Will Seahawks GM John Schneider replace QB Geno Smith in draft?

It’s a fresh start for the Seattle Seahawks now that Pete Carroll has moved off the sideline and general manager John Schneider has officially assumed his role as president of football operations.

Last month, Seattle replaced the oldest head coach in the league with the youngest. Mike Macdonald, the 36-year-old former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, then proceeded to hire three coordinators with no NFL experience at their positions: former University of Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, former Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and former University of Michigan special teams coach Jay Harbaugh, the son of new Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh. 

And while Seattle’s lack of experience at the top spots invites criticism, McDonald did also add assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, who has decades of NFL experience. 

Seattle had back-to-back 7-9 seasons in the first two years under Carroll, who came in with a wealth of head coaching experience. It seems fair to expect something similar in Macdonald’s first season, even though he’s taking over a team that just missed the playoffs at 9-8 in 2023.

However, Schneider said he doesn’t expect this team to take a step back in 2024.

“Based on open lines of communication, the way it’s gone so far, I don’t see a lot of hinderances to what would lead to success on the field,” Schneier told Seattle Sports Radio 710-AM. “I could see where people would think, ‘Well, people are going to have to adjust.’ Yeah, everybody’s got to adjust. But everybody’s got to adjust every year. And if you’re not adjusting, you’re just falling behind.” 

Schneider said he is ready to add a new way of looking at things and a fresh perspective with Macdonald, taking a different tack in building a consistent winner after working with Carroll since 2010.

“This is the future right here,” Schneider said during Macdonald’s introductory press conference. “This is where it’s going. I think you’re going to learn in getting to know Mike that he’s a special dude.” 

Seattle’s reason for change was simple: In Schneider’s view, the Seahawks had become stale and stagnant, falling behind the rest of the league. 

“I’ve had two really strong feelings [during my time with Seattle],” Schneider said. “Leaving Pittsburgh several years ago — like we will never, ever look like that again. I think it might have been our first year or second year, I can’t remember. It was not cool. And leaving Baltimore this year. That was not cool.”

Last November, Baltimore boat-raced Seattle on the road 37-3, and Macdonald’s unit was at the heart of Schneider’s foul mood. The Seahawks had no answer for Baltimore’s No. 1-ranked defense. 

So, Schneider brought the architect of that dominant defense to Seattle. 

“I understand where this organization wants to go, and I feel like we’re aligned on how we want to get there,” Macdonald said during his introductory press conference. “I’m just juiced to go do it. There’s going to be no secrets — a secret scheme or secret plays that are going to get us there faster. 

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work by finding the right people and doing it the right way, treating people the right way, building everybody up throughout the building.”

Dave Helman, Carmen Vitali analyze the hiring of Mike Macdonald

One significant change for the Seahawks could be the way they build the quarterback room. In 14 years with Schneider being the general manager of the team, Seattle has drafted just two quarterbacks: Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012 and Alex McGough in the seventh round of the 2018 draft.

Schneider cut his teeth as a personal man in Green Bay under general managers Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson. Both believed in fortifying the quarterback position through the draft. The Packers groomed Aaron Rodgers to eventually replace Brett Favre, and more recently replaced Rodgers with Jordan Love.

And Green Bay also drafted QBs like Ty Detmer and Matt Flynn during Schneider’s two stints with the team. 

The Seahawks recently guaranteed $12.7 million of starting quarterback Geno Smith‘s compensation for the 2024 season, and now a March 18 deadline awaits, which triggers another $9.8 million in bonuses. Locking up Smith for $22.5 in total compensation for 2024 would make him the 18th-highest-paid quarterback for the upcoming season, a decent number for a two-time Pro Bowler. Backup quarterback Drew Lock will become an unrestricted free agent in March after making $4 million last season on a one-year deal. 

Smith also gives Seattle a stopgap if Schneider chooses to select a quarterback in the draft this year. During Schneider and Carroll’s first three years with the Seahawks, they used veteran signal-callers Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Hasselbeck and Flynn as quarterbacks until drafting Wilson, who developed into the best quarterback in franchise history.

In his latest mock draft, FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt has the Seahawks taking Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy at No. 16. New Seattle OC Grubb is also very familiar with Michael Penix Jr. from his time at Washington and should give the Seahawks a competitive edge in drafting a quarterback this year because of his time coaching and recruiting in college.

Joel Klatt breaks down his top five QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft

If Seattle takes a QB early, Schneider could look to trade Smith and bring back Lock as a lower-priced bridge or backup.

Whatever the team’s strategy, Grubb is confident he can build an offense that works in the NFL with Smith leading it to start, if that’s the choice for Schneider.

“He’s a competitor,” Grubb said about Smith. “He wants to be coached. He wants to be the best. It means a lot to him. And just hearing his story and his growth as a player and a person is inspiring honestly. 

“So I’m really fired up and looking forward to coaching him and Drew.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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