INDIANAPOLIS — “We want to improve competition at every single position.”
Sound familiar? It should. Pete Carroll has been reciting that chorus from that overcast January day when he stepped on stage as the Seahawks’ new head coach.
Except Carroll didn’t say those words. At least not on Thursday. It was John Idzik, the new Jets GM at the podium explaining what has become the Jets’ mantra.
“Competition is at the very heart of what we do in the National Football League,” Idzik said. “I don’t think it’s unique to one team, one individual. It’s thrown around lightly, but you really have to ingrain it in everything you do.”
It’s the first of several signs the Seahawks have become not only a bona fide contender, but a reference point in today’s NFL. The Jets found their new GM working as a vice president in Seattle’s front office. The Jaguars found their new coach, Gus Bradley, on Pete Carroll’s defense staff. And, in his fourth year with the Seahawks, general manager John Schneider is now being asked for his opinions of fellow executives like former boss Ted Thompson in Green Bay as well as former co-workers like Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie and Kansas City’s John Dorsey.
Schneider attracted a crowd of reporters when he appeared in the media room at the league’s annual scouting combine in the early afternoon, the interview beginning with multiple questions about whether he expected Russell Wilson to be this good. And Schneider certainly hoped he would be, but had no idea it would be this soon.
“To say that I thought he was going to do everything he did, I’d be lying,” Schneider said.
Things have changed quite a bit since last April when the Seahawks were deemed clueless by many who thought Seattle had taken defensive end Bruce Irvin a full round earlier than they had to and followed that up by picking a quarterback who was too short to stand out in the NFL.
Seattle is looking pretty rosy compared to the rest of the NFL right about now. The Seahawks have one of the youngest rosters, they’re coming off a year in which they picked three of the league’s top 20 rookies and they hold 10 picks in April’s draft, second-most of any team.
Other teams are wrestling this week with the question of whether they will apply the franchise tag to a player who would otherwise become an unrestricted free agent. The Seahawks won’t have to use the tag, the third consecutive year they’ve avoided it.
The only real uncertainty on the current roster involves backup quarterback Matt Flynn and whether he might be traded. With only two starters from last year’s team unsigned for 2013, Schneider was asked if the current makeup of the roster changes how the team will approach this year’s draft.
“We rate for our team, we don’t grade for the league,” Schneider said. “We grade a guy based on whether or not he can compete with Bruce Irvin or Malcolm (Smith) or Bobby (Wagner).”
There’s certainly room for improvement.
Top pass rusher Chris Clemons is trying to come back from knee surgery, the team has four different guards who were starters at different points last season and the team could always use a few more targets for Wilson to throw to.
But as the league’s offseason began in earnest in Indianapolis on Thursday, it became clear that other teams have looked to Seattle to find a path to success. That’s why Bradley is coaching the Jaguars and Idzik is in charge of the Jets.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s general manager was worried that his quarterback might be working not too well but too hard after a rookie season in which he led his team to the second round of the playoffs, went to the Pro Bowl and then attended the Super Bowl only to come back to work the following Monday.
“I was like, ‘Man, you’ve got to take some vacation,’” Schneider said. “‘You need to get away a little bit.’ I guess he was in there working yesterday, so I don’t know.”