Once a Front Office Heavyweight, Are NFL Pundits Undervaluing Seahawks GM John Schneider? – Sports Illustrated

For the better part of a decade, John Schneider stood amongst the NFL's front office goliaths, overseeing a perennial contender as general manager of the Seahawks. From 2010 to 2020, the franchise made eight playoff appearances, won four NFC West titles along with two NFC championships, and captured their first Lombardi Trophy.
At the center of Seattle's ascendance into the league's hierarchy early in his tenure, Schneider dominated the competition by finding outstanding value throughout and after the NFL draft. The backbone of two Super Bowl teams was built around third-round pick Russell Wilson, second-round pick Bobby Wagner, and several day three picks and undrafted signings, including Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Doug Baldwin.
Benefiting in part from Wilson's cheap rookie contract as a day two draft choice, Schneider also accelerated the Seahawks rebuild into a powerhouse by snagging difference makers off the free agent bargain bin. Following a Divisional Round exit in 2012, for example, he signed pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to one-year contracts and both players wound up being critical contributors on the road to a Super Bowl victory.
Looking at his resume in totality, Schneider still stands out compared to many of his peers and he earned the extension he received late in the 2020 season as Seattle finished up a 12-4, NFC West-winning campaign. Shortly before signing a new deal, Detroit had been linked to him and other franchises certainly had interest in trying to lure him out of the Pacific Northwest.
But even with one more Super Bowl ring than most NFL general managers, after the Seahawks imploded with a dreadful 7-10 finish in 2021, Schneider's once-sterling reputation has taken a substantial hit this offseason. Thanks to several poor drafts, a litany of botched free agent signings, and a series of questionable and/or disastrous trades, the aura that once surrounded him has vacated and been replaced by a barrage of warranted criticism.
Following a tumultuous offseason headlined by Seattle's decision to trade Wilson to Denver and release Wagner outright in a cost-saving move, Schneider has been panned in the latest general manager rankings. Back in April before the 2022 NFL Draft, NFL.com's Greg Rosenthal penciled him in 17th, criticizing the franchise's choice to keep him and coach Pete Carroll over their star quarterback. NBC Edge's Patrick Daugherty turned up the brutality a few notches in its own set of rankings this week, ranking him 22nd with a blistering assessment of his recent job performance.
The Seahawks’ front office has made two signature moves the past three years: Trading two first-round picks for a safety and acquiring two first-round picks for the quarterback who oversaw at least one playoff victory six of his 10 years in town. I’m not sure which, but that seems like a cardinal sin. It’s definitely a team-building sin. The one thing you do not do in the modern NFL is give away a franchise quarterback. -Patrick Daugherty, NBC Edge
For several years, Schneider seemed to be the only one at the NFL poker table who knew how to play the game while everyone else at the table read "Being an NFL GM for Dummies." Analysts and experts panned him for many of his draft selections early on, only for players such as Wilson and Wagner to quickly emerge as Hall of Fame-caliber talents. He happily enjoyed the last laugh on numerous occasions as he and coach Pete Carroll seemingly built a championship team in the blink of an eye.
As his tenure has progressed, however, Schneider hasn't been able to replicate the success that led to his rapid ascension up the executive ladder. As other NFL teams learned started to catch up, while the Seahawks' roster remained one of the best in the league, he began to struggle finding impact players in the draft and lucrative contracts handed out to Wilson, Wagner, and other stars limited his ability to sign quality players in free agency.
Over time, even as Wilson and Wagner continued to will Seattle back to the postseason on a consistent basis, success in January became fleeting with the roster around them in a slow, gradual state of decline. Since making a second straight Super Bowl in 2014, the franchise hasn't been back to the NFC Championship game and only managed to win three games total in five playoff trips.
When it comes to the condemnation of Schneider's execution at the wheel as the Seahawks declined and Wilson eventually forced his way out of town, he deserves a big share of the blame. Recent whiffs in the early rounds of the draft prevented the team from overcoming the loss of several big stars such as Sherman and Avril in recent years. In free agency, his odd love affair with bringing 2013 draft busts such as guard Luke Joeckel set the team back while wasting valuable cap space.
On the trade front, Schneider should be commended for his willingness to swing for the fences to acquire proven star players. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness at the plate has led to more singles and strikeouts than home runs. With the exception of tight end Jimmy Graham, who made two Pro Bowls in three seasons in Seattle, the majority of his blockbuster trades haven't fared well.
Most recently, as emphasized in Daugherty's rankings, Schneider's choice to ship a pair of first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Jets for safety Jamal Adams looks like another swing and miss. Compounding matters, he handed the All-Pro defender a record-setting contract worth $70 million last August and while he's been a solid player in two seasons with the Seahawks, he has yet to prove worth the picks and money invested in him.
Add in the much-maligned decision to trade Wilson, whose growing unhappiness over the years largely centered around roster construction-related issues and the inability to win in the postseason, and Schneider has deservedly lost some of his luster.
With that said, Seattle's regression cannot and should not be solely pinned on Schneider, who still has made some excellent moves in the past five years to keep the team in the hunt in the NFC. In the past four drafts, he still found a superstar receiver in DK Metcalf, a potential All-Pro linebacker in Jordyn Brooks, and a budding pass rusher in Darrell Taylor along with several other quality selections.
Additionally, while he should be chastised for how much he gave up for Adams, Schneider has stolen several quality veterans for next to nothing on the trade market. In 2019, he traded a fifth-round pick to the Lions for safety Quandre Diggs, who has picked off 13 passes in two and a half seasons with the Seahawks and made back-to-back Pro Bowls. One year later, he turned a seventh-round pick and backup center B.J. Finney into Carlos Dunlap, who immediately bolstered their pass rush after coming over from the Bengals at the deadline.
In another plus, Schneider seems to have finally learned from his past mistakes signing too many aging veterans to one or two-year pacts. Instead, his signature move came in the form of signing pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu to a two-year deal, addressing a major need with a rising young talent who could be a fixture rushing off the edge for years to come. He also signed 28-year old cornerback Artie Burns and 26-year old linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, reuniting them with former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai on one-year deals.
For those looking to pass all the blame onto Schneider, Carroll and Wilson both deserve some criticism as well. On the sidelines, Carroll's conservative mindset in regard to strategy and clock management has had negative consequences. It's also well known that he carries veto power as Executive VP of Football Operations and has his hand in the cookie jar making draft and roster-related decisions.
For his part in the playoff mishaps, Wilson did not play well in the second half of the 2020 season and Schneider did upgrade the offensive line and skill players around him the following offseason. He has to shoulder some of the burden too.
Rolling into the 2022 season, Schneider has much riding on his latest draft class, a group headlined by No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross and No. 40 overall pick Boye Mafe that has everyone throughout the organization buzzing. If the group meets expectations and Seattle quickly gets back into contention as a result, he may be able to quickly restore his reputation as one of the brightest minds in the industry. If that doesn't happen and the team secures a top-five pick, it's possible he could be out of a job this time next year.
As for evaluating where he fits amongst his peers in the present? Even considering how poorly the last few years unfolded for the Seahawks, putting him the bottom third of the NFL's general managers as Daugherty did seems a bit harsh and Rosenthal's ranking seems just right. Much like his team entering the post-Wilson era, he's being slept on by many, which may be the ingredient necessary for him to return to form and redeem himself building a contender once again.

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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