Seattle Seahawks: It's Not Time for Tim Ruskell To Leave

Chris CluffCorrespondent IINovember 20, 2009

KIRKLAND, WA - FEBRUARY 06:  Team president Tim Ruskell (L) and CEO Tod Leiweke of the Seattle Seahawks address the media during a press conference announcing that Seahawks' assistant coach Jim Mora will take over as head coach in the 2009 season, on February 6, 2008 at Seahawks Headquarters in Kirkland, Washington. Holmgren will coach the team in 2008.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

With the Seahawks’ season basically over thanks to a sixth loss in nine games, many fans are calling for the head of general manager Tim Ruskell (pictured, center). They’re also calling for the Seahawks to fire coach Jim Mora after one season, overhaul the defense to a 3-4 scheme, draft a new quarterback, and bring in a bunch of new players.

That’s all the fans want?

Of course, that’s what happens when a team has just seven wins in its last 25 games. Fans just want to win, so they overreact: “Blow up the team! Get rid of the GM, the coach, and the quarterback! Start all over.”

Obviously, it has worked so well for teams like Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay. Yeah, let’s be like them.

The fact is: This team does not need to be blown up. And, as much as most fans want to hang Ruskell in effigy in hopes of exorcising the demons of the past season and a half, that is not going to happen.

Ruskell will be back.

While he has made plenty of mistakes in his five-year tenure as president/GM, there are far too many reasons to keep him running the show for a couple more years.

Yeah, he hasn’t done well with his first-round picks, he has overpaid some free agents, and he has let the offensive line deteriorate to the point that it is the team’s weakest link and the main reason the Seahawks are 3-6 this year.

But he also helped the Hawks get to the Super Bowl in his first year and has found draft gems like Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Josh Wilson, John Carlson, Aaron Curry, and Max Unger. He also finagled another first-round pick for next April. He should get a chance to see what he can do with it.

Fans will argue that Ruskell does not deserve to come back (almost 80 percent don’t want him back, according to this Seattle Times poll ).

But the reality is: He has to come back. And he will be back.

Ruskell hired Jim Mora to replace Mike Holmgren, and Mora isn’t going to be fired after one tough-luck season. (Any fan who wants to fire Mora after one season needs to go root for Al Davis’ Raiders, who change coaches as often as Victoria’s Secret models change underwear. You wanna root for panties? Go to Oakland. Or watch the Lingerie League.)

Seahawks owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke understand stability is a major key to winning. They aren’t going to listen to a bunch of emotional fans who, while understandably upset that their team is struggling right now, want to scrap everything and start over—again.

Ruskell addressed those fans indirectly in an interview with last week, saying, “I know the frustration of the fans, but you have to exercise some patience here. It’s going to happen.”

Yes, it will.

When a team changes coaches and coordinators and installs new systems on both sides of the ball, it takes time to develop. When key injuries strike, it takes more time.

“It comes in bits and parts. It doesn’t just come all at once,” Ruskell said. “And I think that explains our inconsistency and a little bit of the roller coaster that this team is on.”

As much as the Seahawks tried to make the switch seamless, with Mora already knowing the players after two years as an assistant, it isn’t always that easy. As Ruskell pointed out, of the 11 teams with new coaches this season, only two currently have winning records (Indianapolis at 9-0 and Denver at 6-3).

Mora was given a five-year contract, and he deserves a couple of years to stabilize this team and reestablish it as a playoff contender. And the guy who hired him should be there, too, because a new GM would just want to rebuild the franchise in his image with his own coach, which would merely set back the development process.

“I think people have to know that we have a plan,” Ruskell said, obviously trying to publicly reason with fans. “It’s a good plan. And we are following it…Jim and I are in lockstep on the plan, as is everybody in this building. And we feel good about it. We won’t be distracted from it.”

He added, as if talking to the fans directly, “You can’t just react to, ‘Well, we didn’t win that game, let’s change everything, let’s get this guy.’ You can’t do that. Then that change becomes change for the sake of change, and that’s what you are.

“What’s the saying? ‘The more you change, the more you stay the same.’ You have to stick with the plan through the thick and the thin, and we’re doing that.”

It’s easy to look back at Ruskell’s failures in hindsight and declare how terrible he has been. But, as we pointed out previously , he has had his successes, too. In fact, many of his failed moves made sense at the time he made them.

In his five years in Seattle, Ruskell has been simply average—not terrible, not great, just average. But he had an excellent offseason this year and deserves a chance to prove he can be better than average and help the Seahawks get back to the Super Bowl, like he did in his first year.


For the 80 percent of you who want to replace Ruskell with a new general manager, here are some guys who might be worth considering:

Tom Heckert, Philadelphia
Heckert is the Eagles’ general manager, but he plays second fiddle to Grand Poobah Andy Reid, so he probably could be lured to another franchise. The Eagles are one of the top teams in the league at drafting, developing, and retaining good, young players. Heckert would certainly be worth a look.

Eric DaCosta, Baltimore
DaCosta, 38, has been with Ozzie Newsome for 14 years. He was Baltimore’s director of college scouting for six years before being named director of player personnel last January. Newsome is one of the very best general managers in the NFL. He built one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and has kept it strong for most of this decade despite losing players to free agency every couple of years. So why not check out his protege?

Ed McGuire, San Diego
McGuire has been with the Chargers since 1998, and became GM A.J. Smith’s No. 2 man in 2008, in charge of player contracts and football administration. The Chargers have done a great job of assembling talent this decade, and McGuire’s experience under Smith would seem to make him worth considering.

Tom Telesco, Indianapolis
Telesco is the Colts’ director of player personnel, a key figure in one of the top personnel departments in the NFL. The Colts always seem to have players ready to replace too-expensive free agents, and the unknown Telesco has been a key part of Bill Polian’s operation.

Kevin Abrams, N.Y. Giants
Under GM Jerry Reese, the Giants have put together a solid roster. As the assistant GM and chief contracts guy, Abrams has been a key to making the pieces of the financial puzzle fit. He probably would need a strong personnel man to help him, but Abrams comes from a successful personnel department.

Doug Whaley, Pittsburgh
Whaley, a former scout for the Seahawks, is Pittsburgh’s director of pro personnel—a position once held by Tom Donahoe and Tom Modrak before they went on to bigger things (Donahoe as GM and president of the Bills, and Modrak as GM of the Eagles). The Steelers have long been excellent judges of talent, so the 37-year-old Whaley would be worth a look on that pedigree alone.

Howie Roseman, Philadelphia
Roseman is a former contracts guy who was promoted to vice president of player personnel in 2008. At that time, Reid said, “Howie has demonstrated a sharp eye for talent evaluation along with a knack for creative draft and free agent strategies.” He would need a strong personnel man, but Roseman has learned from the successful strategy of Reid and Heckert.


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