In a short time, the Seahawks have come a long way

So the Seahawks are hosting a party before they’ve finished their renovations. Wonder if they’ll ask their guests to help fix the roof or something.

This isn’t normal, but the fun lies in its abnormality. Seldom does a team make the playoffs while undergoing a major rebuilding project. It’s like the Seahawks are enjoying a diet that involves consuming lots of cake with their vegetables.

This way isn’t supposed to work, but it did. Thanks to the putrid NFC West, the 7-9 Seahawks are division champions again, and Saturday afternoon, even if they get their shoulder pads blown off them, they’ll be better for this playoff experience.

You’ve spent the week trying to convince yourself that the home team can shock the New Orleans Saints and the entire pigskin nation, or you’ve been fearing that this Rodney Dangerfield city will be mocked if the Seahawks get destroyed. Really, though, this game is about more than the dominant story line of a supposed unworthy challenger trying to pull off the impossible upset. Of more significance is the fact that, because of this improbable playoff berth, the Seahawks can now be considered way ahead of schedule as they remodel this team.

Just a year ago, the Seahawks were an aging team with too many overpriced veterans who didn’t play with the requisite energy, toughness and speed to win in the NFL. They were the worst brand of team for this league, one desperately clinging to a successful recent past, one that used nostalgia to make too many decisions, one ignorant of the reality that their peers had passed by them two years earlier.

Now, with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider leading a re-energized front office, the franchise has made progress, even though it had to do a lot of backpedaling to correct inherited mistakes.

Some may look at the Seahawks, notice this is their first playoff appearance in three years and conclude it has taken them a long time to come a short way. In truth, however, it’s just the opposite: In a short time, the Seahawks have come a long way.

This is Year 1 for the new management team, and it operates in a manner fully dissimilar to the old one. To understand how far from dominant Carroll and Co. believe the Seahawks are, you need only to look at the more than 270 player transactions they’ve made this season. They’ve done all of that to turn over about 60 percent of this roster, mostly employing inexperienced players. Despite all the change and youth, here they are, basking in this win-or-go-home environment.

It could get ugly at Qwest Field. You can’t host a party with an unfinished home and expect people not to notice. But this playoff berth is about celebrating a promising start, not announcing the franchise has returned to prominence.

The Seahawks are in Phase 1 of a four- or five-phase effort. They have a lot of work to do, still. But this game proves the front office is willing to do whatever is necessary to make the Seahawks a true contender again. How can you be certain? Because they showed that desire in pushing the team to this point so quickly.

If you think the Seahawks are lucky to be here with a 7-9 record, then call it beginner’s luck. The NFC West race was a slow one, historically slow, the perfect speed for the Seahawks to catch up. Still, they made their own luck by staying focused on their goal and playing well at the right times. This first season under Carroll would’ve been a success even if the Seahawks had been in a division that left them behind. Looking at it from this perspective, however, makes the gains more evident.

“There’s nothing funny or relaxed about the atmosphere he’s created,” safety Lawyer Milloy said of Carroll. “Does he keep it light? Yeah. Does he let us play our music? Yeah. But you better be here to work.

“The message is there. You better work. There have been plenty of subliminal messages this year with all the moves they’ve made. Some big-name guys have gotten released or traded. We know what this program is all about. It’s still a process. You can see we’re far from a finished product. But you should also see where we’re headed.”

With the change in philosophy and personnel, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see the Seahawks win just three or four games. At the 53-man cut, the front office shuffled the roster like crazy because it felt it didn’t have enough horses.

It seemed like dumb decision-making at the time. Looking back, it was brilliant. And it showed how agile this group can be.

When decisions needed to be made, the Seahawks were quick and unafraid. When they made mistakes, they worked quickly to correct them. When the team ran out of gas late in the season, they kept imploring the players to believe.

Their reward is this day, this unexpected day. One game to do everything possible to have the edge on that scoreboard.

Here’s guessing the unpredictable Seahawks will look comfortable in this environment. It is their party, you know.