Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll can supply valid football reasons for the decisions they make.
They love players who have unique physical gifts and fit special niches in their schemes. And you can see the positive effects of the approach in their first two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
But you start getting the sense they also take some extra joy in doing the unconventional, the unexpected, the risky. Going against the grain.
They kept it interesting again in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday evening, picking West Virginia pass rusher Bruce Irvin.
Irvin was considered a second-round talent by some, and reputed to be taken off the board entirely by other teams for off-field indiscretions that landed him in jail as a youth – and had him in court as recently as last week.
When reporters mentioned that Irvin was not among the prospects considered worthy of the 15th pick in the draft, Schneider and Carroll both shook their heads and made a gesture that very obviously meant: So what?
What nobody disputes is that Irvin is a demonic pass rusher, almost a consensus as the best pass rusher in the nation. And the No. 1 need of the Seahawks was a pass rusher.
Problem meet solution.
While Irvin looks light as a pass rusher at 245 pounds, his times in the 40 (4.41 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.03) are fast even for cornerbacks.
When asked about his speed off the ball, Schneider and Carroll not only called him a “carbon copy” of Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, but also added that his get-off is the caliber of such former stars as Derrick Thomas, Charles Haley and Chris Doleman.
“This is the kind of guy who really puts the fear in offensive tackles; this is a rare guy and it’s a rare chance to get a guy like this,” Carroll said. “Ever since I’ve been coaching, I’ve been looking for a guy like this. This is the fastest guy that you could hope to get to play this position. Every coach in the league knows that. Everybody wants a guy like this.”
So, the Hawks not only got the guy they wanted, they traded down and picked up a fourth- and seventh-round pick in the process.
Irvin, himself, did not expect to be taken until late in the first round, and he thinks pretty highly of his talents.
“I’m just a great athlete,” Irvin said, while also promising to “stay humble.”
“I’m gonna do great stuff for this organization; the sky is the limit for me,” he said, humbly.
A short recap of his troubles include dropping out of high school, an arrest for burglarizing a drug dealer’s home, and time in jail. But he went back for his GED and then starred at Mt. San Antonio College.
At that point, he met a man important to his future: then-USC coach Pete Carroll. Carroll said Thursday that he had studied Irvin’s troubles over the years, and felt his background with Irvin made Carroll more comfortable with the character issues that might have scared off other teams.
Charges from a recent disorderly conduct case were dismissed Tuesday. Schneider said that he was comfortable with the recent issue.
Here’s a comment from Irvin that they have to enjoy: “I love eating quarterbacks.”
Other than Chris Clemons, the Hawks have only had players who nibbled at quarterbacks in recent seasons.
Imagine putting Irvin on the end opposite of Clemons. Consider how edgy tackles will feel when the CenturyLink Field crowd is all-out seismic and a guy who can run a 4.4 40 is flinching across from them.
Soon after the Hawks picked Irvin, more noted prospects like Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Shea McClellin, Whitney Mercilus and Chandler Jones were taken.
“This guy is going to be a great asset to the program,” Carroll said. “We did a good thing here today.”
We may all now watch how well they fit Irvin into the scheme, into the locker room and into the community.
No question, there are risks. But Irvin also brings unique athleticism and unparalleled speed, and meets their most pressing need.
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