Here’s the full transcript from Monday’s conversation with Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider.
Schneider’s opening remarks: “I’ll just start by saying we had another great weekend, long weekend. Our scouts flew in last night (Sunday) and we started first thing this morning at eight o’clock, by position. And we’ll end the week with our coaches. And we’ll continue to clean up as we go through the weekend. Hopefully people will enjoy Easter a little bit, but we’ll get through the weekend.
Really we’re just at a point now where we’re massaging it if you well, and we’re ready to go. … I shouldn’t say that we’re ready to go like right now. That’s kind of B.S. We do have some stuff to work on. The guys’ families are going to fly in for Saturday and Sunday, so we’re not flying everybody back home, just because it’s at such an awkward time this year. But yeah, other than that, I hope to get past the next weekend where we’re just kind of tweaking things a little bit and working more on strategy.”
Q: How tough has it been to deal with the unique situation teams are in now, having to wait to deal with free agency after the draft?
Schneider: “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind. It is on our mind to a certain extent, but we’re also going through a process that is just all here – it’s all in a box. And it’s what we have to deal with, and we did it last year, too.
“I mean we’re getting ready for the draft. We’re evaluating everybody by position. We’re looking for guys down the line that can help us and fill specific needs, or compete in specific roles. And so in terms of that, we’re approaching it exactly the same. We wouldn’t be doing anything different. It’s just that I don’t have to be running out of meetings or anything like that to take a free agent call with John Idzik or run off to a dinner or anything like that.”
Q: But doesn’t it complicate things because you don’t have all the pieces together that you can work with?
Schneider: “It’s just unique, you know? It’s just a unique year, but where we are as a team, we still think that we’re in the infancy of our development. And so, no disrespect to the players that are here, but we feel like we have a long way to go to be a consistent, championship-caliber football team. And the draft is our primary avenue for creating that success. So we’re still seeing this as, ‘All right, here’s our next group of young men that we’re going to try and ad to this group.”
Q: Do you think because there is no free agency that there’s been more intense scrutiny on draft prospects, with the possibility of overanalyzing players’ draft stock?
Schneider: “No. I mean the coaches are definitely more involved. They’re more into this year, which is kind of fun. They’re all jacked up about it because that’s primarily what they’re concentrating on, but other than that, no, not really.”
Q: Has this given you more time to focus on the draft, instead of going into meetings and talking to free agents?
Schneider: “Yes, but don’t hold that against me.”
Q: Is this second time around any easier, having gone through the draft as the GM with this group of scouts and some of the coaching staff?
Schneider: “Absolutely. It’s unique because last year, picking six and 14, I mean my sons could have had a pretty good grade at six. So picking at 25 definitely makes it harder, but it’s much easier this year in terms of our preparation because when we got here last year, we didn’t want to change their grading scale that they had going. And then we had a group of new coaches that we were trying to bring up to speed as quickly as possible on how we were going to build our board, and how the guys were going to be ranked and availability-wise especially. So we wanted to make sure we were in the most basic system they could be in, and then I kind of was still on my own Green Bay format.
“This year we have our own grading scale. We’ve added a grade, and we’ve done a lot of great things. And everybody knows what to expect.”
Q: With Matt Hasselbeck, with the fact that’s he’s unsigned. Assuming nothing gets resolved and you go into the draft without a decision on him, does that change how you evaluate or choose a quarterback?
Schneider: “No. Easy – we will be looking for a quarterback every single year. That’s just the way I was – I’ve been blessed to be around some pretty talented people. And it’s just a philosophy of you can never have enough of those guys.”
Q: And you’re somewhat familiar in drafting a quarterback a little early with Aaron Rodgers?
Schneider: “Both ways. I think Matt (Hasselbeck) was a sixth-round pick. Mark Brunell was a fifth-round pick I believe. So my point is, especially that position is so hard – and I know that everybody writes about it all the time. But it’s true, that’s the hardest position to evaluate. So, you look at Philadelphia right now, they have two quality guys. Well, Andy Reid basically came through Ron’s (former Packers GM Ron Wolf) method of drafting. And, I’ve been in drafts where we’ve taken a guy early, and we taken a guy late, too. And we’ve had two guys on our team. So it depends on the year, but you just know going forward that it’s not – now if it’s a bad quarterback year and there isn’t a guy there and they get taken off, then it’s fine – but especially in the draft, it’s not an area that you can panic for, or panic about. But it’s not an area that can be overlooked just because you think you may have a guy.”
Q: So would it be accurate to say that your team’s evaluation of quarterbacks in the draft is really independent of Matt’s status?
Schneider: “Yes, absolutely.”
Q: What kind of year is it for quarterbacks?
Schneider: “I think it’s a good year. I think it’s really a unique year because all of these guys are so different. I mean, wow. You go through seven guys and they’re all just completely different cats.”
Q: The fact that there are that many quarterbacks being talked about high in draft, going in the first couple rounds, does it make this draft more unpredictable?
Schneider: “Yeah, I think so. I think you can go through the league and say there’s probably between nine and 12 teams that you would say, ‘You know what, those guys need a quarterback.’ Or just from the outside looking in you would say that.
“But again, I don’t know how everybody else looks at it. I know somebody said to me the other day that (Tampa Bay general manager ) Mark Dominik said that he thinks there’s going to be six quarterbacks taken in the first round, and I told him I could see why he would think that. But Mark’s a good friend of mine, and if he were sitting right here I would tell you that he’s got a quarterback, so he wants a lot of guys to be taken so those offensive linemen fall.”
Q: How specific are your guys’ taste when you look at a quarterback? Is there a certain kind that you need, or are you kind of open as long as the talent is there?
Schneider: “I think we’re open. I think we’re definitely open because there’s such a wide variety, and I don’t want to get into specifics on guys. But I think everybody knows what I’m talking about. You have some incredibly tough guys. You have some big-time competitors. You have some real good movers and some not-so-good movers. You have guys that are extremely accurate. You have guys that have average accuracy.
“Every one of these guys has compensating factors that are just more unique than any of the guys from recent years from what I remember.”
Q: Do you think this will be a situation with the quarterback that they might go higher in the draft because of the uncertainty of what free agency might bring, versus maybe last year or next year they would be more like third or fourth round?
Schneider: “I can’t answer that. I know that we wouldn’t approach it that way, but I don’t know how other teams will approach it. Like I said, especially with that position, I don’t think you can panic. I think you’ve got to go through your evaluation process and have a feel for what you think of the guy and move forward. Some of the clubs that I’ve been with, some of the worst drafts we’ve had is where you get nervous and you feel like you’ve got to have a guy, and maybe you give up something to go get a guy, or you push a guy based purely on need, and that’s where you can get into a lot of trouble.”
Q: When you guys took Rodgers, did you feel like you had more flexibility to do that given the state of your roster?
Schneider: “No. He was just way too good a prospect, and we had been looking for one for several years. And once he started sliding, we weren’t going to go jump out and go get him. We were like, ‘Hey, if he comes to us, great. If someone gives up something and jumps ahead of us, that’s fine. That’s somebody else’s prerogative.’ But it wasn’t like we were hell-bent on getting Aaron Rodgers, you know what I mean?
Q: You didn’t know how great he’d become?
Schneider: “I didn’t think he was going to be this good. I thought he was going to be really good, but not like this. I thought he was going to be the first pick in the draft.”
Q: Do you feel like the way the talent looks that you’re going to trade up, trade down or stick where you are?
Schneider: “I have a lot of confidence in our staff, especially this year with the involvement of our coaching staff, where I feel like personally I’d like to move back. Because I have confidence in our ability in those middle rounds to do some good stuff. And have a coaching staff that is excited, and a.) They’re good teachers. And b.) They’re excited to have these guys.
“It’s actually easier to go up than it is to go back. I think there’s a number of teams that would like to go back right now. But not having a third round pick, yeah I’m not excited about that.”
Q: There were a lot of guys in last year’s draft class, Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski, that succeeded in their rookie season despite missing all or most of their last year in college. Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin are the two obvious guys this year. As a scout, personnel guys and GM, what are the main challenges when what you’ve got is two-year-old game tape and whatever pre-draft stuff they’ve done, and you’re missing that big chunk of season?
Schneider: “That’s a great question. We’ve have to spend a lot more time on those guys. You do more digging. You have to talk to more people. The psychological part of it – some of these guys have missed time for suspensions, or whatever you’re looking at. You’re looking at the security background and security checks. Juniors in general are somewhat – whether or not they have issues – they’re a little nerve-wracking because you just don’t know enough about the guys.”
Q: When you look at where you’re at on the offensive line, do you approach this draft as you have to get someone that can help you on the line, or a couple guys?
Schneider: “It’s a fair question. I would say that we’d like to come out of the draft with at least one offensive lineman and one defensive lineman. Now whether or not our board falls that way, I don’t know. But we’re not going to reach for guys just because we feel like we have to have one.
“Last year was very unique because Walter Jones wasn’t here so we needed a left tackle – a legitimate guy – so that was pretty nerve-wracking.”
Q: What do you think of the state of roster overall, from last year to now?
Schneider: “I would like to be younger. I think the way we finished the season was great philosophically for Pete (Carroll) and his staff, and the culture of the team and the culture of the locker room, and people buying into his philosophy. But we didn’t have much depth, and you saw how many transactions we made just to try and add quality depth. And then we got to a point in the season where we started getting hit hard with injuries, and we kind of just ran out of guys and had to add some veteran types.
“So we kind of got older here and there, and we did some things to just fill some holes where we ended up getting a little older. We want to be young, tough, smart, fast and aggressive. We want that to be out staple, and then get this roster to a point where every year in the draft, that’s what we’re doing. We’re just adding to that group.”
Q: Are you looking at that playoff win as a deferred payment now? Have you thought about the value of that, now that you have the No. 25 pick instead of the No 8 overall pick?
Schneider: “Yeah, I thought about it that night. It was incredibly exciting. It was a great way to start, but it makes it more challenging, the building process. But that’s pretty exciting stuff now. I know everybody can slam the division a little bit, but I mean to be able to have that Rams game, and be able to beat New Orleans here, that’s pretty special stuff now, especially for a brand-new head coach that’s coming back into the league. And is such a good teacher and inspiring guy, I think it’s a very cool step.
“Now, like I said, from a pure personnel standpoint, we did some things to just plug some gaps. And in order for us to get to where we want to, in order for us to become a consistent, championship-caliber team, we have a ways to go. Now, Pete could never say that, but I don’t have to get up in front of the team every morning, you know what I mean?”
Q: Do we spend more time watching players like Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn slide because they are quarterbacks, or does it happen at other positions and we don’t notice?
Schneider: “Yeah, it happens at other positions. But the nature of that position (quarterback) is you can literally go into the draft thinking there’s three quarterbacks in the draft. It just so happens this year there are more quarterbacks, but some people might think there’s only four quarterbacks, you know what I mean? So you never know.
“The Brady Quinn thing, that was unique because quite frankly in Green Bay we had an opportunity to, and they were so excited about acquiring him – and that’s what I’m talking about, like ‘We’ve got to have that guy – but we had an opportunity, and we had to clean house and say, ‘All right, let’s settle down, make our pick and move on.’ I’m not going to tell you who we took, but it’s hard not to get excited about that.”
Q: Is there more subjectivity at that position?
Schneider: “Absolutely. Quarterbacks are kind of in their own little box.”
Q: Are they tougher for you guys as personnel executives to predict where they’ll go, like which teams are interested in which guys?
Schneider: “Probably, because you don’t know what kind of urgency other clubs have. That doesn’t mean you adjust your board to other clubs I think. But once you’re set, you don’t know. There could be five teams in the top 12 that are looking for quarterbacks, and if they feel like they need a quarterback and that’s their guy, God bless them and away they go.”
Q: To what extent does Pete have a vision of what he wants at quarterback relative to other coaches you’ve been with on the offensive side, compared to when you were with Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy?
Schneider: “Pete and Carl Smith coaches Drew Bledsoe, who’s not a big movement guy, and he had his best season. I don’t know if Pete has ever had a guy that is a big-time runner, or a huge movement guy. I’m trying to think of some of the guys that he’s had. Obviously everybody likes a guy that can move, but like I said, a lot of these guys have compensating factors.”
Q: How do you feel about the depth at cornerback, and is it easier to find a guy who can play corner at the end of the draft vs. a defensive lineman toward the end of the draft?
Schneider: “It completely depends on the year. That’s a great question. I’d say it’s probably easier with defensive linemen, but the quantity of defensive linemen is not the same. Does that make sense? The defensive linemen usually just go, where there’s usually more guys that are 5-11 ½, 4.5 (40-yard time) kind of hanging out later in the draft.”
Q: Is it harder to evaluate whether those defensive linemen later in the draft will be successful in your system?
Schneider: “Yes. Defensive linemen, if you have big people that are active, they’re pretty much going. You can go right down every team’s depth chart and say, ‘Ok, that team has four defensive linemen. They have five. They have three.’ You know what I mean? Big people that can move are ridiculously hard to find. So if there is a position as a league where we have a strong need and push guys is probably at the defensive line position.”
Q: People equate you in Green Bay with size at cornerback, how important is that to you?
Schneider: “It’s primary criteria. But if a guy has rare ball skills or he’s incredible strong, tough and has some ability to play inside and outside, be your underneath nickel guy and come up to play the run, then we would consider that guy to. But I think you can look at enough games to see that the matchups are like, ‘That guy’s just not big enough.
“We had a guy in Mark McMillian from Alabama that played for us in Kansas City, and I think he was 5-7 ½, a legitimately short dude that had just phenomenal route anticipation and ball skills and stuff like that. And the first year I was there he picked off eight passes. He just was rare. So every couple years I think there’s a guy like that. Antoine Winfield is 5-9 ¼ I think, but he’s incredibly tough. He’s one of those guys who can finish his career at safety because he’s so strong.”
Q: How much will the inability to have players as part of trades on draft day affect a team’s ability to make trades?
Schneider: “I think it will definitely affect the trades. And so I’m not sure if you will see quite as many trades as last year, or in previous years. I think the majority of teams have a list of, I’m guessing but we’ll just say five guys. And they’d say before the draft, take a look at these players because you know at some point we may call you during the draft and present options for you.”
Q: How would you feel about a pick for next year?
Schneider: “Yeah, I like that. I think that’s cool. As long as it’s a team that you think isn’t going to do real well, right? The last time I was here we had that Joey Galloway pick, so every time Dallas would play we were like (lose).”
Q: Do you think there will be some teams that will be less likely to seek picks from future drafts?
Schneider: “Yeah, I would agree with that.”
Q: Is it fair to say you’re more comfortable in your position?
Schneider: “Like I said earlier, I think this year’s draft is going to be smoother because of our ability to have one scouting system, one grading scale. And then also just based on the fact that our coaches are more involved, so I think we’re going to have more buy in from the coaches. Because you don’t want to be drafting players that your coaches aren’t going to be excited about teaching. You never want the ‘I told you so’ affect.”
Q: Is the prototype for the 5-technique more solidified than a year ago?
Schneider: “Yeah, we now have a basis, something to go off of instead of just describing the perfect guy for the position. We can actually kind of place guys accordingly, and the guy maybe has a little more value for us.”
Q: What’s a good draft? When you look three years down the road at this draft class, what has to happen for you to say that was good?
Schneider: “Hopefully we have a couple guys that are impact players. That you’ve kept the cohesion of the locker room in tact, and I think that you’ve added quality people, and guys that are going to be quality, competitive guys every year. Like every year you know they’re going to show up and be good pros, and they’re going to be competing with other guys and setting a standard at their position on your team.”
Q: Do you ever break it down where you have to nail all of your top three-round picks?
Schneider: “We do one right after the draft, and then you can look back at them. We’re just not far enough along here, but yeah, once you hit three years you can look back. … Last year right after the draft we felt great about our draft, and then there were some things that didn’t pan out exactly the way we thought they were. But when I’m talking to you guys right after the draft, I’m thinking that everything is going to be just like we thought it was going to be. So there’s just so many different factors that go into it.
“The hardest part truly is finding out how much a guy respects the game, and how good of a pro does he want to be? It’s hard to judge what’s in a man’s heart.”
Q: Regardless of what kind of moves you make, will Charlie Whitehurst be given an opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2011?
Schneider: “Yeah he is, absolutely. Charlie won the biggest game of the season for us. And with absolutely no disrespect to (Matt) Hasselbeck, that was the first week it was Charlie’s game. Charlie went into the other games with Matt’s plan. This was a plan for Charlie. And quite frankly the Rams were playing pretty good at that point. And he took care of the ball and played well.
“Did he have his struggles during the season? Sure. I mean he hasn’t played a lot of regular-season games. So, I thought one of the coolest things he did was come into that Arizona game and bring us right down the field. Now, the series didn’t end that great. He threw a ball he’d like to have back. But I’ve been around a three-time MVP (Brett Favre) that wasn’t a great decision maker early on his career. But he became a much better decision maker.”