Seattle Seahawks vs. Mike Holmgren in GM Wars

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIJanuary 6, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - 2009:  Tom Heckert of the Philadelphia Eagles poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
NFL Photos/Getty Images

The Seahawks have a lot to do this offseason, but they can’t do any of it until they have a new general manager in place. Well, the process of finding one is about to begin in earnest now that the season is over. 

And how interesting that they’re in direct competition with Mike Holmgren, the man who turned down Seattle’s low-ball GM offer in order to be The Big Show in Cleveland.

The Seahawks and Holmgren are both interested in Philadelphia general manager Tom Heckert (pictured), and the Seahawks reportedly have also asked for permission to interview Eric DeCosta, Baltimore’s director of player personnel. Heckert and DeCosta were the top two potential candidates on the preliminary list we came up with in November (before just about anyone else was talking about candidates).

The Hawks also reportedly want to talk to John Schneider about leaving Green Bay and coming back to Seattle where he served as Holmgren’s director of player personnel in 2000. Of course, Holmgren might have some interest in Schneider himself because of that connection.

Heckert, DeCosta, and Schneider are three of 10 men who listed as Seattle's top candidates a couple of weeks ago by ProFootballTalk.com.

The Seahawks can interview any of the men now, with permission from the candidate’s team; but once the Hawks decide on a guy, they have to wait until his team’s season is over to hire him unless his team lets him go early. For now, that means the Hawks would have to wait for all but two of the 10 possible candidates.

Here’s a scouting report on the 10, with the top four reportedly the clear favorites:

Tom Heckert
Philadelphia general manager
Scouting report: Heckert has been the Eagles’ general manager since 2006, 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, and they have been the most successful NFC franchise this decade.

Holmgren obviously is aware of this, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Heckert off the market before Seattle even gets a chance to talk to him. However, if Heckert thought he would be just second fiddle again in Cleveland, he might be more inclined to come to Seattle, where he would have complete control over football operations.

Eric DeCosta
Baltimore director of player personnel
Scouting report: DeCosta, 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. DeCosta has been with him every step of the way, learning from a guy who might deserve merit in the Hall of Fame someday as a personnel evaluator if he weren’t already there as a player.

DeCosta would seem to be the clear pre-interview No. 2 choice to Heckert.

John Schneider
Green Bay director of football operations
Scouting report: Schneider has a brief history in Seattle having worked as director of player personnel in 2000 under Holmgren. That might have taken him out of the running in Seattle if Holmgren hadn’t focused on Heckert right away.

If Heckert joins Holmgren, Schneider could give DeCosta a good run for Seattle’s GM job. Schneider,38, has been around the league for 17 years, and he’s been the No. 2 guy for a while now.

The one drawback is his affiliation with Packers GM Ted Thompson, the one-time Seattle exec who hasn’t had the smoothest run in Green Bay. Schneider has been around, but he doesn’t seem to come from the same personnel pedigree as DeCosta.

Steve Keim
Arizona director of player personnel
Scouting report: Keim came to prominence with the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run last season, and a few media folks in Seattle have already pushed hard for him. He has been with the Cardinals since 1999, steadily climbing from scout to college scouting director to his current position.

He has been a key figure in building the Cardinals into the Super Bowl contender they are today, drafting Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson, Karlos Dansby, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Steve Breaston. He doesn’t have much of a track record in pro player evaluation because the Cardinals are never much of a factor in free agency, so it’s hard to say what Keim might do with Paul Allen’s deep pockets. Would he spend too freely as Ruskell did? Or would he be more judicious?

Given Arizona’s ongoing success over the past two years, Keim is now a hot commodity. Hiring him would be a double bonus for the Hawks, who would be stealing a key figure from their top division rival.

Jimmy Raye III
San Diego director of player personnel
Scouting report: Raye, the son of offensive assistant Jimmy Raye, has climbed the ladder since joining the Chargers in 1996, from scout to director of college scouting (2000) to his current position (2008). Raye and general manager A.J. Smith have put together one of the best rosters in the NFL, making them a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Raye has been part of a decade of unparalleled drafting success. Because the Chargers have drafted so well, they haven’t had to sign many free agents, so—as with Keim—it’s hard to evaluate that part of Raye’s job. Raye was looked at by the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, so he is already starting to get some nibbles as a GM candidate.

He figures to get an interview with Seattle, if only to satisfy the Rooney Rule. But he should definitely be more than just a token candidate. His résumé is as strong as those of DeCosta and Keim and might be better than Schneider’s.

Floyd Reese
New England senior football adviser
Scouting report: Not sure why Reese was on the Seahawks’ radar, per PFT, but it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Reese lobbied for inclusion on their list. Ever since being forced out of Tennessee, he has been angling to get back into the league, and the Patriots did him a favor as he and Bill Belichick have known each other since they both coached in Detroit in the 1970s.

Reese, 61, has been in the league for 32 years including 13 as the GM of the Oilers/Titans, whom he helped build into a contender. He was forced out in the same exact manner that Ruskell was, resigning just before his contract was up because he knew the team wouldn’t re-sign him. Reese had some good success in Houston/Tennessee, but there always seemed to be underlying conflict within that franchise. It might not have been Reese’s fault, but the Hawks have better options.

Jason Licht
New England pro personnel director
Scouting report: Licht is a Heckert protégé. He got his start in scouting with Heckert in Miami in 1995, spent 1998 with Carolina, worked with the Patriots from 1999 to 2002 and then rejoined Heckert in Philadelphia in 2003. Licht was fired by the Eagles in 2008, joined Arizona for a year and then returned to the Patriots last offseason.

That’s a lot of bouncing around, probably too much to get much of a gauge on whether Licht is capable of running his own show. At 38, Licht is probably a little light on upper-tier experience to be seriously considered. However, if Heckert were to come to Seattle, he might try to make Licht his right-hand man.

Ruston Webster
Seattle interim GM
Scouting report: Webster has been with Seattle for three years having arrived from Tampa Bay to serve as Ruskell’s vice president of player personnel. He now finds himself serving as the team’s interim GM, although that won’t last for long.

Honestly, if the Seahawks retain him, it will say two things: (1) They are staying with the status quo, and (2) Ruskell was made the scapegoat. Nothing against Webster, who might be a good choice under other circumstances, but the Seahawks can’t promote him without looking like complete fools.

Randy Mueller
San Diego consultant
Scouting report: Like Reese, Mueller is trying to work his way back up the chain. He was Seattle’s general manager when Paul Allen bought the team, and he made a number of good moves—such as getting a first-round pick for Rick Mirer, signing Chad Brown, and drafting Walter Jones and Shawn Springs.

In 2000, Mueller left Seattle for New Orleans, and he was promptly named NFL executive of the year by The Sporting News . But his star faded quickly and he was out of the NFL by 2002, serving as an analyst for ESPN for three years. He got back into the league with Miami in 2005 but has yet to regain the power he once had with Seattle and New Orleans.

In Miami, he played second fiddle to Nick Saban and then was fired by Bill Parcells in 2007. He joined San Diego in 2008, probably hoping his affiliation with a good front office would return some of the shine to his badge. But if the Seahawks hired him it would almost seem like a return to the lost decade of the 1990s.

Trent Baalke
San Francisco director of player personnel
Scouting report: Baalke works under Scot McCloughan, who once was Holmgren’s trusted college scouting director. Baalke spent four years (2001-04) as a scout for the Washington Redskins before joining the 49ers. He was put in charge of player personnel in 2008. He is definitely more than a little unseasoned to be leading an NFL franchise.


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