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Pete Carroll, John Schneider 'marriage' nearing 10 years with Seahawks

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RENTON, Wash. -- When John Schneider interviewed for the Seattle Seahawks' general manager vacancy in January 2010, he brought with him a notebook containing information on head coaches he might hire if he got the job.

He had no idea Pete Carroll was already their man.

And Carroll had added authority as vice president of football operations, so he would have input on the GM hire and final say on personnel decisions.

"I had my books all set and everything," Schneider said, "and all of a sudden Pete got hired. I was like, 'wait a second -- what's going on?' I had my mind wrapped around getting ready to hire a head coach and what that was going to look like ... so I had to rip all those pages out of my book."

The arrangement with Carroll wasn't what Schneider initially envisioned, but the partnership has worked out.

They’ve been in lockstep while overseeing the most successful stretch in franchise history. It has included a Super Bowl title and another Super Bowl appearance, four NFC West championships and eight trips to the playoffs in 10 seasons. The Seahawks had reached the playoffs only 10 times in their previous 34 seasons.

Heading into Sunday's divisional-round game against the Green Bay Packers (6:40 p.m. ET, Fox), only New England (141) and Green Bay (111) have more combined regular-season and playoff victories than Seattle's 110 since 2010.

"We both think it's cool," Schneider told ESPN.com as he reflected on what will officially be a decade with Carroll on Jan. 19. "I've said it to him and he said it to me the other night on the plane. He's like, 'Holy s---, do you know this is like our 10th season?'"

No egos allowed

Tod Leiweke, then the Seahawks' CEO, had to convince Schneider that the job was still good despite the atypical structure. To Schneider, accepting that arrangement was the first example of a trait he and Carroll have that has been critical to their partnership.

"Probably the biggest one is the lack of ego," he said.

Lack of ego comes up often when people who know Schneider and Carroll are asked why they've worked well together.

"That's why they work so good together is because Pete may have the final say, but at the end of the day, he's going to trust John and know that [Schneider has] obviously ... done the legwork on guys when it comes to the draft and free agency," said Dan Morgan, who was Seattle's pro personnel director before becoming the Bills' director of player personnel in 2018. "It's just kind of throwing the egos to the side and trusting who you work with."

Schneider likens his partnership with Carroll to a marriage: "You're not going to always want to go to the same movie. You're not going to want to buy the same bed."

And when you run a team together for a decade, you're going to have a few disagreements. They'll occasionally have to take a deep breath, get away from each other and sleep on the issue to see if they're looking at it the wrong way.

"There have been a couple guys that we didn't see eye-to-eye on, but we saw eye-to-eye on the decision," Carroll said. "If we're going to make this decision, let's come together and find a way. You support me, I'll support you. Somebody has to give in somewhere and we did. We've done that. That's what's important. We never made a choice that we went [in opposite directions] because we didn't get together on it. That hasn't happened."

Monumental moves

Schneider is as light-hearted as Carroll. He has quoted lines from "Step Brothers" during press conferences and will play clips from similar movies to break up the monotony of draft meetings.

They're different in other ways.

"I don't have ADD, but I act like I do," Carroll said. "He's probably put up with a lot. It's the constant always battling, always competing, always looking for the competitive edge that you can find that just doesn’t go quiet or go dormant. That's hard to live with, I think."

That persistence led Carroll to pester Schneider about trading for Marshawn Lynch in 2010, even though it took months to get the Bills to even discuss a deal.

"It was like three months of, 'Let's call them again, call them again,'" Carroll said. "He hung with it. We turned out a historic acquisition there."

Schneider points to another landmark move as the best illustration of their partnership -- drafting Russell Wilson in 2012 and starting him from the get-go.

For months, Schneider peppered Carroll with questions about Fran Tarkenton and similarly short quarterbacks he had coached against. Schneider was raised in Green Bay's front office, where 6-foot-2 was considered something of a height requirement for a quarterback. But he was open minded. He had extensively scouted Drew Brees during his first stint with the Seahawks as director of player personnel.

"The previous time I was here in 2000, we were either going to trade for Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell or draft Drew Brees," Schneider said. “We knew we were going to be able to get Drew Brees based on how the draft was going to fall; Michael Vick was going to go first. I had spent a ton of time studying Drew, going to the school and doing all that stuff, and then going to the Hula Bowl and spending a week with him out there and he was just so unique and [Wilson] was the closest guy I had ever studied to Drew Brees."

Carroll trusted Schneider's gut, no small feat considering Seattle had just signed Matt Flynn and had Tarvaris Jackson, who won over the locker room by playing through a torn pectoral the year before.

Schneider trusted Carroll's gut when he named Wilson the starter heading into the season.

"The easiest thing to do would have him be Matt's backup for a minute and see how it goes," Schneider said.

Synced up

Leiweke thought Schneider and Carroll would make a good pairing because of their shared philosophy about playing young players, something the Seahawks needed to do in order to make their rebuild work.

Their personalities were as much of a match as their philosophies.

"You see teams all the time, they mix and match, and they get this guy from over here and this guy from over here," Carroll said. "They don't have any common background. They don't have any reason that they're going to get along. You have to develop chemistry from that moment that you start.

"... I don't think that there’s a more important challenge for a head coach and a guy in charge of personnel anywhere. ... You need everybody's input and everybody's expertise and all that. Then, you have to figure out how to win it when it isn't always seeing eye-to-eye. How are you going to figure it out? We've done a great job of that."