Searching For The Black Box: Bob Ferguson

In the most recent installment of his "Searching For The Black Box", series, Seahawks.NET's Todd Webb analyzes the largely overlooked career of the Seahawks' General Manager. Conclusion? There's more under the hood than you may think...

Searching For the Black Box …

New information announced today in the ongoing investigation of the crash of Hawk Flight 2004. FAA investigators announced today that they are currently examining one of the members of the cabin crew, in order to determine his possible role in the crash …

Maestro or Marionette? …

As the GM of the Seahawks, Bob Ferguson’s impact on the team thus far can best be described as a Big Fat Question Mark. People who know Bob Ferguson describe him as friendly, talkative, and outgoing. So besides having a Falstaff-ian fun guy type personality … what else can be really said about the somewhat elusive GM? GM’s in theory are supposed to be the face of the team … yet most Seahawk fans probably couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. Fergie’s position with the Seahawks thus far hasn’t exactly had anyone starting the wave or sporting the pom-poms. However for a man who’s been in the position of being the melted cheese between two heated slices of bread, has he truly had a fair shake?

Before we as fans throw him out the plate glass window Clint Eastwood-style … let’s get a look see to see what we’re tossing shall we?

For those who don’t know a lot about him … here’s a gander at Ferguson ’s resume’ …

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Ferguson ’s as Northwest as the Cascades. He's originally from Federal Way and played LB for the Purple and Gold over at Montlake. From 1975 to 1979 he was the director of sales and special events with the Hawks.

[Skeptic in the Back] -- Sales? What the heck is a guy in “sales” doing driving the Hawks talent cruiser? Isn’t that a bit like naming Alan Greenspan to the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

Valid point … were Fergie to merely be content with having his AA in football science.

Ferguson further sharpened his eyeteeth by evaluating NFL talent as an area scout for a combine that served the Bills, Cowboys, 49ers, and Seahawks. He then moved on to “ America ’s Team” … from 1984-1985, handling performance testing for them … before shuffling off to Buffalo . He was eventually knighted as Buffalo ’s assistant GM/director of pro personnel in 1989. He then moved on to Denver in 1993 and was director of player personnel there before eventually being snatched up by the Cardinals in 1996. Ferguson became GM in 1999 of the Cards … and was eventually given the old “Heave Ho” in January 2003 shortly before being brought back to the Hawks nest prior to the 2003 draft.

So, looking at Fergie's portfolio, we conclude that he’s one who actually knows how to properly pronounce words such as “Sequim” and “ Puyallup ”… has obviously popped a few RB’s in his youth … and has worn out quite a few stopwatches in his day. All of that experience is well and good … and probably gets him an extra shot of flavoring in his morning espresso.

However, what does all that really tell us about Ferguson ’s abilities as GM?

Q: If we were to evaluate a GM … how would we realistically do that?

A: As with any good NASCAR driver --- Track Record.

The Midas Touch …

Buffalo Bills (1989-1992) … Assistant general manager/director of pro personnel

Bills 1989 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
3 82 Beebe, Don WR Chadron, Neb.
4 109 Kolesar, John WR Michigan
5 137 Andrews, Michael DB Alcorn State
6 164 Doctor, Sean RB Marshall
7 173 Jordan, Brian DB Ripon
7 193 Hale, Chris CB Southern California
9 249 Rabold, Pat DT Wyoming
10 276 Cheattom, Carlo DB Auburn
11 305 Harvey, Richard OLB Tulane
12 332 Marshall, Derrell T Southern California

Bills 1990 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 16 Williams, James CB Fresno State
2 42 Gardner, Carwell RB Louisville
3 69 Parker, Glenn
G Arizona
4 100 Fuller, Eddie RB Louisiana State
6 154 Nies, John P Arizona
7 166 Griffith, Brent G Minnesota-Duluth
7 170 Collins, Brent LB Carson-Newman
7 181 DeRiggi, Fred NT Syracuse
8 208 Patton, Marvcus MLB UCLA
9 238 Hines, Clarkston WR Duke
10 265 Lodish, Mike DT UCLA
11 292 Edwards, Al WR N.W. Louisiana

Bills 1991 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 26 Jones, Henry
FS Illinois
2 54 Hansen, Phil DE North Dakota State
3 82 Wren, Darryl CB Pittsburg, Kan.
5 138 Wilbourn, Shawn DB Cal State-Long Beach
6 166 Hamilton, Millard WR Clark Atlanta
7 194 Rasul, Amir RB Florida A&M
8 222 Lamb, Brad WR Anderson, Ind.
9 249 Maddox, Mark MLB Northern Michigan
10 277 DeLorenzo, Tony G New Mexico State
11 305 Kirkland, Dean G Washington
12 333 Clark, Stephen TE Texas

Bills 1992 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 27 Fina, John
T Arizona
2 55 Patton, James NT Texas
3 83 Goganious, Keith ILB Penn State
4 111 Kmet, Frank DE Purdue
5 139 Darby, Matt DB UCLA
6 167 Turner, Nate RB Nebraska
7 195 Schulz, Kurt FS Eastern Washington
8 223 Humphries, Leonard DB Penn State
9 251 Walsh, Chris WR Stanford
10 279 Rose, Barry WR Wis.-Stevens Point
11 307 Marrow, Vince TE Toledo
12 335 Rodgers, Matt QB Iowa

Bills Record
Lost in Playoffs
Lost in Super Bowl XXV
Lost in Super Bowl XXVI
Lost in Super Bowl XXVII

Fairly impressive record there … but just how responsible was Ferguson for the creation of those teams? How much power did he truly have? As previously noted, Ferguson was merely the Lieutenant (asst GM) … which means that perhaps the true credit rests with the general. After all, Ferguson LEFT the Bills after 1992. Logic dictates, that one common reason someone would voluntarily leave a successful team … would be in order to have a greater opportunity to hold the reigns. Hmmm … the Bills’ Super Bowl run interestingly coincides with Ferguson ’s ascension to Lieutenant … and ends with his departure. Mere coincidence? Let’s follow his career from there …

Delayed Fuse …

Denver Broncos (1993-95) … Director of Player Personnel

Broncos 1993 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 11 Williams, Dan
DT Toledo
2 43 Milburn, Glyn WR Stanford
3 69 Jones, Rondell DB North Carolina
3 70 Elam, Jason K Hawaii
4 98 Robinson, Jeff TE Idaho
5 126 Williams, Kevin RB UCLA
6 154 Bonner, Melvin WR Baylor
7 169 Williams, Clarence TE Washington State
7 182 Kimbrough, Antonius WR Jackson State
8 210 Stablein, Brian WR Ohio State

Broncos 1994 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
2 51 Aldridge, Allen
OLB Houston
4 123 Fuller, Randy DB Tennessee State
7 210 Burns, Keith MLB Oklahoma State
7 212 By'not'e, Butler RB Ohio State
7 218 Nalen, Tom C Boston College

Broncos 1995 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
4 121 Brown, Jamie
T Florida A&M
4 124 Brown, Ken LB Virginia Tech
5 146 Yeboah-Kodie, Phil LB Penn State
6 182 Fequiere, Fritz G Iowa
6 196 Davis, Terrell RB Georgia
7 218 Russ, Steve MLB Air Force
7 222 Chamberlain, Byron TE Wayne State , Neb.

Wild Card Playoff Loss

As noted above … Ferguson’s track record over his 3 years there is a bit of a mixed bag. While most of the higher draft choices didn’t truly pan out, he was able to find some notable talents later in the draft ( Davis, Nalen, Chamberlain, and Elam .) As Win-Loss records are the result of a combo of both talent and coaching … the question is – just who fumbled the football here? -- Ferguson or coach Wade Phillips?

Those miners of truth who use only the scratch plow to evaluate his drafts will say: “Bah, the definition of mediocrity.” However, those who mine deeper shafts will notice the lack of picks in ’94 and ‘95 and say: “I wonder what’s up with that?”

The miners would be right in this case … seeing as how the team used draft picks to trade for – OL Gary Zimmerman (trade with Vikings 1994), DT Ted Washington (trade with 49ers 1994), CB Ben Smith (trade with Eagles 1994) as well as former Hawk WR Mike Pritchard (trade with Vikings 1995.) Free Agent signings over this period include names such as: Brian Habib (1993), Rod Bernstein (1993), Ray Crockett (1994), Anthony Miller (1994), Mike Lodish, (1995), Ed McCaffrey (1995), Michael Dean Perry (1995), and Mark Schlereth (1995).

Food For the Blender: Shanahan was hired in 1995 … and one year later (1996) the team went 13-3. In other words … Ferguson ’s acquisitions became the bedrock upon which the Broncos 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl teams were built.

Anyone Up for a Dip in the Quicksand Pool?…

Arizona Cardinals (1999-Jan. 2003) … General Manager

Cardinals 1999 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 8 Boston, David
WR Ohio State
1 21 Shelton, L.J. T Eastern Michigan
2 51 Rutledge, Johnny MLB Florida
3 83 Burke, Tom DE Wisconsin
4 116 Makovicka, Joel FB Nebraska
5 155 Johnson, Paris S Miami, O.
5 168 Scott, Yusuf G Arizona
6 190 Rhinehart, Jacoby CB Southern Methodist
6 202 Bradley, Melvin LB Arkansas
6 206 McKinley, Dennis FB Mississippi State
7 239 Greisen, Chris QB N.W. Missouri

Cardinals 2000 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 7 Jones, Thomas
RB Virginia
2 41 Thompson, Raynoch OLB Tennessee
3 71 Walker, Darwin DT Tennessee
4 102 Barrett, David CB Arkansas
5 136 Tosi, Mao DT Idaho
5 164 Tant, Jay TE Northwestern
6 176 Issa, Jabari DE Washington
7 215 Sanyika, Sekou OLB California

Cardinals 2001 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 2 Davis, Leonard
T Texas
2 34 Vanden Bosch, Kyle DE Nebraska
2 54 Stone, Michael FS Memphis
3 64 Wilson, Adrian SS North Carolina State
4 98 Gramatica, Bill K South Florida
4 123 Bell, Marcus DT Memphis
5 133 Fatafehi, Mario DT Kansas State
6 166 Newcombe, Bobby WR Nebraska
7 202 Hill, Renaldo CB Michigan State
7 246 Ofahengaue, Tevita TE Brigham Young

Cardinals 2002 Draft
Rd Sel# Player Pos. School
1 12 Bryant, Wendell
DT Wisconsin
2 49 Fisher, Levar OLB North Carolina State
3 81 McCown, Josh QB Sam Houston State
3 98 Johnson, Dennis DE Kentucky
4 113 Dwyer, Nate DT Kansas
5 149 McAddley, Jason WR Alabama
6 185 Scobey, Josh RB Kansas State
7 223 Banks, Mike TE Iowa State

Cardinals Record 1999-2003

Scoffers … I can hear your Psshaws now. But lest we jump to the conclusion that David Copperfield’s mirrors have finally shown their cracks … let’s take a deeper gaze. Here is a fairly revealing comment ESPN’s Steve Overmeyer made to a distraught Cardinals fan prior to the 2000 season portraying a shattered franchise …

“My personal belief is that the Cards DIDN'T want to spend the money to buy free agents, and they really didn't make winning their top priority. However, this offseason is the first one with a real FOOTBALL GUY running it. GM Bob Ferguson now has the power to pick and choose the right guys. Even last year it all had to go through the man in the corner office. Now its Fergi's to handle. He's brought in Hardy Nickerson, Marco Coleman for interviews (though neither signed), but the stigma that the organization has earned over the past 10 years is one that doesn't care about thier players. That in itself is the toughest hurdle for the NEW front office to overcome.... their own history! Did you know during the games, the team doesn't have a parking lot for players wives? Its widely known around the NFL that this organization treats its players like meat, not people. But like I said, that's different now. Fergi told us that "We're going to do things different (now that I'm in charge)... We're gonna do it right!" Now they have to contend with owning up to these ridiculous contracts they've given. … This team is so strapped for cap room cash we're not sure if they can sign all they're draft picks.While the players have always wanted to win, now so does the front office.” – Steve Overmeyer 3/3/2000

Is the Doctor In (10 cents), Charlie Brown?

Daily Double: Name the franchise that has the distinction of being the OLDEST continuously run professional football franchise in the nation.

Yep. That would be the Cardinals organization (founded in 1898.) Though they’ve won 2 championship in their history (1925 and 1947) … they’ve also managed a mere 26 winning seasons since 1920 and been to the playoffs only 5 times since then. Hmmm … 26 seasons winning seasons (.500 or better) in 85 years?! Can you say losing mentality? It would take a whole team of psychologists to treat that disorder.

The waterfall of NFL success trickles down from the top people. If a team ISN’T committed to winning, simply put – it WON’T. Bob Ferguson during his time as Cardinals GM:

A) faced salary cap purgatory (in 2000 the team wasn’t sure it could sign all its draft picks) …

B) endured an ownership that wasn’t committed to winning …

C) fought the stigma demons of potential FA’s who viewed the team as the NFL’s pariah’s …

D) attempted to do his best Pharaoh impersonation – as mass exodus of players from the team was a constant threat.

GM Under Glass …

I find it interesting to note that in many ways, Bob Ferguson’s situation in Seattle his first 2 years somewhat mirrors that of his situation in Arizona . Since as early as 2000 the Seahawks front office has been dominated by the 2 feuding French chefs from the Bugs Bunny cartoon … with everyone else seemingly ducking the flying cleavers. My guess is that Ferguson ’s inkpad is fairly dry from all the stamping he’s had to do. It’s been fairly HOT in the kitchen, but it appears to me based upon the evidence thus far that Fergy ain’t exactly chopped liver.

With the excitement of El Presidente’s overthrow having now vanished … the Hawks front office currently appears to have all the direction of a runaway stagecoach. Immediately after Whisitt’s deposal, the local grassroots “Bring Mueller back” campaign had Ferguson ’s position as Hawks GM appearing as tenuous as a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls . However, since the front office’s V-6 engine has only 3 of its pistons firing (and an “Around the World in 80 Days” journey to complete still in constructing the 2005 team) … the prospect of firing Ferguson seems unlikely. With Allen’s Special Forces continuing to work the phones this week and schedule interviews … Hawk fans can only pray that a hiring announcement will be made next week. One thing’s certain -- Allen’s Special Forces need to move faster than an episode of “24.” The Free Agency bomb is set to go off March 2nd.

Todd Webb writes for Seahawks.NET whenever he can be torn away from his beloved Seattle Mariners. Feel free to send any comments, questions or Felix Hernandez rookie cards to Top Stories