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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Seahawks' new power broker

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

That would be Lance Lopes.

In a couple of weeks, the Seahawks' general counsel has gone from little-known planner of the team's new headquarters to little-known architect of the team's evolving football hierarchy.

It's tough to imagine the organization hiring USC's Pete Carroll as head coach and Green Bay's John Schneider as general manager without Lopes there to see through both moves. Lopes' brother works in the athletic department at USC, providing a trusted link between the Seahawks and Carroll. Lopes and Schneider worked together in Green Bay from 1993 to 1996 and again with Seattle in 2000, the likely key to Schneider's candidacy with the Seahawks.

The Seahawks' hiring of Carroll and Schneider enhances Lopes' profile on the football side of operations.

The head coach and GM at least partially owe their hiring to a man whose online job description says only: "Lopes administers the legal affairs for both the Seahawks and First & Goal Inc. He also handles special projects for the organization, including the construction of VMAC, the club's new headquarters and development of the WaMu Theater in Qwest Field Event Center."

Who is Lopes? He went to college in Oregon, spent seven seasons with the Packers in the 1990s and then returned to the Northwest as general counsel for the Seahawks.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had this to say when Lopes resigned from the Packers in May 2000: "Lopes, who played a major role in the Packers' stock sale in 1997, was hired in 1993 as legal counsel. He was given new and additional roles the last two years, including working on player contract negotiations and helping the front office with salary cap issues."

While with the Packers, Lopes took over contract negotiations from Mike Reinfeldt after Reinfeldt followed Mike Holmgren from Green Bay to Seattle in 1999. Lopes then joined Reinfeldt and Holmgren in Seattle, where he has remained. The Seahawks had hired Schneider as player-personnel director in April 2000, a month before Lopes resigned from the Packers, citing an opportunity on the West Coast.

Schneider brings strong personnel bloodlines to the Seahawks. He learned under Ron Wolf and Wolf's protege, current Packers GM Ted Thompson -- another former Seahawks executive. Schneider has also shown he can work with high-profile coaches. He took a job with the Chiefs in 1997, when Marty Schottenheimer was head coach, and he worked with Schottenheimer again in Washington. That suggests Schneider earned Schottenheimer's trust and that Schneider can do the same with Carroll.

The dynamics are critical after CEO Tod Leiweke pointed to "collaboration" and cooperation among leadership as a top priority.

Carroll made it clear during his introductory news conference that he would be the top football power broker in the organization. Did that make Schneider a better fit as GM than an older and more established candidate such as Floyd Reese, the other finalist for the job? Schneider, listed at 38 in his Packers bio, is much younger than Reese (61) and Carroll (58). Might he be more willing to take a background role? Might Reese have been more apt to want control over contract negotiations and the other areas he oversaw during a long run as the Titans' GM?

None of it will matter as much if the Seahawks win.

Side note: The Seahawks hired Lopes months after long-time team executive Randy Mueller left to become GM in New Orleans. Lopes had caught passes from Mueller during Linfield College's run to the NAIA Division II title in 1982.