The ongoing scuttlebutt about Mike Holmgren possibly returning to Seattle in some Grand Poobah role sure seems like crazy talk.
The Seahawks have already determined their course, and it involves Jim Mora leading this team for at least the next year. It’s almost impossible to envision them altering course so drastically by bringing back Holmgren—whether to replace president Tim Ruskell (pictured left) or to be put in a role above a new general manager, yet below CEO Tod Leiweke (pictured right).
Leiweke aligned himself firmly with Ruskell when he hired him in 2005, so he surely will be hesitant to give up on him unless he decides the team would take too much of a PR hit by keeping him. Owner Paul Allen and Holmgren have a good relationship, but it’s hard to imagine that the ailing Seahawks owner, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is taking much of a hands-on approach to his football team these days.
Add the fact that Holmgren’s record as a personnel guy is no better than Ruskell’s , and it’s hard to see why so many people want Holmgren back and why the Seahawks might think that would be a good idea.
Mora is going nowhere, and Ruskell is coming off perhaps his best offseason in charge of the team. The best thing to do is to ride it out with them next year and see if they can get the Hawks back to the playoffs in the last year of Matt Hasselbeck’s contract. If the Seahawks aren’t on the way back up next year, Leiweke can blow up the team starting in 2011.
So what do Ruskell and Mora need to do to make this a playoff team in 2010?
Recreate the Offensive Line
Max Unger should replace Chris Spencer at center now so he gets experience for next season. Then Ruskell must find two new starters—a right guard to replace Unger and a left tackle to replace Sean Locklear. The 'Hawks also need better interior depth, so they need to draft a guard who is better than the backups they have, possibly one to replace Rob Sims. That’s three new linemen.
Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung is considered the top tackle in the draft, but unless the Hawks are in the top five again, they probably don’t have a chance at him. But other top-15 tackles include Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, USC’s Charles Brown, and Rutgers junior Anthony Davis. The Seahawks could easily end up with one of them. Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga could be had late in the first round.
Considering the state of the 'Hawks’ offensive line, two first-round tackles wouldn’t be the worst idea. But one is the bare minimum. If Ruskell doesn’t take a tackle in the first round in April, you can fire him on the spot.
However they do it, the line next year should include three new linemen, in addition to Locklear, Unger, Ray Willis and maybe Sims, with Walter Jones and Brandon Frye long shots to return. Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos make it only as deep reserves.
The bottom line, so to speak, is this: The Hawks simply have to stop harboring injury-prone linemen and instead build a sturdy line of talented big men. It’s time to cut the cord with Spencer and maybe even Sims. Locklear should get one more chance—and only one—to stay healthy and be productive.
Ruskell’s strategy of trying to develop fourth-round picks has failed. It’s time to remake Seattle’s line with high draft picks and a good, young free agent.
Find a Playmaking Safety
Many people want the Hawks to take USC’s Taylor Mays in the first round, and Tennessee’s Eric Berry is a stud, too. But they might be gone before Seattle picks. And neither is worth combining both first-round picks (including the one Seattle got from Denver last April) to trade up, especially when the Seahawks also must find a new left tackle and could use help on the defensive line.
The Seahawks might look to free agency for a young safety. A number of young veterans could become free, so the Hawks should see whether they can find upgrades for Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux that way. However they do it, they must find a playmaking safety.
Replace Patrick Kerney with a Guy Who Can Rush the Passer
Kerney is washed up and should be let go, especially considering he is due to be paid over $5 million next season. It’s ridiculous that the Seahawks are paying him $7 million this year (he’s counting $10 million).
The Seahawks could use that money for someone who can still get to the passer. Odds are they will need to find a pass rusher in the draft, though, because most of the free agents are on the wrong side of 30, and the Hawks have been there, done that with Kerney and Grant Wistrom.
Add a Young Running Back
This is a lower priority than the offensive line, safety, and pass rusher, but the 'Hawks certainly could use a good, young running back. The best guys are Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Georgia Tech junior Jonathan Dwyer, and California junior Jahvid Best. Spiller and Dwyer are viewed as top-10 talents.
Beyond them, it’s a pretty average RB class, though. The Seahawks’ best shot at one might come in the fourth round.
Ideally, the Seahawks will do their best New England imitation and trade down to acquire picks in the second and third rounds (since they surrendered their 2010 third to get receiver Deon Butler last April). If they can move down, they potentially could end up with five picks in the first two rounds. In a perfect world, that would net two offensive linemen, a safety, a running back and a pass rusher.
That’s what Ruskell has to do to give Mora the kind of team that can get back to the playoffs—and save the jobs of the coach and general manager.