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Originally published April 30, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified May 1, 2012 at 11:22 AM

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Deciphering what the heck the Seahawks were thinking in draft

Need a translation of why the Seahawks were so eccentric when it came to the 2012 NFL draft? They were just thinking differently.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Deciphering the Seahawks isn't just a chore. It's a full-time job.

Even Lady Gaga would call them eccentric. They put the "ooky" in kooky.

There's no telling what coach/vice president Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will do next. In two-plus seasons in charge, they have been guilty of the following, all in the pursuit of unconventional excellence: Reconstructing the roster days before the season starts, turning a journeyman linebacker and a 323-pound tackle into starting defensive ends, preferring extremely oversized cornerbacks, giving up draft picks to take a chance on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and breaking up with Matt Hasselbeck to make room for Tarvaris Jackson.

And we haven't even gotten to the part about using first-round draft choices on players whose names you must type into a search engine before offering a reaction. (No wonder Bing is a sponsor.)

There is a method to the Seahawks' whimsical behavior, however. When you examine them closely, you realize they've made the right move more times than not. And so far, even their mistakes haven't been of the franchise-killing variety. Despite all the confusion and debate they inspire, this has been a trustworthy front office.

True to form, Carroll and Schneider are testing that theory again. In the aftermath of the NFL draft, you're left to wonder what the heck they were thinking after they made a surprise pick in the first round, selected a 5-foot-11 quarterback in the third round and spent the weekend shocking the arrogance out of draftniks.

What the heck were they thinking? Before the draft, Carroll cautioned that the Seahawks would continue to think differently. He talked about wanting "uniquely talented" players and focused on the coaching staff's willingness to be flexible in figuring out how to utilize such athletes.

"We might surprise you a little bit with some of our thoughts on that regard," Carroll said.

Oh, they surprised, for sure. The Seahawks carried through with their stated goal of improving their speed and length on defense. After that, you have to interpret their moves.

First, they clearly think the offense will take its biggest step by improving at quarterback, and they believe they have enough weapons, at least for now. They signed Matt Flynn in free agency and drafted the 5-11 Russell Wilson to groom. Now, they have better talent and depth, if you include Jackson and Josh Portis. There will be competition for the starting job, as well as the backup and third-string spots. To prosper, the Seahawks need someone to emerge as the man, but finally, the process to find The One has begun.

Much has been made of the Seahawks' unwillingness to include a wide receiver among their 10 draft picks. Well, they already have eight legitimate receiver options in competition to make their 2012 roster. Six of them have been acquired during the short Carroll/Schneider tenure. All are 28 years old or younger. The Seahawks don't need more receiving projects. If they were going to add a receiver, they needed a potential star. Schneider said he didn't think this draft class offered many great options.

Here's a second thing to consider: In general, it is initially easier to rebuild a young, aggressive defense through the draft than it is to fix the offense. Consider what former coach Mike Holmgren said in October 2002, almost three years after he took control of the Seahawks organization and ran into trouble while focusing his early rebuilding years on the offense.

"Now if I had things to do over again — not here, but any place — I think if you are going to go young, you do it on defense," Holmgren said.

Under Carroll and Schneider, the Seahawks have used most of their free-agency dollars on offensive players who are experienced but still young. Over three drafts, 18 of their 28 selections have been defensive players.

And how much easier has it been to build the D? The Seahawks started one first-round pick, safety Earl Thomas, last season on that rising unit. Meanwhile, on offense, they invested two of their top three picks in the 2010 draft, three of their top four in 2011 and two of their top four last week, and the offense remains inadequate. The return on offensive investment is much slower, and it's more difficult to find late-round draft steals.

The Seahawks are just different. They like being different. They spend a lot of time not only grading the best players, but evaluating how to use them in their schemes. Carroll is skilled at finding specific roles and carving out niches for players. It's something you must consider when judging why they liked defensive end Bruce Irvin enough to take him No. 15 overall or why they chose linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round.

The Seahawks don't employ the classic approach. But because they're so thorough and believe so fully in themselves, it's wise to couch skepticism or at least delay unleashing it until you see the plan in action.

They're eccentric, not stupid. Recognize the difference.

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

On Twitter @JerryBrewer

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