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Originally published April 18, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Page modified April 18, 2011 at 9:27 PM

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Jerry Brewer

No joke: Fun-loving Seahawks GM John Schneider will make most of awkward NFL draft

Seahawks GM John Schneider likes to crack jokes, but behind every quip, there's a deceptive amount of substance as he prepares for the NFL draft.

Seattle Times staff columnist

John Schneider is the A student who goofs off in school. You love how he transforms serious time into comedy until you realize that you can't do the same.

Then envy turns you Kermit green.

In public, the Seahawks general manager is a quick-witted, fun-loving guy who takes nothing too seriously. In private, though, he prepares so thoroughly he can be loose. Behind every quip, there's a deceptive amount of substance to Schneider. He has one of the most difficult jobs in professional sports, especially this time of year. But as an awkward NFL draft approaches amid the uncertainty and gloom of a lockout, Schneider presents cool, confident and quirky leadership.

This is a tough year to be a talent evaluator. The lockout has put free agency and trades on hold. Teams will draft college players starting next Thursday, but after the selections, those players will join the rest of the league in limbo. It's hard to stay focused and committed to a plan, but that's what Schneider and the Seahawks are doing. With Schneider serving as Pete Carroll's right-hand man, you get the sense the Seahawks are primed to thrive despite the awkwardness.

For certain, they need to thrive. The team's needs this offseason are considerable. Most notably is the quarterback issue. Charlie Whitehurst is now the only quarterback on the roster. Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent, and he's likely to return, but you never know. Even if Hasselbeck returns, it has become clear that the Seahawks need to draft another quarterback to challenge Whitehurst as the team's signal caller of the future. And if former Washington star Jake Locker is available, he'll add another layer of complexity to the decision.

Beyond that pressing quarterback matter, the Seahawks still need impact players on the offensive and defensive lines. They might need to add a cornerback, too. And we're just getting started. Their needs are tremendous for a team that advanced to the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Even though the Seahawks qualified for the postseason with a 7-9 record and upset New Orleans in the first round, Schneider won't be fooled into believing the team is further along than it really is. He knows that playoff appearance did much to inspire confidence in Carroll's way of doing things, but he also knows the Seahawks are still at the beginning of their rebuilding process. Therefore, he can't let the lockout disrupt them too much.

"It's just unique," Schneider says of this situation. "It's just a unique year, but where we are as a team, we still think we're in the infancy of our development."

He doesn't panic, because he's ready. The Seahawks anticipated an offseason this volatile long ago. Whenever a new collective-bargaining agreement is in place, they'll be ready to attack their free-agent goals. But, really, it's fitting that the draft has taken on increased importance because of the lockout. It's supposed to be the lifeline of every team, but it's especially vital for the Seahawks. They want to follow the same model that Schneider learned in Green Bay. They want to build young, athletic teams, manage the salary cap wisely and contend year after year like the Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots do.

"I would like to be younger," Schneider says. "We want to be young, tough, smart, fast and aggressive. We want that to be our staple."

To accomplish that, Carroll, Schneider and the rest of the front office must nail most every draft. They drafted quite well last season, and it wound up helping the team in the short and long term. Of course, having the Nos. 6 and 14 picks in 2010 made it easier. This year, their first-round pick is No. 25 and they don't have a third-round pick, so the challenge is greater.

For what it's worth, Schneider all but taped a "For Sale" sign on that No. 25 pick during a meeting with reporters Monday. He seems confident that if the Seahawks move down in the draft, they can acquire more picks and make better use of this draft's depth.

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Then again, it's hard to trust anything an NFL executive says at this time of year. The double talk and posturing is exhausting.

One thing is certain, though: Schneider will guide the franchise through a well-thought-out and solid process next week. And when he's finished, he'll make some self-deprecating jokes, tease Carroll, crack on reporters and make it seem like he didn't do anything but entertain the masses.

Don't let him fool you, though. He knows his stuff. His staff knows its stuff.

All kidding aside, the Seahawks figure to do a trustworthy job in this awkward draft.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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