‘Important draft’ for Seahawks

The way John Schneider tells it, he has been tied at the hip with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll since he was named the team’s general manager in January.

In a football version of the odd couple, Mr. California Cool and the Green Bay born-and-bred GM have been inseparable as they try to rebuild a franchise that has won nine games in the past two seasons.

“Nothing’s really changed since the first week,” Schneider said. “Besides helping Pete finish up getting his coaching staff finalized, we’ve been all draft and free agency. Free agency slowed down a little bit, but we started right away with our pre-combine meetings and we’ve been just really all draft the whole time… . We’ve been going non-stop. I’ve been falling asleep looking at things at night.”

And later this week, we see what all of that time together produces as the NFL draft starts with the first round Thursday evening. OK, so we really won’t know how the Seahawks new regime did in this draft for a couple of years, but after months of preparation, decisions that will help shape the future of the team will be made this week.

Thanks to a trade during last year’s draft, the Seahawks have two first-round picks, theirs at No. 6, and Denver’s at No. 14. If those two players aren’t starters making big contributions this year (the exception being if a quarterback is taken) this draft will be viewed as a disappointment come January. And yes, I’m going with January, because short of a spectacular draft class, the Seahawks won’t be playing in February.

With nine picks overall in the draft and two in the top half of the first round, Carroll and Schneider know they won’t be allowed a first-draft mulligan. The stakes are way too high to mess this one up.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” Carroll said. “This is an exciting opportunity for us… . We really need to hit it. We need two guys to come in and help this football team win.”

When things went wrong for a second straight year, Seahawks owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke decided on an organizational overhaul. General manager Tim Ruskell resigned when he wasn’t given a contract extension, and head coach Jim Mora was somewhat surprisingly fired at the end of the season. The keys of the organization were handed to Carroll and Schneider (and let’s not kid ourselves, Carroll is driving), and after a quiet free agency period, those two will start shaping the team to their liking on Thursday.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty important draft,” Schneider said. “I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t.”

And after months of preparing, after countless hours spent with Carroll instead of his family, Schneider is more than ready for draft day.

“I’m confident in our preparation and kind of want it to get here,” he said. “It’s kind of like that feeling before a game, as confident as you are in your abilities, you get those butterflies a little bit.”

The good news for the Seahawks is that, with so many needs, they are sure to be in a position to draft a player that can help them. The bad news? With so many needs, there are sure to be a whole lot of players that can help them that they won’t be able to pick.

Find the right players in this year’s draft, and Carroll and Schneider could be starting a successful rebuilding process. Get it wrong, however, and Allen might be looking for more people to fire in a few years.

“It’s a critical draft for them,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “It really is. With their areas of need and number of picks they have, they can’t afford to miss this year.”

At this point, most of the preparation is done. Finally, Schneider said, there is some family time to be had, and by Tuesday, he hopes to close the draft board up knowing they are ready for the biggest three days of his young Seahawks career. And if the pressure gets to be too much before then? Schneider plans to turn to his two young sons, Ben and Jack, who just arrived in town last week.

“They could give a (darn) about the draft,” Schneider said. “That will help.”

They’re about the only ones that don’t, however, something Schneider and everyone else involved with the team knows all too well. Good or bad, the 2010 draft will go a long ways towards defining this new era for the Seahawks.

John Boyle covers the Seahawks for The Herald

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