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Originally published December 14, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Page modified December 14, 2011 at 10:27 PM

Jerry Brewer

Forget the draft and enjoy the ride, Seahawks fans

Seahawks can win games and build a winner without tanking for NFL draft.

Seattle Times staff columnist

quotes You NEVER hope your team tanks it for a higher pick. Look at Aaron Curry vs KJ Wright... Read more
quotes Watching that monster run by Lynch in the playoffs last year was way more satisfying... Read more
quotes I for one have enjoyed watching this team grow the way they have. Considering what... Read more

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You can still hear the noise if you listen closely. It's a muffled protest now, not the passionate shout that it used to be.

That's because the outdated idea — tank games, draft high — isn't just counterintuitive for Seahawks fans anymore. Now that the Seahawks have won four of five games and made something of this season, it's also counterproductive. Why oppose winning now just to see if a lose-to-win experiment could spur success after prolonged heartache, disappointment and humiliation?

Winning is winning, right? And winning now should always trump winning later, provided the franchise is trying to build a sustainable contender.

Pete Carroll's follow-up to "Win Forever" should probably be titled "Win Now And Forever."

Carroll wanted to rebuild the Seahawks as quickly as possible, and he just might be ahead of schedule. The coach still doesn't have a franchise quarterback, and he could use a 15-sack pass-rush specialist, too. While it would have been much easier to find one of those pieces with a top-10 draft pick, there's also a cost for the awful performance that such a bad record requires.

Many of the players that you now consider integral parts of the Seahawks' future — running back Marshawn Lynch, the ever-shuffling offensive line, the young and aggressive defensive backs, defensive end Red Bryant — inevitably would have struggled if the Seahawks had won only three or four games. Your confidence in the front office's ability to build a quality roster wouldn't be as high as it is now. Instead of seeing the Seahawks' potential, you'd be worried about a losing culture. This final month of the NFL season would be miserable.

Fans wouldn't be showering Lynch with Skittles after touchdowns. They would still be booing an inept offense and proclaiming Carroll should be on the hot seat.

But that's not happening. The Seahawks have a mediocre 6-7 record, but after a 2-6 start, they are 4-1. Their young players aren't just showing promise; some of them are better than advertised. Best of all, this isn't a mirage of extreme good fortune. Throughout this season, the Seahawks have been tested — from their controversial roster turnover that included ditching big-name veterans, to their slow start and the scrutiny that came as a result, to their mounting injuries as this season closes — and here they are, in December, standing atop that pile of issues.

Misfortune didn't bury them. The Seahawks just focused on improvement, and slowly, their potential has transformed into results.

Don't underestimate the importance of this turnaround and what it means to the health of this franchise. The sports world is full of young, developing teams that fold in these situations.

Because the Seahawks haven't done this, they're now playing meaningful late-season games. They're in the playoff hunt, sort of, two games out of a wild-card spot with three games remaining. But more important than a desperate postseason push is that the Seahawks will enter this offseason knowing they have found some long-term solutions.

"Once we got to the halfway point of this season, we evaluated things and decided it was time to define our identity," running back and return specialist Leon Washington said. "We knew it would be a process, but we didn't want it to take any longer than that. Now, we have our identity — run the football, play great defense, make plays on special teams — and it's like the team you saw in the first half of the season is gone. It's gone forever. We're not going back to that route."

A year ago, before the Seahawks played the St. Louis Rams in a season finale with a playoff berth at stake, many fans preferred a high draft pick to a postseason bid, knowing how incomplete that 7-9 team was. Well, the Seahawks made the playoffs, pulled off a historic upset and advanced a round. Then, with supposedly weaker draft resources, they went out and drafted four players who have turned into starters and then signed undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin, who is the team's leading receiver. The Seahawks are younger and more athletic than they've been in years.

Enjoy this ride. Worry about the draft in April.

There's no need to fear the Seahawks have won their way out of future greatness. This front office is going to find talent, regardless.

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

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