INDIANAPOLIS – It’s always good to have more than one first-round draft choice. But it’s an even better deal this year.
That’s the opinion of Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans who now works for the NFL Network. Casserly is in town this week to participate in the cable channel’s coverage of the scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“This is the best first round I’ve seen since 1983,” Casserly said Friday. “In talking to general managers throughout the league – decision-makers – it’s the result of two things.”
It’s a convergence zone that has created what Casserly calls “a perfect storm.”
As he explained it, “Last year, I believe there was a concentrated effort to keep players in school. Conversely, obviously both sides in the labor negotiations have talked about a rookie wage scale. So when you have those two things working – players without a motivation to stay in school and players who stayed in last year – you’ve got … probably the best junior crop you’ve had all the way back since ’83.”
The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are the only teams with double picks in the first round – the Seahawks at No. 6 and No. 14, and their NFC West rivals at No. 13 and No. 17.
“The biggest impact (of the uncapped year) is the fact that you’ll see teams not dramatically improve on the personnel side,” Casserly said. “If you’ve got extra picks, this is a great year to have the extra picks.
“Teams, a year ago in making trades, had this in mind when they were acquiring picks.”
The Seahawks got the No. 14 pick from the Denver Broncos in a draft-day trade last year, while the 49ers got No. 17 in a deal with the Carolina Panthers.
INDIANAPOLIS – If anyone knows whether John Schneider is ready to take over as Seahawks general manager, it’s Ted Thompson.
These two have been joined at the career for much of their careers. They worked together with the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s, where together for one season with the Seahawks (2000) and then reunited with the Packers the past five seasons.
Schneider, who also has worked for the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, rejoined the Seahawks last month.
“John will be fine,” Thompson, the Packers GM since 2005, said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. “He’s been working in the front office for a long time. He’s been in several different situations, which I think is invaluable experience.
“He’s confident with his ability and he’s really good with people. He’ll hire good people, if he needs to. He’s fine. He’s ready to go.”
Thompson also flashed a sense of humor when asked if the marriage between new coach Pete Carroll and Schneider will work.
“Well, you never know if it’s going to work,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me later on today.”
Thompson then added, “No, like I said, he’s good to go. He and Pete have a good working relationship, and that’s key. So, go get ’em.”
INDIANAPOLIS – Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was first up at the podium on Friday at the NFL scouting combine, and part of his Q&A session at Lucas Oil Stadium turned into a Lovie-fest when the topic turned to former Seahawks tight end Mike Tice.
“Mike Tice is one of the best offensive line coaches in the game,” Smith said. “He’s been in the NFC North, so he knows the division well.
“He brings toughness and expertise to our offensive line.”
After Tice was done playing for the Seahawks (1981-88, 1990-91), he started his coaching career with the Minnesota Vikings – first as tight ends coach and later as the O-line coach and head coach for the Bears’ division rival. He then moved to the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he also coached the O-line.
The Seahawks will play the Bears in Chicago this season.
Tice, who was hired by Smith last month, is part of a new-look Bears staff that also includes former Rams head coach Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator. Martz served a stint as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, as well.
“I put this staff together, so I feel good about it,” Smith said when asked about having so many “cooks” in his pigskin kitchen. “Ex-head coaches bring a lot of knowledge, and that’s a good thing. That’s all good for the Bears.”
Not to mention a former tight end for the Seahawks.
INDIANAPOLIS – When the offensive linemen are weighed and measured at the NFL scouting combine, arm length has become almost as important as height and weight.
Among the top-rated tackles, Maryland’s Bruce Campbell drew high marks – or should that be long marks? – with 36½-inch arms, while there were some raised eyebrows because Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga checked in at “only” 33½. Oklahoma’s Russell Okung was at 36 inches, with Oklahoma’s Trent Williams at 34.
“The only question I have on him is his arm length, and I hate to bring it up,” Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network, said of Bulaga.
Mayock then recalled Robert Gallery, a former first-round pick by the Oakland Raiders who started his career at tackle but was moved to guard because his 32-inch arms made it difficult for him to deal with speed pass rushers coming off the edge.
“Bulaga looks like he’s got short arms,” Mayock said, with the measuring tape supporting that assessment.
But, like everything else in the draft-evaluation process, this arm-length issue can be overblown. Short arms were the knock on Pete Kendall when the Seahawks made him the 21st pick overall in the 1996 draft – after trading down twice.
When Kendall stepped to the podium for his introductory news conference, he acknowledged the knock, let his arms hang at his sides and offered, “It’s not like I’m a fire hydrant.”
Kendall overcame his “deficiency” to start in the league for 13 seasons with the Seahawks (1996-2000), Arizona Cardinals (2001-03), New York Jets (2004-06) and Washington Redskins (2007-08). But then, he was a guard.
INDIANAPOLIS – As I was talking to NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang a few minutes ago in the media room at the NFL scouting combine, a large hand suddenly was resting my shoulder.
As I turned around, it was former Seahawks coach turned Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren – decked out in a brown top with orange trim.
“Hey, you look good in brown,” I said.
“It’s free. What else can I say?” Holmgren cracked.
Holmgren was just passing through, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what else he has to say. That’s when he’s scheduled to appear at a podium.
INDIANAPLOIS – Charles Brown is one of the top-rated offensive tackles in this year’s draft pool, and he’s no stranger to Seahawks first-year coach Pete Carroll or second-year defensive end Nick Reed.
The Carroll connection is obvious. Brown played for Carroll at USC.
“I saw coach Carroll today, so I’m already a little nervous,” Brown said at the NFL scouting combine this afternoon. “He’ll do great. He’s a competitor. As soon as they get some players they’ll be winners.”
But what about Reed? He and Brown played against each other in 2008. It was the fourth game of the season. Brown remembers. Or perhaps can’t forget is a better way to put it.
Asked when he allowed his last sack, Brown said, “It was Oregon. Nick Reed.”
Images of Mike Singletary’s eyes gazing – no, blazing – from behind his facemask as he diagnosed plays are a lasting impression from his Hall of Fame career as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears.
He has carried that singular – not to mention intense – approach to his role as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Case in point: Singletary’s reaction this morning when asked about the 49ers perceiving the NFC West as being “our division” because QB Kurt Warner has retired from the Arizona Cardinals and the Seahawks have made a coaching change from Jim Mora to Pete Carroll.
“I think Seattle, just like everybody else, feels they have to get the people that give them the best chance to win,” Singletary said this morning after his podium stint at the NFL scouting combine. “But, once again, it doesn’t matter who’s there.
“I just think it’s very important for us to really look at what we’re doing and really pay close attention to what we’re doing and make sure that we’re ready to go.”
The “once again” tag came from a question Singletary was asked at the podium about Warner’s retirement bringing the two-time division champion Cardinals back to the pack – especially after the 49ers swept the Cardinals last season.
“It’s a big mistake for us, we can’t afford to look around at anybody and say, ‘Oh yeah, this is our division,’ ” he said. “Entitlement is the quickest way out. So I think we’re going to work harder, smarter than we did last year and just do the very best we can to prepare to go out and compete.
“The thing we have to do in San Francisco is to make sure we are not looking at Seattle, we are not looking at what happened in Seattle; we are not looking at what happened at Arizona. I don’t care about those things.
“I’m thinking it’s ‘our’ division before you get Kurt Warner out. I was hoping we were thinking that way last year, and thinking that was this year. I want to think that way every year.”
INDIANAPOLIS – Greetings from Colt Country, where some of the faithful have conveniently overlooked the outcome of the Super Bowl.
On the cab ride from the airport to downtown Wednesday, the driver’s take was that the Colts remain the best team in the league. When it was pointed out that they did lose to the Saints in the Super Bowl, he said that was just one game and the loss did not alter the “fact” that the Colts were the NFL’s best team.
It’s not just one man’s opinion. Similar sentiments were offered by the bellboy at the hotel and the barista at a nearby Seattle’s Best coffee outlet. And the city remains decked out in Colt colors, banners and other regalia.
On to the scouting combine – which is the reason some 600 coaches, scouts and front-office execs and more than 300 draft-eligible players are in town. I’ve already bumped into Ted Thompson, the Packers’ GM and who used to work for the Seahawks; and Randy Mueller, who had GM power without the title during Dennis Erickson’s tenure as Seahawks coach and now works for the Chargers. I walked to Lucas Oil Stadium this morning with Will Lewis, the Seahawks’ vice president of football operations.
Today, the offensive linemen are lifting this morning and will be made available to the 400 media representatives throughout the day.
Yesterday, the Seahawks used their franchise tag on Olindo Mare. This move gives him a nice pay bump – a one-year tender of $2.814 million, or the average salary of the top five kickers in the league.
Mare has been, well, money since the Seahawks signed him in 2008. Last season, he missed only two field-goal attempts and hit a club-record 21 in a row. The year before, he hit 24 of 27 – giving him a two-season percentage of .906 (48 of 53).
Yes, he will be 37 in June, but Mare obviously has plenty of leg left.