people talk about blueprint, yeah, obviously we’d love to be young and talented and fast; yeah, we want to have the depth they have, we want to have the speed they have, the versatility.

“Our motto here is, we’re competing every day. So we’re going to take advantage of every opportunity we can in terms of evaluation and acquisition. And with that, also being able to fix our deficiencies as quickly as we can. Or if we make mistakes along the way, to be able to compensate for those mistakes as quickly as we can.”

That’s how – and why – you make 284 transactions in your first 12 months on the job.

“You have to have a very good pulse for your team, and constantly be evaluating your team and know who’s going to fit and who’s not going to fit,” Schneider said. “I would say one of Ted’s biggest strengths and one of the biggest things I’ve learned from him – because he’s a former player – is just the importance of the locker room and team chemistry.

“Marty Schottenheimer was also influential there, because he would always talk about you can never lie to a player and you’ve got to be completely honest with them and try to help them. Ted and Marty were similar in that regard.”

Another trait Schneider learned from Thompson is being confident in what you’re doing, and basing it on thorough preparation.

“Ted is just so confident in his abilities that he doesn’t have a panic switch. At all,” Schneider said. “He’s a strong man of faith and he has a lot of confidence in his abilities. But I think he relies on his faith a lot to stay the course.”

The thoroughness is rooted in what Thompson and Schneider gleaned from Wolf.

“That’s probably what rubbed off the most from Ron,” Schneider said. “He was just so incredibly thorough,and bold and strong and not afraid to take chances.”

Lessons learned from some of the best, and Schneider is doing his best to incorporate them into doing things the Seahawks way.