It’s common practice that fans of the 30 teams that didn’t participate in the Super Bowl look to its victor for the blueprint to championship success.
In the case of the recently-crowned Seattle Seahawks, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs may find their team’s Super Bowl-winning construction is well underway.
John Schneider, the executive vice president and general manager of the Seahawks, got his start in the NFL as a personnel assistant with the Green Bay Packers from 1993-96 before joining the Chiefs as director of pro personnel in 1997.
Sep 29, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey watches warmup before the game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey started his NFL career as a college scout for the Packers in 1991. He held the position until 1997 when he was promoted by the Packers to be their director of college scouting.
It was during that span from 1993-97 that both Schneider and Dorsey were mentored by legendary Packers general manager Ron Wolf on the finer points of player evaluation and team building.
“They were good guys. They were very good evaluators,” Wolf said of Dorsey and Schneider in a recent interview with Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY Sports. “If you couldn’t evaluate, then you weren’t going to stay with me very long.”
Prior to Wolf’s hiring, the Packers had finished just five seasons at or above .500 from 1968-1991.
However, during Wolf’s tenure from 1991-2001, the Packers failed only twice to make the playoffs, won three NFC North Championships, two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl.
Behind the Packers’ astonishing success was Wolf’s uncanny eye for talent and his ability to acquire that talent through all imaginable means.
Signs of Wolf’s teaching and team building principles are evident in the ongoing construction of the Chiefs’ and Seahawks’ rosters.
Signature first-year trades
Wolf’s first major move, and arguably the most notable of his legacy, was a bold trade with the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 in which he sent one of the Packers’ 1st round draft picks to the Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre who had only four pass attempts as a rookie the year before.
“We’ve answered what I consider the pressing problem of finding a young quarterback,” Wolf explained to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February 1992 shortly after trading for Favre. “I consider him a guy that has a chance in a couple years to be more than just a starter. His talent needs to be harnessed, but we have the best guy [Mike Holmgren] to harness it that I’ve ever known. It’s up to us.”
Favre went on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career which included nine trips to the Pro Bowl, three consecutive NFL MVP honors (1995-97), and a Super Bowl win in 16 seasons with the Packers.
Nov 3, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) points to Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (99) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chiefs beat the Bills 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Dorsey, in his first offseason with the Chiefs, acquired quarterback Alex Smith via trade from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft and a conditional pick in 2014.
Smith led the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and wildcard berth in the playoffs after an abysmal 2-14 finish in 2012.
While Smith is currently in the final year of his contract with the Chiefs, both sides are reportedly working on a long-term extension.
Schneider, in early October of his first season (2010) with the Seahawks, sent their fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft and a conditional pick in 2012 to the Buffalo Bills for halfback Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch immediately established himself as one of the league’s elite running backs and has since proven to be the heart of the Seahawks offense and arguably the team as a whole.
One of Wolf’s core draft commandments was to never select a defensive back under 5-foot-11. He wanted big cornerbacks and safeties with speed that loved to hit and tackle.
Although the first pick of Wolf’s Green Bay career was Terrell Buckley, a 5-foot-10 cornerback out of Florida Statee selected fifth overall in the 1992 draft, it was a pick that he regrets as Buckley spent an unremarkable three seasons with the team.
“I violated one of my basic tenets, and that is you don’t take a defensive back or cornerback under 5-11,” Wolf told Don Banks of Sports Illustrated in April 2001 shortly after announcing his retirement. “In bad weather you need big people.”
Seattle’s secondary is notorious for its size, aggressiveness and physicality. All the starters are more than 6-feet tall and weigh more than 190 pounds with the exception of Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas who is 5-foot-10.
As a unit, the Seahawks’ secondary was assembled over the course of the last four years and is concrete proof of Schneider’s adherence to his mentor’s philosophy for which he was ultimately rewarded with a dominant 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Though the Chiefs are three years behind Seattle in their building process, it’s evident Dorsey is also following Wolf’s doctrine of amassing big defensive backs.
One of Dorsey’s marquee acquisitions of the 2013 off-season was 6-foot-3, 218-pound cornerback Sean Smith. Dorsey later selected 6-foot, 223-pound defensive back Sanders Commings out of Georgia in the fifth round of last year’s draft. Then, prior to the start of the regular season, Dorsey plucked rookie cornerbacks Marcus Cooper (6-foot-1, 192 pounds) and Ron Parker (6-feet, 206 pounds) off the waiver wire.
Also, during the week of practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl, reports were the Chiefs interviewed several big cornerback prospects including Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and Utah’s Keith McGill (6-foot-3, 205 pounds).
Success and winning
Not once did the Packers finish with a losing record while Wolf was GM. Wolf’s Packers set a standard for consistency and winning that few teams could match.
It’s becoming clear that his disciples, Schneider and Dorsey, have applied the same commitment to sustained success and winning in their approach to building their respective teams.
After four seasons and three playoff trips under Schneider, the Seahawks are finally enjoying their current reign atop the NFL as Super Bowl Champions. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are still in the process of building towards that title.
However, if Dorsey’s pedigree as Wolf’s understudy is any indication, fans of the Chiefs won’t have to wait long before that construction is complete.