As the sun rose, John Schneider trembled with anger and stress. Paul Allen, normally cryptic but soft-spoken, had gone as far as he ever had to make it plain and as clear that Schneiz was on ice, and it was thin. Day Two of the Draft was Seattle’s General Manager’s favorite fucking day of the entire goddamn year and he had neither a second or third round pick. In his journal that morning, he had even gone so far as to wonder if there was even a point in getting out of bed that day.
Pete Carroll had been pansying about for the past week, desolate about the prospect of dealing Earl Thomas, tearing up at the very worst of moments, his ability to lie eloquently circling the drain of a flushing toilet. Jerry mothafucking Jones was no longer returning his calls, the surest sign that his earlier words had been lies, and that Dallas’ 50th pick was no longer an option. To himself, in the privacy of the innermost sanctum of his conscience, Pete was fine with admitting that he would’ve traded down regardless of the number of Day 2 picks he’d amassed earlier.
But it hurt.
He had known emotional pain, to be sure, that terrible and unending shadow, leaning steadily forwards, a perpetual stain of murk that made the sunshine seem like a distant and pointless memory, sure, just like the next guy; but this, this was irrevocable.
We know these things because of the recollections of an assortment of staff and assistants who were present on that fateful spring day; and because these intrepid, bold souls were kind enough to share their thoughts with us.
At the request of the persons interviewed or consulted, their names have been changed and positions altered to conceal their true identities.
What follows is an Oral History of April 26, 2018.
Ben Franklin, Staff, AT&T Stadium Logistical Operations: What strikes me most is Pete Carroll after the second pick. I was going around, refilling the staplers, and happened to be in the Seahawks draft room when the Giants called [Saquon] Barkley. Pete asked me where he could find a stapler. I pointed the nearest one out to him. He went over, picked it up, hefted it a time or two, and threw that bad boy as hard as he could at a TV monitor. He started cursing like a madman, but I think he was crying too. He kept mumbling “generational talent” over and over again. I thought he was a cool guy, generally, but yeah. Wow. Just wow.
Daniel Barrefov, Independent Contractor, IT: For me, it has to be the 15th pick overall. The Seahawks had a bunch of email accounts synced up to one of their monitors so they could see emails from scouts and potential trade partners in real-time, and I was helping one of the assistant coaches. They maybe thought not all of the emails was coming through. Everything checked out, and I was calling my supervisor for help with diagnosis when it comes out that the Raiders picked [Kolton] Miller. A minute later, an email from email@example.com arrives in the Inbox, and it just says I DIED FOR YOUR SINS, BITCHES. Cracked me up, man.
Raul Delart, Staff, AT&T Stadium Security: ‘Bout 30 minutes or so into the draft, I gotta call from the Seahawks draft room, and they asked for a security escort. When I gets there, Coach Carroll is lookin’ real wild-eyed, and I’m wonderin’ if he’s gonna hurt someone. So they ask if I’ll escort him outta the room for a bit, maybe keep an eye on him. I takes him out, and we’re just walking along, and it seems like he calms down a bit. By the time the Chargers are called on the clock, we’re heading back to the Seahawks room. I hears them call [Derwin] James, and Coach Carroll… He loses it. Falls to the ground, tearing at his hair, beating his fists on the ground, screaming. I sees [Gus] Bradley come out of the Chargers room, and he’s got a smile bigger’n anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. Carroll sees him too, and I sees [Caroll] reaching into a pocket, and out he comes with a switchblade, and he runs straight for [Bradley]. …Now, I ain’t as fast as I used t’be, but I’m sure glad I catches up to him in time; in my line of work, when someone you’re watchin’ dies, that’s a fireable offense, and [Carroll] had murder in his eyes.
Caboit Inulacty, Independent Contractor, Transcriptionist: Before we begin, I’d like to make something very clear. For dates on either side of April the 26th, I was being paid from Vulcan, Inc. for the explicit purpose of transcribing Mr. Schneider’s various draft-related telephone calls. “For posterity,” I believe, were the words given to me. Prior to this job, I was advised that [John] was aware of the nature of my employment. I’d also like to clarify that the purpose of my employment was limited to transcribing [John]’s half of any conversation, and that at no time was I aware of any other conversants’ words or acts. What follows is from a transcript of a conversation between [John] and [the Green Bay Packers’ General Manager] Brian Gutekunst on April 26, around 6 p.m.
John Schneider (henceforth JS): Yo, B-Boy, what’s up man?
Brian Gutekunst (henceforth BG): …
JS: I’m on the clock now! Oh shit, right? And I gotta say, the trade-down offers have not been great.
JS: Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, um … yeah, I was hoping you’d want in on this action.
JS: Cause we’re old friends?
JS: Well, I’m not sure that’s totally called for.
JS: I told you I didn’t want it! [Slight pause] I don’t care what Ted said, I didn’t want it.
JS: Fine. Anyways, what could the Pack-Attack give for 18?
JS: A fifth? C’mon, man, I can’t take that! That’s not even close to fair!
JS: Well, yeah, I mean, I know I love the fifth round. But still …
JS: Okay, I’m listening.
JS: Wait, really? Why would you guys want to trade Hundley?
JS: Huh. I mean, I knew Rodgers had a big ego — who didn’t, right? — but that’s something else entirely.
JS: You really think Rodgers could get him fired? Well, it’s strange to be sure, but okay. Yeah, I guess.
JS: Wait, a 2019 pick? [Brief pause] So an agreement to trade for him after the draft? [Short pause] But you guys took him for a fifth. Make it a 2019 sixth and we’ve got a deal. [Final pause] Alrighty, I’ll put it through. Good luck with Rodgers.
JS: Hey, hey, hey, hold on there pal. The thing about Russ is– Hello? Hello?
Caboit Inulacty (resumed): One last thing — I feel bad, but it isn’t my fault that Mr. Schneider didn’t know that transcriptionists retain all reproductive rights to their transcripts. I shouldn’t have to apologize for it.
The next subject requested that we not even make up a name for him. Instead, we’re calling him “Ryan Thottenheimer.” What follows is his recollection of a conversation between John Schneider (JS) and Pete Carroll (PC) just before the Seahawks were on the clock at 27. Carroll’s son and Assistant Wide Receivers Coach, Nate Carroll, was present as well, and had invited Thottenheimer, though it isn’t clear whether the latter was present as Carroll’s deputy or as a friend.
JS: Petey, what the fuck we doing?
PC: (through clenched teeth) …you tell me John-o. *PC promptly tears off the wrappers of eight pieces of gum and rams each of them into his mouth at once, chewing angrily*
JS: Well, if I don’t ace this draft, I’m prolly getting fired. Any thoughts?
PC: *smirks* Just get a scapegoat.
JS: Oooh, good idea! Let’s log on to Twitter. There’re always plenty of scapegoats online!
PC: Heyo, that’s actually not a bad idea. What’s Twitter thinking?
JS: *logs on, scrolls for a few seconds* Here’s something promising. This guy is called guga… guga-something, I guess? He’s an economist!
PC: Pssh, pseudo-scientist. What does he say?
JS: *pauses* He, he says that … well, he says that running backs don’t matter.
PC: *a vein begins pulsating slightly just above his right eye*
JS: He says that efficiency stats show that there’s no real difference between any running backs and that a majority of their success can be attributed to offensive line play.
PC: *the vein grows larger with each new syllable*
JS: Hey, will you look at this? He jokes a lot about body blows, and says that you don’t need to run the ball to set up play action.
PC: *passes out*
JS: You okay, Petey?
PC: *still passed out*
JS: Huh. Here’s another guy, this one has a normal name, Zach Whitman … Oh and looks like he runs a SPARQ-type site.
PC: *recovers* What’d I miss?
JS: Zach Whitman says that we should’ve drafted DJ Moore.
PC: Wtf? Why? We got plenty of wideouts. We’ve got Dougie and No-E and *pauses, appears stumped* … Hey Nate, who else we got?
Nate Carroll: *exits in search of a current roster*
JS: Here’s another guy, seemikespinemode… something like that. Petey, this guy thinks we should be getting pass rush help… *pauses* …wow, they’re sure saying some unflattering things about the Bennett trade – maybe we shoulda kept him?
JS: I dunno Petey. Who should we take? Maybe we should trade-down again and get a WR?
PC: Nah, plenty of wideouts in the third round to be had.
JS: Okay cool. What about a defensive end? We could use more pass rush?
PC: Nope, plenty of pass rush to be had in the fourth round.
JS: Well, um, maybe a corner? Shaquill could use some help.
PC: No John, we only take cornerbacks in the fifth round.
JS: Offensive line? Safety? Linebacker? I mean, we need help everywhere, and maybe a trade back–
*In the middle of Schneider’s words, Carroll has gotten up and approached the call-in. He removes a small piece of paper from his pocket and drops it in Schneider’s lap. On the paper is written six fateful words: “Troll Seahawks Twitter No Matter What.”
JS: *looks up* Petey, no!
Announcer: with the 27th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Seahawks select … Rashaad Penny, Running Back.
PC: Owned ‘em.
The thing about conventional wisdom is that visionaries see it as a nail, and their visions are the hammer. We can question whether Pete Carroll is a visionary or not, but we shouldn’t question whether he sees himself that way. (He does.) What we know, or what we should accept is that, by the dicta of conventional wisdom, a team’s first draft pick should make some kind of an impact; then, the further down that draft board one travels, the more and more each pick can be a project, gamble, or hedge.
The dicta of Carrollball, however, disagree; disagreements disguised as Body Blows. To Carroll’s mind, the importance of having a dominant running game — after the failures of 2016, which we thought was because of Russell’s injury, but ha! see 2017 — was so great and mighty and vast that it was worth lighting that first round pick on fire, a sacrificial effigy to the Gods of Tailbacks.
Let that sink in. Carroll used a first round pick on a backup running back. Of course, if Carson would have been injured, Pete’s vision would have been inundated, a vision of lost Atlantis, not of triumph.
And yet, that first pick went instead to someone who carried the ball less than 100 times, who was sixth among backs in his own draft class in terms of total carries, whose DYAR would’ve been 24th best, and whose DVOA was 12th best. (While this last stat is not unimpressive, it ought to be mitigated by the fact that his success rate decreases significantly when removing runs that succeeded more by luck than talent.)
The selection of Penny showed us that the vision is a nightmare.
But there’s always tomorrow!