Carroll & Schneider challenge NFL’s ego-driven mentality

September 1st, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Drafting Chris Harper wasn't as dumb as stashing two full backs

Every NFL decision maker has pride and an ego. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are no different. The way they went about cutting their roster yesterday almost suggested otherwise.

Most GM’s in the league won’t cut a fourth round pick after a matter of weeks. Not unless something seriously goes wrong, like they get arrested or regularly turn up late for practise.

Chris Harper did neither of these things. Yet today he’s hoping someone else will give him a shot on an active roster in the National Football League.

Harper was the highest pick in the 2013 draft to get cut on Saturday (Tyler Wilson, taken 11 places earlier, was released by Oakland on Sunday). He had an uneventful camp, with reports suggesting he failed to flash in practise. He was virtually invisible in pre-season until the Raiders game.

He was also trying to master one of the more difficult positions in the sport. A position where traditionally rookies are given time to work on their routes, learn the playbook and hone their technique.

Not Chris Harper. Not unless he makes it to the practise squad.

The Seahawks wasted no time in cutting their fourth round pick. I guarantee virtually every other team in the NFL would’ve stashed Harper on the roster and given him time. Not the Seahawks.

Ego. Pride. That’s why most other teams wouldn’t have quit on a young receiver so quickly.

GM’s and coaches hate to admit they got something wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interview with a front office executive where they admitted, “Yep — we messed up.”

It just doesn’t happen.

Some players get far too many chances. The higher the pick, the more opportunities you’ll get. Frequently that’s to the detriment of the whole team.

Conventional wisdom says you stand by Harper. I argued many times on this blog that he’d make the 53 and be given the opportunity, like Jaye Howard a year ago, to develop and learn in a ‘red-shirt’ season. Yesterday, both Harper and Howard were ruthlessly cut.

People like me should stop trying to predict Carroll and Schneider. We won’t, because it’s fun to guess. But we should know not to speak with authority or assurance on what they’ll do. The fact is nobody knows. And it’s damn interesting to follow.

The rest of the NFL will no doubt catch on if the Seahawks continue their upward curve. If they succeed in 2013, I wouldn’t want to be a fourth round pick next year.

(well, actually I would because, you know, the cash)

For now most teams will continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Which is why on Saturday Oakland were carrying four quarterbacks on their 53 man roster and two punters. They aren’t alone. There are multiple franchises today carrying players for the wrong reasons.

It’s why the Tim Ruskell Seahawks held onto two full backs one year and two kickers another. Ruskell probably wasn’t the first and maybe won’t be the last to stash a ‘kicker of the future’ on his roster. A laughable move in hindsight.

If you want another example of ego/pride vs reality, you only have to look at Ruskell’s cutting of Michael Bennett in 2009. He lit up pre-season and made the 53-man roster, only to be waived for Kyle Williams in October during an injury crisis on the offensive line. You can bet anything had he been a draft pick he would’ve stuck around to justify the investment. Because he was merely an UDFA, he was sent packing and quickly signed for Tampa Bay.

The rest is history.

Here’s a list of players who also made it onto Seattle’s 2009 roster but survived the distance:

Mike Teel — a sixth round pick and #3 quarterback who would almost certainly have made the practise squad yet was retained. We’ll never know the reason why. Unless the Seahawks truly believed Teel could be a quarterback for the future and would be snatched up on waivers, maintaining him over a player like Bennett was completely futile.

Justin Griffith and Owen Schmitt — yes, Seattle carried two full backs in 2009. Griffith was a veteran free agent addition familiar with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and Schmitt a 5th round pick in his second year with the team. Which begs the question, if Schmitt wasn’t ready to start in year two — why was he still on the roster after the addition of Griffith?

Nick Reed — an undersized pass rushing 7th round pick who also had a successful pre-season yet lacked the obvious physical qualities to translate into regular season production. Reed lasted the whole season while Bennett was cut. That’s what being a 7th rounder vs an UDFA will do for you. Although it should’ve never been a Reed vs Bennett battle to survive.

It is mind blowing to think Seattle kept a pointless third quarterback nobody else would’ve wanted and two full backs instead of Michael Bennett. Mind. Blowing.

And it’s the kind of decision the current front office would never make. Not in a million years. Thankfully. Other teams still do stuff like this though.

The weekends events also validate Carroll’s “always compete” mantra. Although certain players will get more time than others (James Carpenter a good example), for the most part anything goes. Which is why Antoine Winfield has retired this weekend and Michael Robinson has been cut.

If you’re going to preach a philosophy, you have to be prepared to back it up. And now the Seahawks have two great examples to do just that — this years aggressive cuts and the decision to start Russell Wilson last season because he was simply the right man for the job.

Whether the Seahawks deliver on all the expectation in 2013 and beyond remains to be seen. This is still a regime with the conviction to follow through with its vision.

Of course, you’re not going to be challenged too often when you find a franchise quarterback in round three, a shutdown corner in round five, an elite pass rusher in the bargain bin and steal Marshawn Lynch away from Buffalo. A lot of other front office personnel haven’t bought enough stock to be able to cut mid round picks after a few weeks. But still…

While cutting a fourth round pick will sting, releasing Chris Harper is still a long way away from the kind of abject decision making witnessed during the Ruskell days.

For that, they should be applauded.

56 Responses to “Carroll & Schneider challenge NFL’s ego-driven mentality”

  1. Miles says:

    WAIVER WIRE UPDATE: Winston Guy has been picked up by Jacksonville. We probably had no room for him even on our practice squad anyway, but it’s no surprise to see him land in JAX. Happy for him.

  2. kevin mullen says:

    With Kearse and Williams shining in preseason, keeping Harper would have been a luxury. With Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Harvin, realistically keeping Harper would have been difficult. Barring injury, there were already 4 locked spots (even though Harvin’s out for a while) at WR, Harper had to have kept up with Kearse and Williams to even get in the conversation but unfortunately he didn’t. I think this was more a testament of Kearse and William’s offseason workouts that really paid off.

    I still think Harper will get on our PS just by pure game film, he really didn’t do enough to warrant a spot on the 53 (if we’re strictly going off results) so I don’t see any other team really trying to pick him up (hopefully). WR position is tough to learn at the NFL level does require quite a bit of adjustment, here’s to him hopefully learning for a year and competing again next year.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I actually think there’s room for 1-2 luxuries (maybe more) on any given roster — as long as there’s a vision for long term planning. Stashing a young receiver on a red shirt year IMO is acceptable due to the number of players who are inactive on game day anyway. Keeping two full backs or two kickers on a roster? That I don’t get.

      • kevin mullen says:

        Oh absolutely, those Ruskell moves were dumb from the get-go. I’m not sure how Holmgren not demand another OLineman or CB in that year. Just glad we have a FO that’s in unison in regards to roster moves.

        At game time, we’re only allowed to suit up 48 players, so those five players sit and become inactive anyways. If Harper made it, he wouldn’t have suited up for the year anyways, barring terrible play or injury to the other 5 receivers (excluding Harvin).

        I honestly feel at the moment that the luxury moves should be saved for the defense, we’re a little banged up on DLine and questions regarding pressuring the passer still lingers. In all fairness, I do feel more confident with this defensive roster over last years in regards to pass rush.

        • dave crockett says:

          Holmgren routinely loathed Ruskell’s picks.

          Ruskell drafted a long snapper in the 6th round, on the word that this guy was the “best long-snapper, EVAH.” Then the guy had to “retire” before ever playing a game because of a slipped disk or narrow spine, something back-related. Holmgren publicly quipped something like, “I’m sure he’s a great long-snapper, but this poor kid. He has the back of a 50 year old man. His back is worse than mine.”

          That’s when it was beyond a doubt those two could no longer co-exist.

      • Donovan says:

        Great read, but it was funny as I read it I couldn’t help but think if 2013′s cuts will mirror the Bennett year. In this scenario, Brooks = Bennett and the Seahawks cut him to keep 2 Fullbacks.

    • dave crockett says:

      I too think Harper winds up on the p-squad. I have to think Seattle recognized that this kid had zero training as a WR at K-State, and had worse quarterbacking than Larry Fitzgerald suffered through last season.

      If I have a disappointment in Harper it’s that he didn’t flash on special teams, which is what I expected to see. I pretty much knew he couldn’t play WR at an NFL level right out of the box. The difference between he and Quinton Patton (who I really liked) as a prospect, I was convinced, would be Harper’s ability to contribute on kick coverage.

    • James says:

      If you’re an agent, you should work the phones next April and beg PCJS not to draft your guys in R4….who wants to join this club: EJ Wilson, Kris Durham, Jaye Howard and Chris Harper. Next year, lets trade the 4 for a 5 & 6.

      • kevin mullen says:

        You could say, rd4 is where Seattle Rookies go to die…

      • Turp says:

        KJ Wright?

        • Darnell says:

          And yet Wright, Thurmond and Washington probably represent better returns on the 4th round then most teams have had over the same time period,and infinitely better than what Ruskell did in first rounds, even with it being the Hawks bad round.

          • A. Simmons says:

            K.J. Wright is good. Walter Thurmond has the talent. He has to show the durability before we can label him a 4th round success. Other than Wright, the 4th round has been dismal.

      • woofu says:

        Ahem, Durham made the Lions 53. “Everything can’t be 5 cents”

    • Nolan says:

      Getting those two Kearse and Williams for free takes the sting out of botching a 4th rounder… If we had drafted either of those two with the fourth it would be considered a huge steal. Obviously neither of them are rookies but Kearse was a udfa and Williams was on a practice squad last year. That’s the really great thing about this FO they find talent from multiple avenues so if they get let down on a draft choice they can find answers else where.

  3. James says:

    Rob, a very well-written and well-reasoned piece. One of the reasons I like your website so much is that you are not running an ego -fest, but are simply a guy who loves the Seahawks and the draft and loves to discuss it as much as the rest of us do, if not more, and a guy who does a great job in analyzing prospects. I would have reasoned exactly the same about Harper except that I was able to watch several practices in person and could see that he had no physical ability, quicks or speed, to gain separation from NFL corners. An intriguing prospect due to his size and strength, and I hope he still can find a way, maybe by learning to fight CBs off ala Anquan Boldin, and I also hope that Q Patton doesn’t rise up and bite us!

    • Darnell says:

      But would Q Patton have done enough on this team to beat out Kearse or Williams? Especially given the preseason those two had. Patton very well may have also been on the losing end of the competition.

      Patton cracking that thin WR group in SF was ordained.

      • sdcoug says:

        Good call Darnell. There has been much hindsight talk of taking Patton vs Harper, but in addition to your point of Patton facing the same steep uphill battle to make the roster, didn’t we already have our own Patton on the roster before the draft (Williams)? Someone who knows more please correct me if i’m wrong, but aren’t they a similar-type receiver? JSPC were very excited to grab Williams and it seems odd they would duplicate it with a draft pick. Harper could have brought a different dimension to the offense and taking the chance was worth it in their eyes.

        • A. Simmons says:

          Quinton Patton seems to be doing well. We’ll see how he does in real games once he starts taking NFL hits. He looks to have some real chemistry with Colin K and has good hands. With Colin K if you can catch a deep ball well, you’ll have a job.

  4. David says:

    Rob, and everyone else watch or record the louisville game today they have DeVante Parker a big 6’3 WR and w/ a flanker need this year w/ sidney maybe gone next year this could be guy to look at.

  5. Aaron says:

    Rob – I totally agree with your premise. That’s why I’m so thankful to have PC/JS running my team.

    I think I read that the Redskins are one of the teams that kept four quarterbacks. When you are billed as a Superbowl contending team – and you have RGIII and Kirk Cousins as your first two QBs – it’s beyond me how you could waste two precious roster spots on a 3rd AND 4th string QB. Going with two is a no brainer. It never even crossed my mind that the Seahawks would do anything other. If an injury occurs, you go pick up a 3rd stringer off the street and move somebody off of the 53.

    This is just one small example that illustrates the difference between what the Seahawks are building through their systematic roster moves, and what (otherwise formidable) franchises like the Redskins are doing. It’s the difference between Checkers and Chess. (This is precisely what people like Skip Bayless have absolutely no conception of whatsoever.) I see the moves to cut high-profile players like Robinson and Winfield as being another example. This is similar to the way other perennially successful franchises like the Ravens and Patriots operate. I think that’s something we’ll see much more of in the coming years. For example, I could see Browner being traded next season, and Thurmond moved into his spot.

    Btw – Even though I disagreed with you about what the Hawks might do with regard to Harper, your explanation of why you thought he would make the team gave me a different (and eye-opening) perspective on how the question could be viewed. Also, I think it’s worth noting that the Seahawks could have taken your guy Patton instead, and if they had, we would have an embarrassment of riches at the WR spot that would nearly rival our ridiculously stacked secondary group.

    • James says:

      LOL….interesting theory — if the Seahawks had selected Q Patton it would have been such an embarrassment of riches that Roger Goodell might have had to step in and shut it down.

    • Aaron says:

      Actually I guess Browner will be a free agent next season, so maybe that’s a bad example. But you get my point.

  6. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    Glad to hear Powell made it to the PS.

    • Chris says:

      Harper, Siliga and Seymour as well. Re: Harper, I agree with Kevin Mullen above. Hard for Harper to break into the active roster when competing with Kearse and Williams. Had the Seahawks decided to “stash” him, they would have had seven receivers when Harvin returned. Practice squad makes sense.

  7. Colin says:

    I think we need a little ‘Good Will Hunting’ reminder to this whole Quinton Patton vs Chris Harper saga:

    “Or we could go somewhere and eat a bunch of caramels”

    “What?”

    “It’s just as arbitrary as drinking coffee”

    Q. Patton and his couple of preseason TD’s and catches tells us no more about his regular season future than Harper and his lack to stand out. I wish people would start articulating their own ideas a bit more rather than the typical ‘oh we saw a few highlights of him and Rob said X good things so they should have drafted him what-were-they-thinking’. Yes, John and Pete didn’t make a good selection. The revisionist history needs to stop. We’ve been spoiled by such great late rounds picks in the past that it’s seemingly unfair to hold them to the standard they’ve accomplished thus far. Not every year is 2011 or 2012 where multiple starters are found. Let’s just accept that not every pick is a stud and move along.

    • Aaron says:

      It seems like a lot of people really enjoy trotting out the old-school line that “it’s only pre-season” like it’s some kind of grizzled curmudgeon trump card that automatically discounts any and all legitimate observations that can be gleaned from pre-season games. I disagree with the notion that the obvious contrast between the play of Patton and Harper in the pre-season signifies nothing.

      I anticipate Patton being one of the better starting receivers for the 49ers this season. I also anticipate that Kearse and Williams will continue their strong level of play for us in the regular season. We’ll see.

      The argument for keeping Harper was that he was a developmental project with upside based on some specific physical qualities and abilities. I happened to disagree with those who said he should be signed to the 53 man roster, but I don’t dismiss the whole idea with one sweeping binary judgement as a “bad decision”. PC/JS (and Tom Cable) have had a lot of success with that approach. (See: Sherman, Browner, Robinson, Sweezy, Bradford, etc etc.)

      This particular project didn’t come to fruition. They made the decision not to move forward with it. I think we have to assume that decision was made based on what he showed at training camp and in the pre-season games. And I think that’s the same basis the 49ers used in their decision to cut 1st round pick AJ Jenkins during this pre-season, while giving 4th round pick Quinton Patton a starting spot.

      • Colin says:

        AJ Jenkins also had 0 catches last season. So there’s that.

        Patton also had an advantage in who all was their in SF camp to play WR? They needed to have guys. They weren’t gonna cut Patton even if he hadn’t played well. They don’t have much depth since they lost guys to injury/free agency.

        Anyway, my point being that we can talk about how we *should’ve* taken Patton over Harper is irrelevent. We didn’t. And Patton’s good preseason is just like Nick Reed’s good preseason: irrelevent. Until the meaningful games are played, we don’t know how good someone is or isn’t.

  8. Turp says:

    Harper made it to the PS! I’m happy.

    Aaron Wilson ‏@RavensInsider

    Seahawks are signing Chris Harper to their practice squad, per a league source

  9. Davison Phipps says:

    Bennett actually did make the final 53 in 2009, but was waived in October after some injuries to the offensive line necessitated the signing of some scrub (Kyle Williams?). There were still better cut candidates.

  10. cade says:

    Rob,

    If you guarantee that other teams would have stashed him on the 53, Why did he make it all the way to our PS?

    Im having a real hard time seeing his high ceiling

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’m not referring to Harper’s individual quality there. I’m saying any other team that spends a fourth round pick on a wide receiver almost certainly stashes them on the roster. They wouldn’t cut them after one pre-season, basically admitting they got it wrong. So it’s not a Chris Harper reference, it’s a willingness to cut 4th rounders reference, if that makes sense.

      • Turp says:

        Although Harper making to our PS may be directly from his dropsies on Thursday night. We’ll never know!

        • Michael says:

          I totally agree with Rob’s point about this FO’s willingness to cut drafted players, and that it is a rarity in the NFL. That said, I’m not really surprised that Harper made the practice squad. He doesn’t wow you athletically, and showed next to nothing in the preseason. Could be that this was just a calculated gamble by PC/JS. Maybe they were more than willing, or even planning on stashing Harper, but then he bombed against Oakland, and they said to themselves, “Hey, if we cut him right after this lackluster preseason there’s a decent chance he makes it through waivers…” thus allowing them to have their cake and eat it too.

      • cade says:

        Ah, Got it. Does make sense

  11. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    I see KC picked up Jaye Howard and Sean McGrath. I wish both of them the best (especially since they’re in a different conference).

  12. SES says:

    Rob, really enjoy your blog and many of the readers’ comments.
    I think you answered this before, but is there a chance that you could do a MMQB session after each game? You could give us your “good, bad & ugly” and then segue into possible additions in the off-season via the Draft, FA, etc.

    • Belgaron says:

      I like the idea of having an ongoing most pressing need on the team. I would propose that they still need a DT who wreaks havoc in the interior and creates opportunities for their posse of edge guys. They probably need 2.

      Next, I think they’d like to find clones of ET and/or Miller, not as backups but as alternative set guys who play a lot of snaps. If Willson’s blocking develops, he could be the guy as he certainly adds to the offense as a Joker.

      After that, maybe another high end receiver with the pending free agency of Tate (UFA) and Baldwin (RFA) not to mention the need to maybe re-work Rice’s deal next year.

      And I think they’d like a high upside QB project, draftable in the latter rounds.

  13. seanmatt says:

    Good piece, but I do have to quibble just a bit with it. You mention Ruskell and Mora keeping two FBs as a bad move but the Hawks kept two fullbacks on the roster all through out the Holmgren era.
    Of course Mack Strong was our starting FB but we had the likes of Heath Evans, Chris Davis, Leonard Weavers, and David Kirtman as the second fullback on our active roster. Heck, in 2003 we had 3 Fullbacks on the roster (Strong, Evans, Davis)! I’m all about dogging the horror show that was Tim Ruskell but let’s be fair when we do it. Two Fullbacks was the norm on this team UNTIL Pete Carroll.

    • Belgaron says:

      This paralleled a lot of teams as trends have moved away from traditional FB. Watch for ‘Hawks to use some Lynch/Michael backfields this year.

  14. Belgaron says:

    2 words about Harper: Cleared Waivers. Even teams like the 9ers who are desperate passed on him. This tells me that Seahawks probably over-drafted him in the 4th because they really like him in their system and thought he’d be gone by their 5th.

    They must have projected him as a fantastic downfield blocker in the run game and a real strong option for Hail Marys. But in order to stick as #6 receiver and make the active 48, he needs to be a fixture on special teams.

    They thought highly enough of him to add him to PS. Who knows? Could be next year’s camp Kearse?

  15. A. Simmons says:

    Nice write up. I was as surprised as you that MikeRob was cut. One of two things was going on there. Either MikeRob wasn’t sick. He was asked to take a pay cut and didn’t want to do it. They cut him. Or MikeRob was sick and Pete and John just cut a guy that was so sick he lost weight and couldn’t play. Either way it was a ruthless move made to manage the cap and go cheaper at position of low value to the team. From a human perspective, I feel real bad for MikeRob. From a team management perspective, it was probably a necessary and intelligent move to position themselves to re-sign Earl and Sherman.

    What it shows me is that Pete and John want to win worse than any fan. We think we all want to win. Pete and John really want to win and will do almost anything to take home a Lombardi. That is comforting as a fan because I want a Lombardi badly as well. Just not as a bad as Pete and John.

  16. woofu says:

    There goes Harper to SF 53! LOL