John Schneider & Pete Carroll’s Best (and Worst) Moves

50 yard line on an american football field
Much of the conversation today following the Seahawks upset victory over the Giants centered around the position Pete Carroll and John Schneider have arguably done the least to address, the quarterback. Sure, they traded for Charlie Whitehurst as their first move last season and signed Tarvaris Jackson this off-season, but neither deal was done with an eye toward building a championship team. Signing a player like Sidney Rice or drafting a player like Kam Chancellor will almost certainly have a greater impact on the franchise’s championship aspirations than any quarterback move made to date. That realization got me thinking about all the moves that this front office has made, both in acquiring personnel and maximizing what is already on the roster. Making a simple Top 10 personnel moves list seemed a little boring, so I decided to create a subjective ranking formula to apply to some of the most visible choices this regime has made. Here’s how it works:

1) Any signing, trade, or change to a player’s role is eligible.

2) Each move is scored from 1-10 (10 is always the best) on three levels: cost, impact, and ingenuity

3) Cost is assessed according to how much the team had to spend, or give up, in order to make the move. Changing a player’s position is free. Signing an undrafted free agent is slightly more expensive. Drafting a player in the 7th round is more costly than drafting one in the first, and so on.

4) Impact is assessed by how much of an impact the move has had on the team. Has the move improved the team’s performance? Grading a move at a 5 for impact means the player involved has had a modest impact. Grading it at 1 means the player has had a negligible impact.

5) Ingenuity is assessed according to how clever the move was, and how likely another coach or GM would have been to do the same thing. Drafting a highly-rated left tackle with a 1st round pick is not exactly rocket science. That would earn a 1 for ingenuity. Trading for a player or signing a player that nobody else wanted would rate much higher, as would utilizing a player in a unique way.

6) Each move is then given a score that is simply an equal weighting of all the categories:

Note that judging the impact of players that are new to the team this season is even more fuzzy since they have not even completed a full season with the team. They were given scores based on how their current performance projects out for the rest of the season.

Without further explanation, let’s see how it came out.

The top five moves, based on this scoring system are:
– Moving Red Bryant to DE
– The Chris Clemons trade
– Signing Mike Williams
– Signing Brandon Browner
– Making Lawyer Milloy a starter

Let’s look at each a little more closely.

This move has gotten plenty of press coverage, but it should be noted this was the brain child of former defensive line coach Dan Quinn. He approached Gus Bradley who approached Pete Carroll. Carroll deserves credit for listening to his coaches, but nobody could have predicted how well this would work out. Since moving to defensive end, Bryant has been one of the best players on the defense, and in many ways is the most valuable player on that side of the ball. In the twelve full games he has played, the team is allowing 3.2 yards-per-carry and 32.9% opponent 3rd down conversions. I’ve often wondered how I’d rank this move compared to other the front office made, and the scoring system feels right here. It cost the team nothing. The impact has been massive, and no other NFL team is running something like this. Heck, the previous regime had Bryant riding the pine on his way out of the NFL, and they drafted him.

Acquiring a player that leads your team in sacks (11.0) is always a good thing. Doing it without a massive free agent contract is even better. Darryl Tapp is a nice rotational defensive end. He will never be as valuable as Chris Clemons. Getting Clemons straight-up for Tapp would have been a steal. Getting Clemons and a 4th-round draft choice for Tapp was just a fleecing. This move gets high marks for ingenuity as Clemons had been on two other teams, and nobody else was banging down the door for him to drive the price up. This was solid scouting and understanding how players can fit your scheme.

Williams was the story of the year last year for the front office, and was in the conversation for comeback player of the year in the NFL. Everyone knows his story by now, and his signing obviously gets high marks for cost and ingenuity considering nobody else in the league wanted anything to do with Williams or had ever gotten that kind of performance out of him. His high mark for impact could be debated, but he was unguardable in several games last season, and was a huge part of the unlikely playoff appearance.

People consider me Browner’s publicist at this point, but he is the Mike Williams move of 2011. Browner was a cast-off that no other team wanted. He had tried out multiple times, and was stuck in the CFL. Many people believe 6’4″ 220+ lb cornerbacks cannot play in the NFL. Carroll and Schneider deserves huge kudos for going against the grain here. When every “expert” and fan was criticizing the front office for not drafting a CB in the early rounds or signing a veteran, Carroll and Schneider stuck to their guns and wound up finding a cornerback that is effecting the way opposing receivers are having to prepare for the Seahawks each week. The Seahawks have had cornerbacks that were more talented than Browner, but they have never had one like him. He does not need to be a Pro Bowler to validate this as a great move. Solidifying a role as a reliable starter considering his cost and pedigree would be astonishing.

This one was a head-scratcher. It benefited from matching Bryant in terms of cost, since it was free to elevate Milloy to a starter. Carroll also gets high marks for ingenuity since no other team wanted Milloy and the previous coaching staff had him on the bench. He was arguably the best player on the defense during the early part of last season. He was a beast against the run, and was a vocal leader. His largest impact may have come in mentoring young Earl Thomas and Chancellor. What they learned from him that one season could pay dividends for years to come.

I had expected to see the Doug Baldwin signing rise up higher, but it was hard to argue for ingenuity when Carroll has said multiple times that most every team in the league was trying to sign him after the draft. Robert Gallery showing up at the bottom has more to do with his lack of playing time due to injury than any indication that he’s going to be a player fans regret signing. That score could change dramatically by seasons end. Charlie Whitehurst’s acquisition is widely considered the worst move of the Carroll/Schneider regime. It will be interesting to see how that plays out if Tarvaris Jackson is injured for an extended period of time. If Whitehurst plays well, it is going to be that much harder to find a personnel move this team has made that can be criticized.

What move do you think was the best? Would you use the same categories to grade them? Discuss…