BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 04/22/2020

Thiel: New draft world for Carroll and Schneider

Pete Carroll likes the tech of this year’s NFL stay-at-home draft. John Schneider is not so sure, especially after installers tore up part of his house.

No more of this side-by-side stuff for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

When RT Germain Ifedi left in free agency for the Bears, it can be said that the Seahawks lost their most experienced guy in professional social distancing. Now we learn that the Seahawks may be a little shaky in the latest enforced trend in the altered world, Zoom conferencing.

The NFL draft starting Thursday will be done virtually. All the scouts, coaches, executives and players in 32 cities will participate from their homes, providing the sport a challenge almost as formidable as a call of pass interference.

The technological feat is being accomplished by an abrupt, mass deployment of communications hardware and software, including conferencing services such as Zoom, Skype and Teams.

When it comes to tech hardware and its operations, general manager John Schneider in his home apparently reminds no one of Han Solo piloting the Millennium Falcon. Work crews had to tear up a couple of walls for the installation of what “seems like 25 screens,” he told reporters from his home Tuesday, chuckling over-confidently in the manner of a newbie who has yet to be told about the launch keys for the photon torpedoes.

When it was time for a shakedown cruise, the NFL ordered up a mock draft Monday so participating teams could simulate the real thing. When it came time for Schneider to respond to the command, “With the 27th pick, the Seattle Seahawks  . . . ” Schneider left on his Zoom mute button.

The league passed him over.

And you thought in 2017 taking Malik McDowell was bad.

“We weren’t even involved in the (round),” he said. “Somebody said, ‘Hey John, make sure you’re unmuted.’

“I unmuted and everything went along great. It worked out in the second round. We were able to get Pete on Zoom.”

Whew. Klaxons quieted. Sentries shut off light sabers.

Pete, of course, is Pete Carroll, Zoom master. So he says.

“I’m particularly strong in that area, so my place is pretty good,” Carroll said, grinning. “John’s struggling a little there.”

The banter between friends and colleagues entering their 11th NFL draft together was refreshing. You recall laughter, don’t you? It was another small reminder about the absence of sports.

Fun, like PPE, has been in short supply.

That Schneider was willing, as he said, to “throw myself under the bus” to tell the story was worthy. Nor was he alone in technology faux pas. Several of the more than 20 reporters who called in Tuesday did exactly as Schneider, leaving on the mute button when speaking. For which Carroll introduced a new phrase into the lexicon:

“Zoom dog!”

By the end of the conference, all of us were nervously eyeing the mute button, not wanting to be that guy.

“I kind of like all the activity,” said Carroll, a black belt in FOMO (fear of missing out).  “I’ve got boards that wrap around the room. I’ve got seven screens going, which is not uncomfortable for me. We’ve got landlines, we got cell phones, we got back-up cell phones. We got all kinds of stuff. So I’m really pretty much gonna fire away.

“I have my own set up, so I’m gonna match what (Schneider and scouts) are doing there, so that I keep track. It’s kind of cool  . . . We just both hope we don’t get overloads on circuits, and everything shuts down. We got a lot more things plugged in than we normally do around here.”

A crash is unlikely to cause the Seahawks to fall behind, especially with Carroll. Nobody is better at shutting the whole thing down with a red challenge flag.

The technology workarounds for the NFL’s first stay-at-home draft are not without dividends. When the league suspended travel, lots of follow-up scouting time was lost, but insights were still to be had.

“I think this face-to-face communication, and not just texting and not just picking up the phone” is better, Schneider said. “I think when you’re looking somebody in the eye all the time, you can tell a lot.

“Some some dudes are ready for the interview. They’re psyched up. We had one guy wearing a tie. We had another guy in bed, watching TV.”

Schneider didn’t divulge names. Pity. I have a friend in Cleveland I could have tipped to a Browns draft choice.

As someone who maneuvers on draft day without peer, sliding up and down in almost each round, Schneider admits the unfamiliar may slow his roll.

“At this point, I would say I’m about 80 percent there,” he said. “We’re gonna practice some more, with a couple more teams, in a live version on the clock (rehearsing) a negotiation.

“So honestly, to say that I’m totally comfortable with it right now . . . I’m not about where I will be” by Thursday.

Carroll admitted the reduction of in-person visits limits his chances to get inside the heads of potential draftees, where he enjoys dwelling.

“It’s definitely gonna be different,” he said. “I really can’t tell you yet what’s it’s gonna come out like.”

It’s almost as if Carroll has a mute button forced upon him.

Inconceivable.


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YourThoughts

  • Kevin Lynch

    Amusing! Thank you for the humor. Let’s hope the season opens and opens on time. I’m encouraged that golf has picked a date to reopen. The added focus may bring them new fans. Now if I can find a tennis court in Seattle that isn’t locked up…so I don’t have to hit against a backboard on Whidbey Island.

    • coug73

      SWHS has had open courts and a backboard. Not sure this has changed.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I was there at 4:00 yesterday for the one backboard. But they are an outlier. We have not yet cranked up doubles practices on Whidbey due to the distancing issue. The bigger issue for this sport in Seattle involves public inside/outside options like Amy Yee on MLK. They have 16 courts with 6 outside. I think Inslee will open outdoor options for tennis, golf and fishing on May 4 but I doubt that will include indoor tennis and may not include driving ranges.

        • art thiel

          Do you know anyone with a 4×8 sheet of plywood and a garage door?

    • art thiel

      That’s a helluva serve you have, from Seattle to Whidbey.

      • Kevin Lynch

        The USTA serves from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s a wonderful amalgam of clubs and courts, lessons and leagues, with local, regional and national playoffs. Very competitive. A challenging game to learn but one that comes with many benefits for one’s mental, emotional and physical health.

        • art thiel

          On behalf of Nadal and Federer, we approve this ad.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    This draft is going to not only be must see TV to see how the NFL and networks can pull off this exponential social distancing operation live, but is ripe for controversy. While all teams should be drafting under the same handicaps, I see tech savvy participants having a potential advantage, being able to keep their focus on implementing their draft board instead of being distracted by unfamiliarity with communications issues. We might not hear about the travails and fumbling behind the scenes for a while. Then theres the potential for hacking into normally secure in-the-same-room communications. Could there be a Corona-gate in the offing? Time will tell

    • art thiel

      The risk factor is higher. One saving grace is the fact that the draft is spread out over three days. By Saturday, everyone should be at a high school level. But I do think Schneider needs a 14-year-old to stand next to him.

      • DJ

        YES on the 14-year-old!

  • Mark Stratton

    Inconceivable! Thanks for the Princess Bride reference

    • art thiel

      Glad someone noticed.

  • Kirkland

    I understand the remote WNBA draft went off pretty well. Let’s see how much the NFL borrows from that.

    • art thiel

      The technology is likely proven. But operator error always has been the greater threat.

      • Kirkland

        Like how my mother has to go to her 13- and even 6-year-old granddaughters to figure out her iPhone.

  • tor5

    Thanks for the good humor, Art! I am a little concerned about this. If Schneider can forget to unmute, he can forget to mute. I can see him blurting out some secret plan with 10 other GMs listening in. I say he needs to get some teenager in a hazmat suite to man the gear.

    • art thiel

      There is a chance of a security breach. Maybe John can adapt his N95 mask with a seven-second delay.

  • woofer

    On a substantive level, it will be interesting to see how the pandemic protocols affect drafting behavior. With limited supplemental personal contact to rely upon, teams are likely to become more cautious and conservative and hew more closely to conventional wisdom. This should mean a larger cohort of talented athletes with unresolved questions or issues falling into the middle rounds, creating more opportunities for those teams willing to roll the dice.

    Thus it might be a draft ideally suited to the Seahawks’ contrarian instincts. Unless a top-ten talent inexplicably falls to the bottom of the first round, it seems almost a certainty that the Hawks will trade their top pick for the biggest bushel of middle round picks on offer and look to hit the jackpot on one or two risky gems.

    • art thiel

      This draft might carry the highest risk of any NFL draft, for obvious reasons. It is no time to reach. I agree that volume is the best workaround. Providing Schneider unmutes.

      • eYeROQ

        Too bad you couldn’t find out who the player was who conducted team interviews with his pajamas on. I guess that is an upside of the quarantine draft. Absent prepping from hovering agents the team gets an unfiltered peek at the player they wouldn’t typically see.

        My guess is that these are later round picks they were forced having to conduct zoom interviews with? Because haven’t all the top prospects been interviewed already at the combine? If so, whichever later round pick is conducting interviews from bed is out of his mind. If Joe Burrow does it, he still gets taken first. If bubble prospect does it, he doesn’t get drafted.

  • Husky73

    C’mon Art, who’s it gonna be, and what’s the logic behind it. I was expecting a hint or two today, but nada. Is it the Penn State guy? Followed by the Auburn CB with the unpronounceable name?

    • art thiel

      Can you hold your water until Thursday morning?

      • Husky73

        I’m 68…holding my water is not a forte of mine.