Well, there you have it, Seahawks fans: your 2008-09 scapegoat.
Tim Ruskell is gone. And Jim Mora is officially on the hot seat for 2010.
CEO Tod Leiweke told reporters that Mora will be back next year. But, if Ruskell’s departure confirms one thing, it’s that Mora has to win or he’s most likely out.
Whether the new general manager is Mike Holmgren or someone else, Mora will have little leeway. Leiweke seemed to make that clear by stressing that the team had not won enough in the last two seasons and had to do much better than eight wins in 27 games.
Ruskell took the fall for that deteriorating record, and he certainly deserves blame for a few things: poor first-round draft picks, a few bad contracts and—most of all—letting the offensive line deteriorate so badly that it is the main reason the Seahawks are not a playoff contender.
Of course, Ruskell haters also can thank him for drafting Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Aaron Curry, John Carlson, Josh Wilson, Brandon Mebane, and Justin Forsett, finding David Hawthorne, and keeping Tatupu, Hill, and Marcus Trufant.
So, while the Hawks have their weaknesses—the offensive line, pass rusher, and safety—the cupboard is not totally bare.
But what’s next?
Leiweke said the team will conduct a self-audit to decide the best course.
“We’ll spend the next couple weeks anyway doing a pretty thorough evaluation of the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he said. “And out of that, we’ll come away with an assessment of this football team, and then be in a much better position to identify what the characteristics are we’re looking for in a new leader.”
Leiweke indicated that he doesn’t think the franchise needs wholesale changes, and he said of the new general manager, “We’re not going to join them; they’re going to join us.”
“I don’t think this is a franchise that has to go out and beg someone to come here. I think this is a really strong and unique opportunity. So we’re going to find somebody who fits our prerequisite model of what we see as success going forward.”
Leiweke tried to quiet rumors of Holmgren’s imminent return by saying the team would go through a deliberate process.
“We’re going to do a thorough audit of this football team,” he said, “and we’re going to be very, very careful going forward to ensure that we find just the right person to lead the organization.”
But Leiweke’s final words sure seemed to leave the door open for Holmgren. Talking about interim GM Ruston Webster being a candidate for the full-time gig, the CEO said, “Stability is something that we’re trying to push for, so that’s true with scouts and all other parts of the organization.”
That seems to indicate that not too much will change beyond the man in charge of the football operation. And that would seem to bode well for Holmgren, who has some things in his favor.
A lot of “star gazers” are stumping for a Holmgren/Jon Gruden pairing or guys like Parcells or Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan. That’s all a bunch of nonsensical whimsy. Other than possibly Holmgren, none of those guys are coming to Seattle.
And, really, it doesn’t matter who the GM is as long as he understands the No. 1 priority next offseason is completely rebuilding the offensive line, because the failure to do that is the main reason Ruskell is gone.
Ruskell's Replacement Candidates
If the Seahawks decide to look outside the franchise, here are some possible candidates for general manager:
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. 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.