One of the things we’ve done this week is discuss and project the direction the Seahawks might take under John Schneider. His press conference was interesting and revealing for a number of reasons. He admitted the need to be conscious of modern NFL trends and he reiterated the concern over losing successful offensive coordinators, among other topics.
Listening to Schneider speak, it felt very much like things were heading in the direction of the Seahawks appointing an offensive play-caller to lead their team. However, I want to present an important alternative view — just to give you something to consider.
Ron Wolf is John’s self-confessed mentor. Schneider even said during his press conference he’d spent considerable time talking to Wolf on Friday.
Is there anything to learn from Wolf’s approach to football that perhaps inspired those around him?
I reached out to someone who knows Wolf and asked about his philosophies. This is what I was told about Wolf’s approach — build your trenches, the draft is your life-line and when it comes to Head Coaches, you want a father figure. You want, in the words of the source, ‘a tough SOB’. Someone very capable of standing up in front of the guys and leading.
Having specific offensive or defensive-minded leadership was never mentioned.
The game has changed a lot over the last 30 years and Schneider, as we mentioned, referred to being across those changes when he spoke on Tuesday. Listen to any former players or coaches speak in the media and they all talk about the challenge of leading modern-day players. They are different. They expect to be treated differently. These are things you have to consider and it’s arguably why a growing line of Bill Belichick’s coaching tree haven’t succeeded.
Frankly, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the kind of thing Schneider is talking about when he speaks about being mindful of the direction of the league. Yet there are still ‘tough SOB’s’ coaching in the league and having success. Dan Campbell, DeMeco Ryans, John Harbaugh. Not everyone has to be quoting rap songs and cracking jokes like Mike McDaniel. There is a way of adapting an old-school style, if you want to call it that, for the modern game.
Wolf hired three coaches — Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman. Two offensive guys, one defensive.
The point I’m trying to make here is — I wouldn’t read too much into the way Green Bay have ended up appointing offensive coaches over the years, working with a big-name quarterback. I’ve referenced that myself a few times. I’m not sure it’s actually that relevant.
If we’re going to consider anything from Green Bay and the Ron Wolf era — it actually points more towards the Mike Vrabel and Dan Quinn style of coach, or any of the younger guys who might similarly fit the bill.
Another thing I did learn in my conversations this week — there’s real clarity on how the game has changed — with an increase in spread concepts, deception, creating mismatches. In return, defensive football has adjusted more towards speed and quickness instead of size. Even so, it was spelt out to me that irrespective of all that — if you can’t run the ball or stop the run with your play in the trenches, you won’t succeed. That remains a significant thought process within the NFL, even if it isn’t popular online.
Kyle Shanahan loves to run the ball and takes it very seriously. Look what’s happening in Detroit. The 49ers have the third lowest opponent rushing yards per game this season and the Lions are second. San Francisco has the third best running attack, the Lions are sixth. The way it was put to me was — you might be throwing more these days to set up the run (rather than the other way around) but at some point, typically playoff time, you’re going to need to be able to run the ball and stop the run.
None of this is that revelatory but it was interesting to hear it from someone inside the league. Running the ball and defending the run are two things the Seahawks don’t do well. That is going to have to change, irrespective of the type of coach they appoint.
That person could be the man currently running Detroit’s #6 ranked run offense. Ben Johnson fits the modern day profile for a Head Coach but he’s also been around Dan Campbell and he’s delivered a physical, productive run game.
It also might not be him, even if they would like it to be. Here’s the latest piece of evidence. There was already plenty of chatter, per Mike Garafolo, that Johnson and new Commanders GM Adam Peters had talked about hooking up. Johnson was asked about Peters at his press conference today. When he said, “I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about (Peters)” — with a ton of emphasis on ‘fantastic’ — it made it seem like the writing is on the wall:
Lions OC Ben Johnson was asked if he knows much about new Commanders GM Adam Peters pic.twitter.com/HMzaWhqauM
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 18, 2024
Garofolo mentioned on KJR today that, despite saying in this clip that he’s ‘looking forward to meeting him’, they’ve already met. He also said that Johnson’s preference is to ‘go somewhere and build it from the ground up’ — drafting a quarterback early and all of that. Everything points to Washington for Ben Johnson. This is a lot of smoke and I think it’s near a big old fire, although Ian Rapoport says Johnson will speak to the Seahawks on Saturday.
If Johnson ultimately proves to be a non-starter for Seattle, I’d just keep in mind the likes of Vrabel and Quinn. If Schneider’s mentor was big on leadership, toughness and being a father figure to his players — they both fit that mould.
Garafolo mentioned Scott Fitterer will give Ejiro Evero a glowing reference after the pair worked in Carolina. It’s also worth noting that long-time former Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who Schneider will be familiar with, has worked closely alongside Eviro for the last two years in Denver and Carolina. Garafolo says he has a punchers chance at the job.
He also had some interesting things to say about Vrabel — suggesting he’s very different to Pete Carroll and if they want to maintain the positive vibe in the facility from the Carroll era, his appointment would create a sea change. He says Vrabel’s famous public reaction to the A.J. Brown trade would be typical of his reaction to things he disagreed with.
On the contrary, it’s also worth pointing out again that Adam Schefter said this week that Schneider and Vrabel have a ‘great’ relationship. Schefter has today reported the Seahawks want to meet with Vrabel about the job.
What does it all mean? It’s hard to decipher. I sense for the next two or three weeks we’ll be tying ourselves in knots trying to parse every report and statement. Meanwhile the Seahawks will likely go through the process properly and simply appoint whoever impresses them the most.