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Winning — not draft order — is paramount for Seahawks

By Brock Huard

Al Davis was right. “Just win, baby.”

Spending five days on Hawaii-time and flying over thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean affords one the opportunity to think and reflect, and for the Seahawks, finding ways to win football games down the stretch far exceeds a plummeting draft position.

Mike Salk says it best when urging the Mariners to sign Prince Fielder, “Figure it out. It’s not my money.” When it comes to the Seahawks’ final quarter of the season, win as many games as possible, and if 8-8 or 7-9 doesn’t net a playoff spot and lowers the draft position, well, it’s up to John Schneider and staff to “Figure it out. It’s not my money.”

With players like quarterback Aaron Rodgers and tight end Jermichael Finley, the Packers are a reminder that winning teams don’t have to be built with top-10 picks. (AP)

It is John Schneider’s job to find Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin and Brandon Browner.

Schneider and Ted Thompson didn’t build the Green Bay Packers with top-10 picks, they built their foundation on Aaron Rodgers (drafted No. 24), Clay Matthews (No. 26), Charles Woodson (free agent), left tackle Chad Clifton (No. 44) and a host of wide outs and tight ends like Jermichael Finley (No. 91), James Jones (No. 78), Greg Jennings (No. 52), as well as running backs Ryan Grant (undrafted), John Kuhn (undrafted) and James Starks (No. 193).

Just as I argued a week ago for the lack of a downside to the Mike Leach hiring at WSU, other than draft positioning, what is the downside to the Seahawks winning down the stretch? There may have been a case a season ago, the fact the Seahawks were playing with pieces one knew weren’t a part of the long-term puzzle, but that is not happening in 2011. In fact, the loss of 13 players to injured reserve is doing for the Hawks what the injuries did for the Packers in 2010: Building depth and answering questions.

Aside from building depth, the Seahawks are also doing something they couldn’t — and didn’t — do a year ago: Building an identity. Everyone knows exactly what the Patriots and Packers and Steelers are. That brand identity is essential to sustaining success inside and outside a locker room. I think we know what Pete Carroll and Schneider want this team to be, and though more pieces and talent are necessary, the message and picture is clear: A run-stuffing front seven with the most physical secondary in the game, coupled with a play-through-the-whistle run game and nasty offensive line.

When you know what you are and where you are going, it’s a lot easier to get there.

Chip Kelly has a definitive plan of attack and unique way of preparation. What has allowed him the buy-in and investment from his players at Oregon? Winning. Mike Leach is quirky and unorthodox and knows exactly where he wants to go, yet it is often against the grain and unconventional. What has allowed him the investment and buy-in of his student-athletes? Winning. Jim Harbaugh is loud and abrasive and has demanded physical and mental toughness at Stanford and with the 49ers. What has allowed him the confidence of his players? Winning.

Ask Matt Hasselbeck or Robbie Tobeck when the foundation was laid for consecutive division championships and their run to the Super Bowl. It was the end of 2002, four years into Mike Holmgren’s tenure with the Hawks, and it was when the team found out its West Coast passing system could have success and thrive, and more importantly, they could win.

The Hawks were 4-9 with a “valuable” top-10 draft position in reach, but in the process of winning three consecutive games to close at 7-9, the Hawks more importantly found an identity that was invaluable to their impending run of success.