The 2009 Mariners were a magical bunch. Seemingly overnight the once divided clubhouse, who couldn't string together a set of baseball cleats much less a significant winning streak, was suddenly and unexpectedly contenders in the American League West from Opening Day until mid-September.
Sure, they didn't reach the playoffs. Certainly you couldn't stack that lineup alongside some of the great Mariner clubs, such as those of '95 and '01.
Yet something about them resonated with the fans of Seattle and around Major League Baseball. This grab-asstic team, who had set a major league record the previous season by losing over 100 games with a $100 million payroll, had taken a sudden and serious turn for the better.
Those who study the game generally agree that the 2010 Seattle Mariners are legitimate contenders for the AL West crown. Some would peg them as immediate favorites following a highly productive offseason for the M's, and a not-so productive offseason by the defending AL West Champion Angels.
The fans can feel it. This is not fake. This is as real as it gets. The M's may make a run this year.
They're certainly making a lot of waves with the recent signing of Chone Figgins and the trades for Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley. But they still, as yet, may fall short of expectations.
Either way, the fans are united in thought. They're behind this club. They trust the GM and Manager to continue to build this organization and to keep the M's in legitimate contention the whole time.
So how did the Mariners arrive to this point? They were horrible in 2008. After what seemed a decent season in 2007, many M's fans had the team slotted in the postseason for the first time in years.
Fail. Epic fail.
After 2008, ownership finally realized what fans had been saying for a while: Bill Bavasi had to go. From ridiculously outrageous free agent contracts to bust draft picks, Bavasi had taken what had been a contending AL West team in the early part of the decade and reduced them to a pathetic mass of putrescence that lacked leadership, talent, and depth.
After firing Bavasi, the M's ownership found a little-known baseball prodigy in Jack Zduriencik. Jack Z had been around the farms and the Bigs for many years, and in terms of front office management he had done it all.
When he was hired to replace Bavasi, he was practically a no-name to the outside world. To say that Mariners fans were skeptical is an understatement. Before long, Zduriencik had named his new manager in Don Wakamatsu, another practical no-name.
Zduriencik absolutely hit the ground running, as he signed and traded for value, and rid the clubhouse of divisive characters. While seemingly acting like sellers before the season even began, Jack Z was quietly gathering the building blocks necessary to put the baseball world on notice and the fans back in the seats of Safeco Field.
It didn't take long for the disenchanted Mariner faithful to realize that they had struck gold.
As difficult and unique as this story may sound, that is precisely what the Seattle Seahawks must accomplish this offseason. Owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke have finally realized that Tim Ruskell was a figurative bum.
Like Bavasi, Ruskell's legacy in Seattle will be ripe of ridiculous free agent signings, bum first round picks, and an overall failure to maintain the largely successful and competitive roster that he inherited.
Ruskell allowed the most important elements of a successful offensive unit (QB, O-Line, Star RB) to get old and deteriorate, while he continued to pump draft picks into the defense, which is maddening since they are as bad as they've ever been.
The Seahawks have an opportunity this offseason to shoot for the moon, much like the Mariners did the year prior. While Mike Holmgren, the most trusted name in Seattle football history and the most successful coach by far, is flirting with the idea of returning to his old stomping grounds as GM, the Hawks must be cautious.
Sure, the best years in Hawks history include Mike Holmgren as coach, and the core of the team was largely built by him when he was also the GM.
We also realize that his past mistakes are easily forgettable and forgivable given the recent horrible streak of Ruskell, and many of us are willing to believe that Holmgren has learned from those mistakes and will be better for it.
At least this time around, he wouldn't have to wear so many hats. With all of his attention directed at personnel, Holmgren could possibly be as successful in that role as he was as a coach.
But folks, this is a bad football team.
I don't mean they're in a little slump right now, or they're just a couple of key players short of making a run. I mean they are top to bottom awful. They're old in all the right places, they lack talent in every key position, and they lack depth across the board.
Save for the wide receiver and linebacking corps, this team needs a massive overhaul.
Sometime very, very soon, they'll need a QB of the future. They need a dominant LT replacement for Walter Jones right this second.
They need two guards that can work outside of Max Unger and grow with him as a unit for many years to come. Sean Locklear needs to be relocated to the RT position as soon as the 2009 season concludes and not a second later.
They need a young RB who doesn't suck, and is large enough and durable enough to play first and second downs, allowing Justin Forsett to continue in his 3rd down back role.
They need at least one young pass rushing DE who can take over the reins from an aging and declining Patrick Kerney. They need a bull rushing disruptive force in the middle of the D-Line.
They need a CB who has a combination of size, speed, technique and ball hawking skills so they can match up with some of the premiere talent WR's in the NFC West. They need a ball hawking, game changing FS pronto.
This will not happen all in one offseason, and I sincerely doubt any of this will be found in free agency. That's right folks: The Hawks need a GM with an eye for talent and the savvy skills necessary to be in the right position to obtain this talent quickly.
This is a job for an outsider. This job requires a man with vision, a man who has been around and knows this game inside and out. A man with absolutely zero ties to the organization and the people in it and on the field.
A man who can take an honest to God look at this roster, see the forest for the trees, and make the changes required to one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) return this team to excellence.
If the Hawks get this GM hire wrong, fans can expect this team to flounder for the next decade. Basically, they need to find the football version of Jack Zduriencik.