INDIANAPOLIS – John Schneider stepped to the podium Thursday in a capacity he had never filled at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He has been attending the annual gathering of college prospects – a.k.a. The Underwear Olympics – since his formative days as a scouting assistant for the Green Bay Packers in the early 1990s. But this was Schneider’s first appearance as the general manager of the Super Bowl champions.
And the Seahawks’ GM was having fun with it.
“So to see all the fans out there, it was pretty overwhelming.”
But as much fun as winning Super Bowl XLVIII was on Feb.2 – and as over the top as the celebration parade through the streets of Seattle and in front of 700,000 fans was three days later – now comes the hard part.
The Seahawks have a dozen key contributors to the most-successful season in franchise history who are scheduled to become either unrestricted or restricted free agents in a few weeks – including leading receiver
Schneider and his staff, as well as coach Pete Carroll and his staff, are in Indy to continue their evaluation of potential draft choices who could claim roster spots from those on the 2013 team.
And just as the days surrounding that 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium were not lost on Schneider, neither is the reality that the 2014 Seahawks won’t necessarily be the same as the 2013 Seahawks. It comes with the business, as well as the winning.
“We’re going to try and do whatever we can possible do to try to keep this core together,” Schneider said. “There are going to be a lot of tough decisions. There are a lot of days ahead that are going to be hard, because there’s going to be tough decisions. But if you want to be a consistent championship-caliber football team you have to have those tough decisions made.
“You can’t keep everybody. It’s actually a sad thing.”
Carroll addressed that fact after the Super Bowl win.
“He said, ‘Hey, it’s the last time we’re going to be in this locker room together – everybody,’ ” Schneider said. “So tough decisions ahead absolutely.”
And don’t count on Schneider using the franchise tag to lock up one of the team’s impending free agents, because Schneider isn’t.
Schneider would rather work out long-term deals, and specifically mentioned Bennett and Tate as priorities.
On Tate, who caught 64 passes for 898 yards during the regular season: “Golden knows where we stand, how much we love him and how much we want to have him back on our team. God bless him.”
On Bennett, who had 8.5 sacks: “He’s definitely a top priority. He had a great season. He proved to be durable. Great guy. Fun guy to be around. Hopefully we can get something worked out.”
Schneider also has had an impact on the way others will conduct business at the Combine. Two years ago, he selected a quarterback deemed too short to play in the league in the third round of the NFL Draft, and all the 5-foot-11
Asked about Schneider’s decision to overlook Wilson’s most-talked-about physical trait and instead focus on the overwhelming mental attributes and other skills he brings to the pivotal position, the term used by other GMs and coaches Thursday was that he changed the “dynamic” when the topic of evaluating quarterbacks came up.
“I think Russell gives people more confidence when they look at a shorter quarterback,” Schneider said. “He gives people the confidence to say, ‘You know what, I was right on Russell. I am right on this guy. Because look, I liked Russell a lot. We backed off him. We should have taken him. So now I have the confidence to move forward and select a guy.’ ”
Just like Schneider did with Wilson, who helped lead the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl championship and put Schneider in a role he has never filled before.