The record shows that Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award after the 2005 season with his 1,880-yard, 27 touchdown rushing performance. And justifiably so, most would say.
But if it hadn’t been for the team’s 2005 MVP, Alexander would have been wearing a different uniform, or doing his business in a ridiculously depleted Seattle offense. Without Mike Reinfeldt, the Seahawks as you know them – the team that represented the NFC in Super Bowl XL and made it to the divisional round a year later despite 59 starter games lost to injury – would be nothing but wishful thinking.
More likely, there would be an ash-dusted, 4-12 debacle that would have the Emerald City poking their Bob Whitsitt voodoo dolls 24-7.
If Reinfeldt hadn’t been gracious enough to accept a consultant’s position with the Seahawks in February of 2005 after former team president Whitsitt – the man who had lowballed Reinfeldt and forced him to leave the year before so that Whitsitt himself could "negotiate" player contracts – had been fired, Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones might very well be elsewhere. Reinfeldt did so knowing full well that the man who would replace Whitsitt wouldn’t be him.
When asked his reasoning, Reinfeldt was succinct. "This isn't about me and my status," he said. "I care about this franchise and want to help. This is a labor of love."
It was Reinfeldt, after Whitsitt’s firing and the loss of Ted Thompson and Scot McLouglan (basically, the team’s entire scouting department) to Green Bay and San Francisco, respectively, who set aside the bare remains of the former front office and began dealing with Hasselbeck and Jones in an aboveboard fashion. Roosevelt Barnes, Jones’ agent, singled out Reinfeldt as the pointman in the deal that kept the league’s best left tackle in Seattle. Soon, both team pillars were re-signed to long and lucrative deals. That allowed the Seahawks to apply the franchise tag to Alexander.
Though it was certain that some players would be lost in the wake of Whitsitt’s disastrous regime, Reinfeldt did his best to accommodate the sixteen unsigned free agents he inherited. Whitsitt, who knows as much about franchise building as he does about personal relationships, simply let the team slide into potential chaos because he saw blowing up the roster as a reasonable alternative. Ken Lucas and Chike Okeafor were swept away in that shuffle, but Reinfeldt did a heroic job in saving the team as best he could.
When Tim Ruskell was hired as the new head man in late February, it didn’t take long for the new administration to discern Reinfeldt’s value – in fact, Ruskell told KJR-AM radio in 2005 that were it not for the Hasselbeck/Jones/Alexander signings, he would not have taken the job.
Think about that for a moment.
On March 22 of the magic 2005 year, the Seahawks officially named Reinfeldt the team’s Vice President of Football Administration. He finally had the future he wanted with the team he has been faithful to since he came from Green Bay with Mike Holmgren in 1999. He worked in Green Bay as the team’s Chief Financial Officer from 1991-1993, and its Vice President of Administration from 1994-1998. It was there that he learned about team-building from Ron Wolf, one of the greatest football minds.
Now, his faith has been rewarded in a new way – the Tennessee Titans named Reinfeldt their General Manager on Monday. His history with the franchise is deep – Reinfeldt was a safety with the Houston Oilers from 1976-1983, leading the team in interceptions in three different seasons and leading the league with 12 in 1979.
Robert Brazile, Reinfeldt’s teammate in Houston for eight years, told Paul Kuharsky of The Tennessean on Monday that the managerial acumen the Titans are about to see was evident even on the football field. "He was the general manager of my secondary," said the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker. "I looked for him if I had any doubt about the defensive coverage or the defensive call. Any type of leadership I was needing, Mike was always sitting right there by me with it."
Ruskell echoed the positive sentiments for the Reinfeldt he knows – the man who was the Seahawks diligent salary cap manager, and rightly regarded as one of the best in his field. "He's a good communicator, he'll work well with people, he'll delegate well," Ruskell said. "He's a good man, a good person and you'll see that right away, He'll roll up his sleeves and get to work."
For agent Jim Steiner, with whom Reinfeldt negotiated the 2006 deal that allowed Shaun Alexander to become the highest-paid running back in NFL history, it’s about a professionalism that is always respected … and respectful. "He's a good relationship guy," Steiner said. "He knows the business, he knows the numbers. I think he's detailed. He's tough but fair. He keeps it on a professional level. Negotiations with Mike never get out of hand. They never really get cantankerous, which is a real art these days."
Coach Jeff Fisher and the Titans won’t just be benefiting from a “numbers guy” – Reinfeldt has a solid handle on personnel. Like Ruskell himself when he took the Seahawks job in 2005, Reinfeldt was the most qualified candidate available, a man whose promotion to this position was long overdue. For the Titans, a team whose thrillride 8-8 season points to better things in the future, a better choice could not have been made. The Tennessee franchise has had some notably disastrous cap problems in the past, and Reinfeldt will make sure it won’t happen again.
For the Seahawks organization and the fans who hold it together, all that can be done is to extend best wishes to the man who saved the former from a complete roster nightmare, and the latter from another long, multi-season walk through the darkness.
Without Mike Reinfeldt, the Seahawks as you know them would not exist.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. He also writes the weekly "Manic Monday" feature for FoxSports.com. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.