Just back from the Senior Bowl, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider ditched his proclivity for in-season reclusiveness. At least for 30 minutes.
A little more than a week before the Super Bowl, Schneider sat down with reporters to talk about the NFC champions, which he has helped mold over the past four seasons.
Coach Pete Carroll and Schneider stripped the paint, rotated the tires and rebuilt the engine when they first arrived. This offseason, they were finally in a spot to add some blingy rims and extra horsepower.
The result is the NFC’s top team, which will make the organization’s second Super Bowl appearance Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J., when it faces the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“I think we believed we could do it, but this league it’s so hard to win one game,” Schneider said. “Where we’re at peace is that we know we’re trying to get better every single day beyond this game because we want this to be a consistent championship-caliber team and not a team where the fans don’t feel like we’re cruise in, cruise out for one year … where there is a solid base and we have to make tough decisions every year.”
General managers operate in a land of second-guessing. The public does it to them; they also badger themselves.
Schneider, 42, even dealt with blowback from his family. Knowing the Seahawks were not going to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck after the 2011 season, he pulled one of his sons aside. He wanted to explain the move before his son learned of it from the media while away on a trip. That earned him a gut punch and an irritated youngster.
Making cuts can torment a general manager. While with Green Bay, Schneider would watch Packers general manager Ted Thompson become physically ill the day he made the final cut to produce a 53-man roster.
“The very worst thing we do, the thing that just eats at you, is releasing players and knowing again you’re affecting lives,” Schneider said.
What’s next is always what’s first for Schneider. The Seahawks enter the Super Bowl with Schneider allowing himself little time for self-congratulation. He took satisfaction from beating San Francisco for the NFC championship because of the ferocity of the game. “That was a very physical football team the other day, so I was just very, very proud of the way our guys overcame adversity,” Schneider said. Yet, there are pending contracts, nonstop draft analysis and salary-cap issues to deal with.
After the 2014 season, Seahawks stars Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will be eligible for free agency. Russell Wilson can become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 season. Those three becoming high-end players at ditch-diggers’ salaries has provided the Seahawks salary cap flexibility this season, allowing them to sign such players as Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in the offseason.
Sherman, Thomas and Wilson combine to make just more than $3 million this season in base salary. Sherman ($555,000) and Wilson ($526,217) will make less this year in base salary than long snapper Clint Gresham ($630,000).
“You just always know there’s something coming,” Schneider said.
The front office began to look ahead last spring, and, Schneider says, put together multiple models of what could happen two or three years in the future. The Seahawks employ vice president of football operations Matt Thomas as their “cap guy.”
A costly move they made last offseason has yet to pay off. The Seahawks signed Percy Harvin to a six-year, $67 million deal after trading three picks, including a first-rounder, for him. Harvin has played six quarters in his first season with the team after being limited by injuries. He is expected to be ready for the Super Bowl.
“I feel bad for him, the way that this has gone,” Schneider said. “I’m sure it’s been tough for him. I’m very happy for him now. But the best thing about it is that it’s a six-year contract and he’s a young man.”
Without Harvin, the Seahawks were able to provide Schneider gratification by ousting the 49ers. Don’t mistake that as satisfaction, however.
“We have our sights set much higher because of what we want to do here for as long as we possibly can,” Schneider said.