Tim Ruskell & Mike Holmgren Both Average GMs for Seattle Seahawks
So you want Mike Holmgren to replace Tim Ruskell as the Seahawks’ general manager, huh?
That seems to be the generally vehement sentiment in the wake of the Seahawks’ injury-riddled 2-5 start.
It’s understandable that folks are upset about the team’s tough start, ticked off about three blowout losses in four games, and dismayed that the offensive line has fallen apart again.
But why are people calling for the head of the team president in the middle of the season? And right after he just had perhaps his best offseason in his five years in charge?
Because he didn’t have five left tackles lined up? Because he didn’t take that goal-line hit for Matt Hasselbeck in San Francisco? Because he didn’t remind Lofa Tatupu how to tackle properly? Because he didn’t give Sean Locklear a bionic body last offseason?
A GM can’t be blamed for injuries; he can only be blamed for failing to create the roster depth that lessens the impact of injuries.
Yeah, Ruskell has made plenty of mistakes in his five years in Seattle. The biggest was letting Steve Hutchinson go in 2006, a horrible decision that has greatly contributed to the fall of what was once the best line in football. We call it the Curse of Hutch.
But Ruskell has not been nearly as bad as some people want to believe. After a big splash in his first year, getting lots of credit for helping the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl, he regressed in 2006 and 2007. But he has rallied the last two offseasons.
Truth be told, he has been simply average. But that’s all Holmgren was. Ruskell’s last two offseasons have been his best, and if owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke decide to go in a different direction after this season, they had better be quite certain they get someone better.
Otherwise, they would be better served to keep Ruskell for another couple of years and see if he can rebuild the team’s offensive line to give coach Jim Mora a chance to win. Mora deserves three years to put this team back on top in the NFC West, and Ruskell should be allowed to build on his promising last two years and give Mora a roster capable of making the kind of deep playoff runs the Hawks made under Holmgren.
But if you think Holmgren can do a better job, here’s a look at how GM Mike Holmgren matches up against GM Tim Ruskell:
Holmgren’s Personnel Moves
Draft: DE Lamar King, QB Brock Huard, WR Karsten Bailey, DE Antonio Cochran, OT Floyd Wedderburn, KR Charlie Rogers, CB Steve Johnson. Grade: F.
Signings: WR Sean Dawkins, QB Glenn Foley.
Other Moves: Cut QB Warren Moon, WR Brian Blades, QB John Friesz, RB Steve Broussard; re-signed Pro Bowl DE Michael Sinclair, K Todd Peterson, TE Christian Fauria, DE Phillip Daniels.
Summary: Holmgren’s moves in his first season were underwhelming. He did find key contributors in Dawkins and Mayes and picked up a key draft pick for 2000, but his first draft class was horrible.
1999 Record: 9-7, first in AFC West; lost to Miami in first round
GM Grade: D+
Draft: RB Shaun Alexander, OT Chris McIntosh, CB Ike Charlton, WR Darrell Jackson, LB Marcus Bell, LB Isaiah Kacyvenski, WR James Williams, DT Tim Watson, DT John Hilliard. Grade: B.
Signings: S Reggie Tongue, C Robbie Tobeck, LB George Koonce, K Rian Lindell.
Trades: Sent WR Joey Galloway to Dallas for first-round choices in 2000 (RB Shaun Alexander) and 2001 (WR Koren Robinson). Traded RB Ahman Green to Green Bay for CB Fred Vinson (put on IR four months later).
Other Moves: Cut S Darryl Williams, OG Brian Habib, LB Darrin Smith, WR Mike Pritchard, K Todd Peterson, QB Glenn Foley, CB Chris Canty.
Key FA Losses: DE Phillip Daniels, DT Sam Adams.
Summary: Holmgren cleaned house after his first season. He hit big in the draft with picks acquired from Dallas (Alexander and Jackson), and Tobeck was a great signing. He takes a lot of heat for the Green trade, but with Ricky Watters and Alexander on the roster, Holmgren didn’t need a fumble-prone back who also had off-field issues. Who knew Green would go on to such great things in Green Bay? Holmgren’s biggest mistake was not keeping either Daniels or Adams. And McIntosh and Charlton were not good picks.
2000 Record: 6-10
GM Grade: B-
Draft: WR Koren Robinson, OG Steve Hutchinson, CB Ken Lucas, FB Heath Evans, LB Orlando Huff, S Curtis Fuller, OG Floyd Womack, WR Alex Bannister, QB Josh Booty, S Harold Blackmon, OT Dennis Norman, DT Kris Kocurek. Grade: B.
Signings: DT John Randle, DT Chad Eaton, LB Levon Kirkland, S Marcus Robertson, QB Trent Dilfer, WR Bobby Engram.
Trade: Acquired QB Matt Hasselbeck and the 17th choice (Hutchinson) from Green Bay for the 10th and 72nd choices.
Other Moves: Cut DT Cortez Kennedy, QB Jon Kitna, WR Karsten Bailey, WR Sean Dawkins, WR Derrick Mayes.
Key FA Losses: S Jay Bellamy, LG Pete Kendall.
Summary: This was the offseason in which Holmgren built the core of his eventual Super Bowl offense, adding Hasselbeck, Hutch and Engram. Holmgren also patched up the defense he had largely ignored in his first two offseasons, adding five key players. The only failure was his top pick, Robinson.
2001 Record: 9-7
GM Grade: A-
Draft: TE Jerramy Stevens, RB Maurice Morris, DE Anton Palepoi, CB Kris Richard, S Terreal Bierria, DT Rocky Bernard, TE Ryan Hannam, OT Matt Hill, P Craig Jarrett, QB Jeff Kelly. Grade: D.
Other Moves: Cut DE Michael Sinclair, DE Matt LaBounty, MLB Levon Kirkland, WR Fabien Bownes.
Signings: CB Doug Evans, DL Brandon Mitchell, OT Jerry Wunsch, OT Chris Terry (November).
Other Moves: Re-signed QB Trent Dilfer, cut MLB Levon Kirkland.
Summary: This matched the 1999 draft as Holmgren’s worst, as Stevens was just a horrible pick and none of the others did much except for Bernard and Morris. Cutting Kirkland was a terrible move, too, as the defense ended up ranking last against the run in 2002. Holmgren was in a bad spot at QB after Hasselbeck had struggled mightily in his first season and Dilfer had gone 4-0 as a fill-in. So Holmgren did the prudent thing and made Dilfer the starter, taking the pressure off Hasselbeck to be “the franchise” so quickly. Of course, after Dilfer was hurt in October, Hasselbeck assumed command for good.
2002 Record: 7-9.
GM Grade: C-
After the 2002 season, Holmgren surrendered his titles as GM and executive vice president and fired his defensive staff.
Four-Year GM Record: 31-33
Four-Year GM Grade: C
Ruskell’s Personnel Moves
Draft: C Chris Spencer, LB Lofa Tatupu, QB David Greene, LB Leroy Hill, OT Ray Willis, DE Jeb Huckeba, FB Tony Jackson, LB Cornelius Wortham, OG Doug Nienhaus. Grade: B.
Signings: DE Bryce Fisher, CB Andre Dyson, CB Kelly Herndon, LB Jamie Sharper, DT Chuck Darby, LB Kevin Bentley, WR Joe Jurevicius.
Trade: Sent QB Trent Dilfer to Cleveland.
Other Moves: Cut WR Koren Robinson, CB Bobby Taylor, LB Chad Brown, OT Chris Terry, WR Jerry Rice.
Key FA Loss: CB Ken Lucas.
Summary: Ruskell struck gold with Tatupu and Hill in the draft and bolstered the defense well enough for it to complement the league’s best offense as Matt Hasselbeck led the Hawks to the Super Bowl for the first time. However, most of those free agents were short-timers; none of them lasted more than three seasons.
2005 Record: 13-3, NFC’s top seed, lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl
GM Grade: B-
Draft: CB Kelly Jennings, DE Darryl Tapp, OG Rob Sims, FB David Kirtman, P Ryan Plackemeier, WR Ben Obomanu. Grade: D.
Signings: LB Julian Peterson, WR Nate Burleson, OT Tom Ashworth, DT Russell Davis, TE Will Heller.
Other Moves: Re-signed RB Shaun Alexander, DT Rocky Bernard, LB Kevin Bentley, QB Seneca Wallace, FB Mack Strong, RB Maurice Morris; cut LB Jamie Sharper and CB Andre Dyson.
Key FA Loss: OG Steve Hutchinson.
Summary: The only reason this offseason doesn’t get an F is because Ruskell brought in Peterson and Burleson. Ruskell made the biggest gaffe possible by not using the franchise tag to hold on to Hutchinson, who already had become the best guard in the game. It was an error of epic proportions, and that blunder has looked worse by the season as the Seahawks’ line has completely fallen apart since Hutch left. Add to that the fact that Ruskell wasted a first-round pick and a $39 million contract on Branch, plus a $62 million deal on Alexander, and Ruskell’s 2006 was an almost complete failure.
2006 Record: 9-7, first in NFC West, lost to Chicago in divisional playoffs
GM Grade: D
Draft: CB Josh Wilson, DT Brandon Mebane, DE Baraka Atkins, OG Mansfield Wrotto, LB Will Herring, WR Courtney Taylor, WR Jordan Kent, OL Steve Vallos. Grade: C.
Signings: DE Patrick Kerney, SS Deon Grant, FS Brian Russell, TE Marcus Pollard.
Trades: Sent WR Darrell Jackson to San Francisco for fourth-round pick. Acquired QB Charlie Frye from Cleveland. Sent DE Bryce Fisher to Tennessee.
Other Moves: Re-signed WR Bobby Engram, OG Chris Gray, TE Will Heller. Cut CB Kelly Herndon and DE Grant Wistrom.
Key FA Losses: TE Jerramy Stevens, FS Ken Hamlin.
Summary: This initially looked like a good offseason for Ruskell, as Kerney, Grant, and Russell fixed Seattle’s shaky pass defense in 2007. But a year later, none of those signings looked that good. Kerney once again finished a season on injured reserve, and the defense seemed to be a man short on almost every play because Russell was invisible. And the draft class has been only average.
2007 Record: 10-6, first in NFC West, lost to Green Bay in divisional playoffs
GM Grade: C-
Draft: DE Lawrence Jackson, TE John Carlson, DT Red Bryant, FB Owen Schmitt, LS Tyler Schmitt, RB Justin Forsett, K Brandon Coutu. Grade: B.
Signings: OG Mike Wahle, RB Julius Jones, RB T.J. Duckett, K Olindo Mare.
Other Moves: Re-signed CB Marcus Trufant, OT Sean Locklear & LB Lofa Tatupu. Cut RB Shaun Alexander.
Trade: Sent a fifth-round pick to Denver for WR Keary Colbert, who was cut after just seven games.
Key FA Loss: K Josh Brown.
Summary: Ruskell did well to re-sign Trufant, Tatupu, and Locklear, and he struck gold with Golden Domer Carlson. But he added three RBs to replace Alexander and two kickers to replace Brown, making most people go, “Huh?” And the Wahle signing was a bust, leaving the O-line as the team’s weakest link.
2008 Record: 4-12, third in NFC West
GM Grade: B-
Draft: LB Aaron Curry, OL Max Unger, WR Deon Butler, QB Mike Teel, S Courtney Greene, DE Nick Reed, TE Cameron Morrah. Also got a 2010 first-round pick from Denver. Grade: A.
Signings: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, DT Colin Cole, FB Justin Griffith, CB Ken Lucas, TE John Owens.
Trade: Sent LB Julian Peterson to Detroit for DL Cory Redding and a fifth-round pick.
Other Moves: Re-signed LB Leroy Hill and OT Ray Willis.
Summary: It’s hard to judge an offseason in the same year, but this might turn out to be Ruskell’s best. Curry and Unger will start for a long time, and Ruskell also acquired a second first-rounder for 2010. As usual, Ruskell overpaid for his top free agents, but if Houshmandzadeh and Cole last in Seattle for four productive years each, those will have to be considered good signings.
Current Record: 2-5
GM Grade: B+
Four-Year-Plus GM Record: 38-33
Four-Year-Plus GM Grade: C
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