John Schneider calls Ted Thompson his football “big brother.” And as is the case with real-life siblings, every once in a while, the kid brother can teach the first-born a thing or two.
So, if Thompson, the Green Bay Packers general manager, wants a defense that bears some resemblance to the Seattle Seahawks defense that Schneider, the Seahawks GM, has assembled, he’d be wise to use the blueprint Schneider
And the good news for Thompson? He wouldn’t have to deviate significantly from his usual modus operandi. He’d only have to tweak it slightly.
The Seahawks enter Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., with the best defense in the NFL. They were No. 1 in points (14.4 per game), No. 1 in yards (273.6 per game), No. 1 in takeaways (37). (They were also No. 1 against the pass, tied for No. 7 against the run and tied for No. 8 in sacks.)
The Packers, in contrast, finished tied for 24th in scoring defense (26.8 points per game), 25th in yards allowed (372.3), 25th in rushing yards allowed (125.0), 24th in passing yards allowed (247.3), tied for eighth in sacks (44) and tied for 20th in takeaways (22).
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, who collaborate on personnel decisions, have built that defense by drafting well, including some brilliant third-day selections; turning other teams’ trash into their treasure; making a trade or two; and signing unrestricted free agents, although not those of the break-the-bank, get-all-the-headlines variety.
Whereas Thompson has relied heavily on his draft-and-develop philosophy – one that, it must be pointed out, led to the Super Bowl XLV title with a defense that was No. 2 in scoring and No. 5 in total defense – and limited his free-agent work to college players who go undrafted, Schneider has been more aggressive and used every personnel tool at his disposal.
“I think it's just a melding of styles of philosophies,” Schneider explained on Green & Gold Today on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com on Friday. “We knew when we came to Seattle -- we knew we had to be a bigger, faster, stronger football team as fast as we possibly could. When we graded our team, that's the way our board looked. Whether it was free agency or the draft, we wanted to establish a team that could play anywhere with anyone.
“Quite frankly, at the time, San Francisco was a very big, physical, great-looking football team. We knew if we were going to catch up to them, we had to be aggressive in our approach with acquisitions. On the flip side, you have to have a staff that is willing to teach and play young people and develop.”
That is one area where the Packers and Seahawks are similar. Both teams rely on getting young players ready to play right away, counting on the coaching staff to accelerate rookies’ and youngsters’ developments.
“Coach Carroll, [former defensive coordinator] Gus Bradley, Kris Richard with our defensive backfield, [defensive passing game coordinator] Rocky Seto – those guys have done a phenomenal job in terms of spending extra time and really investing in the players that we have selected or acquired,” Schneider said.
But how have the Seahawks acquired the players to create the league’s top defense? Of the 17 players who played at least one snap on defense for the Seahawks in their NFC Championship Game victory over San Francisco, 10 were drafted by the Seahawks, including nine since Schneider and Carroll took over in 2010. What’s more, only two of the 11 players who started the game weren’t Seahawks draft picks, so the narrative that Schneider has been significantly more aggressive in free agency doesn’t hold up, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
Here’s a look at the 17 players who saw action on defense in the NFC Championship Game and how each was acquired:
LDE Red Bryant: 2008 fourth-round pick.
LDT Tony McDaniel: Signed a one-year, $890,000 deal as an unrestricted free agent from Miami in March. Entered league as undrafted free agent with Jacksonville in 2006.
RDT Brandon Mebane: 2007 third-round pick. Signed a five-year, $25 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) on July 29, 2011.
RDE Chris Clemons: Acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on March 16, 2010. Seattle also obtained a 2010 fourth-round draft pick (DE E.J. Wilson) while the Eagles received DE Darryl Tapp. Signed three-year, $22 million extension ($10 million guaranteed) on July 23, 2012.
OLB Bruce Irvin: 2012 first-round pick.
MLB Bobby Wagner: 2012 second-round pick.
OLB Malcolm Smith: 2011 seventh-round pick.
CB Richard Sherman: 2011 fifth-round pick.
CB Byron Maxwell: 2011 sixth-round pick.
SS Kam Chancellor: 2010 fifth-round pick.