If you think NFL employees are above engaging in a little corporate espionage, you haven’t been paying attention.
The NFL is one of the most competitive big-money enterprises there is, and the pressure is always on to get an edge over the competition.
It’s not always as dramatic as the secret filming of practices or trying to steal playbooks.
But come draft day, a little inside information can make a difference. So front offices learn to keep their cards close to the vests.
Yes, the Seattle Seahawks engage in a regimen of stealth through the process of scouting, evaluating, interviewing and eventually drafting prospective talent.
Certainly, everybody in the league is interested in protecting the proprietary information they’ve spent months compiling. And every team’s secrets wouldn’t be of widespread interest, either.
Thirty-one teams aren’t spending a lot of time dissecting how the Cleveland Browns are going about their business.
Here, though, is an example of the extent other teams respect the personnel evaluations of the Seahawks: Of the 56 players the Seahawks drafted under the tandem of John Schneider and Pete Carroll since 2010, 42 are still in the league.
Twenty-two are with the Hawks, but 20 are still in the league with other teams. In other words, Seattle’s discards look pretty appealing to the needy.
Schneider on Tuesday told how this week’s draft (Thursday through Saturday) is the culmination of an 11-month process. There’s plenty of time in that interim for teams to scope out what prospects the Seahawks are talking with, who they’re bringing in for visits.
It’s interesting, then, to hear so many of the recent Seattle draft picks say that their selection by the Seahawks came as complete surprises. No, the Seahawks never talked to them, they say.
Why? Maybe so they don’t tip their hands.
Teams have jumped ahead of them in the draft, Schneider said, but it’s never been obviously to poach a player they had targeted at that spot, which would signal a possible leak of information.
“It’s a credit to both our coaching staff and personnel staff,” Schneider said. “We’re a little bit unusual here in that we’ve talked about ‘no walls’ since we got together. We have everybody in that room together; we know where the specific players are.”
Unlike many operations, the Seahawks coaches and scouts often confer. The melding of scouts’ information with coaches’ requirements reduces variables in an already inexact science.
But that means a lot of people are in on the secrets.
Yes, there are rules in place regarding a code of silence, Schneider said.
Carroll jumped in at that point of the interview to describe it as a “blood oath.”
You’re heard of the Mafia’s omerta? This is the Seahawks’ version.
Schneider explained that the Seahawks don’t grade players in the context of league-wide potential. They grade them for how they will fit specifically in the Seahawks’ schemes.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention to what everybody else is up to. Knowing another team’s needs and tendencies gives Schneider better ideas on the wisdom of trading up or back, and who will be available when their time comes.
Schneider was asked about the value of knowing how all the pieces align on the board. Who needs what? But Carroll volunteered to answer the question so he could credit the work of Schneider and his corps of scouts and evaluators.
“He’s great at this; this is what John does,” Carroll said. “The whole process is trying to figure all that information out. It’s a thrill to watch how the draft comes off. We anticipate things happening and we feel pretty confident that we’re going to have a great handle on that. I love the way John does that.”
This is the seventh draft for the Seahawks that Schneider and Carroll have conducted. No, they wouldn’t tell us who they had in mind in the first round.
Well, they could have told us. But then they’d have to kill us.