Well hello, my pretties. It’s been a while since we last conversed. I’d blame my hectic schedule and oh-so-important, life but that’s not being entirely truthful. No, the simple fact is, it takes me some small passage of time to truly decipher the nature of any major paradigm shift, either of the global - or football – variety.
Let’s see…the last you heard from me, I was contemplating the Wings of Change, fresh off the exhilarating and stupendous firing of former Team President Bob Whitsitt. That prodigious event is still being savored by Seahawks fans like a fine port following a swollen and ash-heavy Cohiba under a star-awash sky.
Since then, we have seen owner Paul Allen (with the help of his top gun execs at Vulcan Enterprises) hire Tim Ruskell to serve as new Team President. Allen’s comments immediately resonated to fans his vision to make the proper adjustments necessary in order to breach that next level – all predicated on a president with that congruous football background.
“We wanted a professional who had a strong football record and who had a knack for getting talented players into the roster”, Allen stated at the press conference announcing Ruskell's hire.
“Tim Ruskell is very well regarded and has clearly had success in recognizing and securing some of the top players in the league.”, he continued. “Tim has also demonstrated an ability to communicate and motivate, and as president of football operations we believe Tim will solidify the football culture of the Seahawks. I look forward to working with him, Mike Holmgren, Tod Leiweke and the rest of the Seahawks staff and players as we continue to build a premier NFL organization in Seattle.”
Everyone knew Bob Whitsitt was not a football guy. What everybody did not know or could not say – outside of the walls of Kirkland especially - was just how much of a malignancy the man was when it came to team work, affability and cohesiveness. Some sources stated the level of politics and drawing of sides when Whitsitt reigned was so shockingly ingrained, the effects trickled all the way down to the quality of the product on the field.
One can certainly argue the relationship between Whitsitt and Holmgren created unnecessary strain on the head coach and perhaps contributed to his inability to be as effective as possible. Power struggles in the hierarchy always end up manifesting in some ugly manner one way or the other. How much it affected Holmgren to do his job won’t truly be able to be assessed until after the 2005 season.
Immediately upon Ruskell’s hiring, it was clear that he brought in entirely new approach in regard to running a football team. Malcontents were no longer tolerated because of assumed talent. A letter was sent to the players in which Ruskell outlined his philosophy on accountability and not putting any one individual above the team’s greater good. A measurable increase in attendance at the team’s off-season workout programs seemed to be an initial indication that the players were getting the message.
The release of Chris Terry and Anthony Simmons was a profound message and one that would ultimately become what some might call the “ Ruskell Way ”; Placing strong character and work-ethic over talent. Simmons was not only injury prone, but widely considered disgruntled by his coaches and teammates. For those of you still upset by his departure, consider this:
It’s been over two months since Anthony Simmons was released, and he has yet to be picked up by another team.
The same fate could not be said for an old warrior who was let go due to conflicting viewpoints of his worth. Chad Brown didn’t want to slice his salary from $4.2 million in 2005 to $1 million plus incentives, which the Seahawks were willing to pay for a proud-but battle-worn player. Brown was looking for at least $1.5 million up front, so Ruskell’s hand was forced.
However weakened by years of brutal assaults on the battle field he may be, Brown didn’t stay on the market for long as the New England Patriots called him to duty for one last tour. I for one will be rooting for Chad to finally get that coveted ring even if it means having to sit through another – yes another – Patriots Super Bowl victory.
So Ruskell cleaned house by cutting those players whose character was questionable or those who were too injury-prone to reinvest in and began filling the empty slots in free agency and the draft with players who are short in the sexiest picks and prototype size department but make up for it in team-first character, work-ethic and commitment.
This is believed to be the very recipe to success the Patriots have employed as the first true NFL dynasty in the free agency and salary cap era.
Alas it is not lost on this writer that Koren Robinson remains on the roster – a seemingly walking, talking paradox to the new paradigm - yet it is important to note that he has been given “final warning” from the team and his starting job is in fact, not guaranteed – he will have to earn it in training camp. Indeed, with Ruskell in office, it’s a virtual certainty that if Robinson can’t get his act together on and off the field, 2005 will be the last we see of him in a Seahawks uniform.
It would appear that everything Tim Ruskell is doing is the opposite of what this team would do in any other year under the Whitsitt era. Instead of coddling temperamental players in hopes that their talent speaks louder than their character (or lack thereof), messaged are being sent loud and clear that anything short of the right attitude and team commitment simply will not fly.
How that translates to victories in the coming months and years remains to be seen, but I can hardly wait for the journey to unfold.
Todd Breda is the Owner and Creative Director of Seahawks.Net. If you would like to e-mail Todd, send any and all love letters, hate mail, whimsical musings or your personal dealings with little green men to: firstname.lastname@example.org.