The Seattle Seahawks have been built by two minds since their 2005 Super Bowl year.
You have head coach Mike Holmgren, the man who built a top ranked offense in Seattle piece by piece. It took him six years from his arrival to build an offense that would eventually be a number one unit taking the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005.
And you have general manager Tim Ruskell, a former assistant general manager in Atlanta and a key player that helped build the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a world beater from a bottom feeder. He has had success as a manager and a scout in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. And he added complementary pieces to the 2005 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl team such as wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
So why haven’t these two minds been able to create another Super Bowl team?
The answer is simple. They aren’t working together.
Their relationship began to deteriorate when Ruskell showed a very poor understanding of how a Mike Holmgren offense works. He failed to understand that the precise and rhythmic nature of Holmgren’s version of the West Coast Offense required years of practice to build the consistency and cohesion the various units need to operate at a high level.
The first sign of this misunderstanding was the gamble Ruskell took and lost when he transition tagged left guard Steve Hutchinson, a Pro Bowler considered one of the best guards in the league.
Any wise general manger should have known that a guard the caliber of Steve Hutchinson is irreplaceable. Not only for the physical skills and nasty streak he brought to the offensive line, but also because of the continuity that Hutchinson and Jones had built playing next to each for five years.
This loss showed up in spades in 2006 when an offense that had not failed to convert a one yard run in 2005 could count the number of one yard runs converted on less than one hand.
This was only one example of the woe the running game suffered from the loss of the Seahawks Pro Bowl left guard.
The loss of Steve Hutchinson was the beginning of Ruskell’s dismantling of the Holmgren offense.
It continued in 2007 when Ruskell released tight end Jerramy Stevens and wide receiver Darryl Jackson in the offseason and in the 2008 offseason season let oft injured wide receiver D.J. Hackett find a new home in Carolina.
These releases coupled with career ending injuries to center Robbie Toebeck, fullback Mack Strong, and right guard Chris Gray have left Mike Holmgren’s offense a shadow of its former self.
Ruskell has made some effort to help Holmgren trading for wide receiver Deion Branch and signing free agent left guard Mike Wahle.
But Branch’s injuries have kept him from developing rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and left guard Mike Wahle isn’t even a poor man’s Steve Hutchinson (though he is an upgrade from the woeful Rob Sims).
Now here we are in 2008.
The offense still has no consistency. It is hard to even imagine the current Seahawks offense as anything remotely associated with Mike Holmgren.
It begs the question, why hasn’t the front office been able to rebuild Holmgren’s offense?
That question must be asked of general manager Tim Ruskell who has spent six of our eight first day draft picks acquiring defensive players since becoming general manager in 2005.
And that includes drafting tight end John Carlson in 2008 giving Mike Holmgren just one offseason to teach a new tight end his complex version of the West Coast Offense.
But he can’t work miracles. And he can’t build a top rated offense with rookies and free agents at positions that take years to master the complexity of an NFL offensive system.
Where does that leave the Seahawks faithful?
That leaves fans wondering what type of team we will have when Holmgren retires.
Ruskell is focused on defense.
That seems to be the direction our team has been heading in since his arrival considering the amount of money and draft picks we have spent to bolster the defense, a defense that for all intents and purposes is not showing that it can carry this team to success.
It makes us ponder some very important questions.
Is Mora the type of head coach we need to make the defensive talent as special as Holmgren made the offensive talent?
If Mora is not that coach, will Ruskell be able to find a defensive coordinator that can provide Mora with the expertise and experience to make our defense the best it can be?
How many additional draft picks will Ruskell need to assemble a defense that can match the 2005 offense?
At the moment it sure seems like we are pretty far from a dominant defensive team.
And we’re certainly nowhere near as dominant an offensive team as we were when we had a Holmgren built offense
So where does that leave Seattle?.
With a team of two minds: one drafts for defense and the other coaches offense.
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