SEATTLE — Give Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider this: They managed to bring the football world to a consensus in 2010. And with good reason.
In their first draft together, Carroll and Schneider laid the franchise’s foundation with a unanimously positive draft, with everyone from former players, executives and, yes, even ESPN’s Mel Kiper heaping praise. NFL.com’s Jamie Dukes, for instance, gave the Seahawks an A+ and said, “If I could give them a higher grade, I would.”
That draft was the Seahawks’ first step toward building a Super Bowl-contending team. Think about it: Without left tackle Russell Okung, without safeties Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor or even receiver Golden Tate, the Seahawks would have been forced to spend future draft choices or free-agent money on trying to fill those needs.
Instead, they sit in a position of relative comfort heading into the draft Thursday.
“You get to a certain point in the draft where you can kind of just take a deep breath and feel good about your preparation and just go,” Schneider said. “I think we’re at that point.”
Then Schneider added this: “Our first draft was not like that.”
Franchises can be built or broken through the draft. The Oakland Raiders’ draft in 2007 set the club back years. Four of the team’s five top choices — all in the third round or earlier — are out of the league, including No..1 overall selection JaMarcus Russell.
The Steelers, meanwhile, set themselves up for multiple Super Bowl titles with their draft picks in the early ’70s, including four future Hall of Famers in the 1974 draft.
The 2010 draft seems longer than three years ago, even by the dog-year standards of the NFL. The Seahawks were coming off a 5-11 season in Jim Mora’s only year as coach. Carroll was hired three months before the draft. Schneider joined a week after Carroll.
“It was really a how-do-we-get-this-thing-started kind of draft with foundation pieces,” Schneider said.
The Seahawks’ biggest weakness was glaring: They needed a replacement for star left tackle Walter Jones.
Schneider said the Seahawks looked at three players: Trent Williams from Oklahoma, Charles Brown from USC and Okung from Oklahoma State.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to address it in free agency,” Schneider said. “We were going to have to fill our left-guard spot with a veteran, hang in there at right tackle.”
In other words, left tackle was priority No..1 if the Seahawks were going to make progress as an organization. Okung had been rated by many as the best tackle in the draft, but the Redskins took Williams at No..4 ahead of him. That left the Seahawks with an easy call at No..6.
Okung made the Pro Bowl last year. He is a top-five left tackle in the league and is an anchor of certainty along the line.
Earl Thomas fell, more or less, into Seattle’s lap. The Seahawks viewed Thomas highly and didn’t think he would be available when they made their second selection in the first round at No..14. But there was Thomas, a versatile safety with exceptional instincts, waiting for them.
“Earl was just too unique of a player,” Schneider said.
He has done little to disprove that, starting in every game and making two Pro Bowls in three years.
The Seahawks added Tate, a small receiver at 5 feet 10 but one who has a knack for explosive plays, in the second round. They picked up Chancellor, a hard-hitting safety who made the Pro Bowl in his second season, in the fifth round and drafted Anthony McCoy — who played for Carroll at USC and was viewed highly around the league until he failed a drug test before the draft — in the sixth round.
Once the draft ended, Carroll immediately set about changing the organization’s culture with a massive roster overhaul. By the time the season ended, the Seahawks had made more than 200 roster moves.
“Talk about changing a culture,” said Joe Pawelek, a rookie linebacker on that team no longer with the Seahawks. “They weren’t changing a culture. They were creating their own culture.”
Monday, Chancellor signed a four-year contract extension reportedly worth $28 million, the first player from the 2010 draft class to sign an extension. Throughout the day, he kept reflecting on the organization taking care of what he calls “the core,” the guys who started on the ground level.
“If you take care of the core and build off of it,” he said, “I think everything will be stable and everything will work out just as they’re planning for it to work out.”