Gallant: Why the pressure is on for Seahawks GM John Schneider

Sep 12, 2020, 10:38 AM

Seahawks GM John Schneider...

Paul Gallant believes Seahawks GM John Schneider is under a lot of pressure in 2020. (AP)


When’s the last time that you felt the Seahawks were the Seahawks?

O’Neil: Seahawks shouldn’t just be better this season — they have to be

Be honest. After all, you’re someone who roots for a franchise that actually has standards. You have one of the league’s best quarterbacks, a head coach that’s won a national title AND a Super Bowl, and haven’t seen a losing season since 2011. You witnessed an all-time defense firsthand over the last decade. And since 2005, no team has come closer – literally – to winning back to back Super Bowls.

But it’s been a while since that standard of greatness was met. The Hawks haven’t won more than 11 games in a season over the last five years. They’ve won the division just once. And they haven’t been to a conference championship since Jermaine Kearse broke the People’s Republic of Green Bay’s hearts in 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been successful. We just expect more because we’ve had it all before.

In a league marked by parity and turnover, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the curve forever. So imagine being in GM John Schneider’s shoes. His creation hasn’t been at the front of the pack for half a decade. And for the Seahawks to return to their rightful perch on top of the NFL, these gambles have to pay off:

5) I Believe It’s Time For You To Fly

Russell Wilson got paid last year. So did Bobby Wagner. Who will be the next homegrown Seattle Seahawk to get PAID?

There’s only one answer to that question right now – DK Metcalf – and we’re a ways away from even thinking about his next deal. Chris Carson might be an answer, if he didn’t play running back. But shouldn’t we have more guys in mind from Seattle’s past five draft classes?

Jarran Reed, 2016’s lone holdover, was only signed to a “prove it” deal this offseason. Out of six picks in the first three rounds of 2017, Shaquill Griffin looks like the only guy to even put in this conversation. Will Dissly landed with Seattle in the fourth round in 2018, but he’s yet to complete a season without getting hurt. And 2019’s first two picks – L.J. Collier and Marquise Blair – didn’t play much last year.

For the Seahawks to reach the Super Bowl, they need most of the following players to reach the potential that John Schneider saw in them THIS YEAR:

• Ethan Pocic
• Rasheem Green
• L.J. Collier
• Marquise Blair
• Jordyn Brooks
• Darrell Taylor
• Damien Lewis

We’ll discuss Blair more in a moment, and I’m excited about Brooks. But the rest will have to make the leap, and quickly.

4) Bargain Binging

The Seahawks came within a yard of winning the NFC West last year. They were one third-down stop away (or a third-down sack allowed away) from giving Russell Wilson one last chance to drive down the field for a go ahead score and a trip to the NFC Championship. SO CLOSE. But no cigar. Maybe the Hawks were just one star player away. So maybe… splurge on one?

But the Seahawks didn’t do that. They didn’t sign a big name tackle like Jack Conklin, nor did they bring in edge rushers like Robert Quinn or Dante Fowler. Instead, they signed a gaggle of veterans – some of them familiar faces – to one-year deals:

• RB Carlos Hyde
• WR Phillip Dorsett
• WR Josh Gordon (again)
• TE Greg Olsen
• T Cedric Ogbuehi
• G Mike Iupati (again)
• OLB/DE Bruce Irvin (again)
• DE Benson Mayowa (again)
• DE Damontre Moore (again)
• OLB D’Andre Walker

In fact, the Seahawks only signed two free agents to multiple-year contracts: T Brandon Shell and C/G B.J. Finney.

One star may have been able to put the Seahawks over the edge, but there’s strength in numbers, and John Schneider gambled that a dozen veterans have a better chance of pushing Seattle over the top than splash signing one or two.

One thing’s clear: these Seahawks aren’t young anymore. In just one offseason, they transformed from the fourth-youngest roster in the league to the eighth-oldest.

3) The Blair Nickelback Project

We all wanted to see more of 2019 second-rounder Marquise Blair last season. He flashed when he played, delivering crushing hits over the middle of the field. And before the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams, we all assumed he’d get steady reps at safety in 2020.

But then, we found out that Blair – 15 pounds heavier – was practicing at nickel cornerback. And no matter how you felt about his ability, this back and forth made the idea of Marquise switching positions mildly terrifying.

Reporter: “How much experience do you have playing (nickel)?”

Blair: “None. I’ve only played safety.”

Reporter: “How do you like it so far?”

Blair: “It’s good. I like it. It’s just like the opposite of safety.”

To Blair’s credit, he’s been one of the biggest stars of Seahawks camp. He was the best player on the field for Seattle’s second mock game – recording two interceptions and blowing up a reverse with a tackle for a loss – and even drew praise from veteran linebacker K.J. Wright this week.

Still, it’s one thing to excel at nickel corner in practice against a quarterback like Anthony Gordon, and it’s completely different from doing it against the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. On Sunday, we’ll get a good feel for just how good Blair can be.

2) No Knee For Clowney

First thing’s first: Yes, I’m a little biased having covered Jadeveon Clowney’s entire career. But the Seahawks are going to miss his disruptive nature and the attention he commanded from entire offensive lines.

Second? I’m frustrated FOR John Schneider here. Schneider made a multi-year offer early in free agency to keep Clowney in Seattle. And from the sound of things, it ended up being the best offer that the Philadelphia Pillager (working title) got from a team with actual championship aspirations (sorry Cleveland). But Clowney – stubborn about his own worth – bet on the idea that a team would pay him $20 million annually, forcing the Seahawks to allocate their cap space elsewhere.

I’m even more annoyed that Tennessee won the Clowney sweepstakes by spending as little as they did. They have a head coach – Mike Vrabel – who STRONGLY disliked Clowney’s work ethic when the two were together in Houston. And they play a defense – the 3-4 – that Jadeveon was happy to get away from when he signed with Seattle. But now he’s happy to be back in said system on a second straight one-year “prove it” deal? I’m lost.

Schneider played this right from the start, only to see Clowney go elsewhere for less money. Blast!

1) Jamal in on Adams

Get it? It’s like I’m saying I’m all in, but I said JAMAL in. Classic Pawl.

I hated the Jamal Adams trade in the moment. Two first-round picks for a safety on the Jets? One first-round pick for every career Adams interception? How desperate was Seattle here?

Sure, he’d have led the Seahawks in sacks last year with 6.5. He’s still a safety, and one that seems to be at his best when he’s playing close to the line of scrimmage. How much of an impact could he really have in 2020? What was John Schneider DOING?

But over the last few weeks, I started looking at the trade through a different prism, though I feel like a propagandist saying it out loud. Schneider stole Quandre Diggs – one of many frustrated Lions in 2019 – away from Detroit for just a fifth-round pick. He monitored Quinton Dunbar’s contract frustrations with Washington, and brought him to Seattle for another fifth-round pick. And if you lump all his trades together, the Seahawks acquired three starters – an All-Pro (Adams), a Pro Bowler (Diggs), and a Pro Football Focus stud (Dunbar) for two first-round picks and two fifth-round picks.

No matter my spin doctoring, the Adams trade was a massive gamble. Seattle has to give Adams an extension (probably something north of Budda Baker’s four-year, $59 million deal in Arizona) after paying those two first-round picks. That hefty price will make it extremely difficult for the Seahawks to find a left tackle to eventually replace Duane Brown, to find another cornerback in case they’re unable to resign both Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, or to draft any rookie that could realistically have an impact his first year in the NFL.

If this move – and the moves above – don’t result in a Seahawks championship, I’m not sure what more John Schneider can do to improve this roster going forward. His cards are all on the table. And if I were him, I’d be sweating while waiting to find out if I’ve got the winning hand.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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Gallant: Why the pressure is on for Seahawks GM John Schneider