Ten years ago, John Schneider boarded a flight from Seattle to Green Bay wondering if he had just landed a new job.
Back in Seattle, Pete Carroll wished he hadn’t let Schneider get on that plane.
Friday evening, almost exactly 10 years later, Schneider and Carroll sat side by side in the front of a plane somewhere over Minnesota, each studying film as the Seahawks flew towards Green Bay, where they’ll face the Packers on Sunday in the divisional round of the playoffs.
One of the NFL’s best partnerships—one both Schneider and Carroll have likened to a marriage—and definitely the NFL’s best buddy comedy, turns 10 this month, and as Sunday’s date with the Packers shows, it’s still going strong a decade into their partnership.
Sunday’s game marks the 10th anniversary of Carroll’s introductory press conference as Seattle’s head coach in which he talked about high expectations and said, “I hope we can do things better than it’s ever been done before around here,” then spent a decade doing just that. Not long after meeting with the media, Carroll went upstairs to the second floor of the VMAC where he and then Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke interviewed Schneider for the vacant general manager position.
This wasn’t how Schneider had envisioned the process going when the Seahawks initially reached out to him about the general manager job. The Packers’ director of football operations at the time, Schneider was already on the list of candidates for Seattle’s general manager job, which had come open during the season, before Carroll was hired. The more common structure in the NFL is for a GM to help hire a new coach, so Schneider was prepared for his interview with a list of names he would consider for the head coaching job. Instead, Seahawks owner Paul Allen and Leiweke were able to lure Carroll away from USC after a wildly successful nine-year run in L.A., which meant the head coach was helping decide on the general manager, and not the other way around. Needless to say, Schneider was a bit skeptical at the time, but it didn’t take long for him and for Carroll to realize what a good fit they were together.
“I was getting ready to hire a head coach if I got the job,” Schneider said. “I had head coaching candidate names, right? My opinions on those guys, the criteria of what you’re looking for in a head coach. Tod Leiweke had said, ‘Hey, I still really want you to come in for this interview.’ Like I told you, I was shocked. I was like ‘Wow, why would I leave Green Bay?’”
Leiweke’s answer? “You’re going to love this guy,” Schneider recalled being told.
So Schneider interviewed with the Seahawks despite an unconventional setup, and then he and Carroll did indeed hit it off right away, even hugging it out after the interview. Back in Green Bay, Traci Schneider picked her husband up at the airport and the two went to dinner at Hinterland Brewery.
They talked about the possibility of leaving Green Bay, where Schneider is from, and where he had a great job. They talked about uprooting their two young children, Ben and Jack. They talked about this knowing a decision was going to have to come soon, because by the time Schneider had landed in Green Bay, Carroll and Leiweke had already called and left a message, asking him to come back to Seattle.
“It was a big decision because I grew up right there in Green Bay,” Schneider said. “It’s a great organization and we were winning—they won the Super Bowl the next year. On the plane ride, I was like wow. I thought it went well. I was trying to balance between what I was working on in Green Bay and then here. I landed and they called me and were like, ‘Hey, can you get on a six something in the morning flight?’ I was right back out of there. Traci and I went and just grabbed dinner and sat and talked for a long, long time. I was like, ‘Babe, if this goes down, are you good?’ It happened fairly fast.”
And everything’s gone fast ever since, from winning seasons to big contract decisions to franchise altering trades, to playoff runs like the one the Seahawks hope to keep going with a win on Sunday.
“No, it doesn’t (feel like it has been a decade),” Carroll said. “It seems like it just flashed by, really.”