"Obviously there's sadness here today," an emotional Seattle Seahawks president and general manager Tim Ruskell said at the outset of a Thursday morning press conference, where Ruskell would announce his resignation from a position he's held for nearly five years.
"I will leave here with great memories of this place." Ruskell said. "I am proud of what we have done, and I wish the new phase had gone quicker, but it didn't and that's the way that the NFL works."
Ruskell's tenure in Seattle began with the highest of highs, as the team won a franchise-record 13 games and made it's first, and to date only, trip to the Super Bowl. In the nearly four years since, though, the Seahawks are 27-33, including an 8-19 stretch over the last two seasons that gave the decision-makers in Seattle pause about extending Ruskell's contract.
When asked why the Seahawks weren't willing to extend Ruskell's contract, Leiweke was direct.
"Quite simply, we didn't win enough games," Leiweke said, adding that owner Paul Allen "has exacting standards on that. It's also his [Allen's] opinion that this is a unique and special franchise and with it comes the expectations.
"We also felt it was the right time for the Seahawks to begin the process of finding a new leader", Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke said before disclosing that current Vice-President of Player Personnel Ruston Webster would take over as interim general manager and would be a candidate to replace Ruskell on a full-time basis.
Leiweke deftly blocked questions about the possibility of Mike Holmgren's candidacy for the position, keeping the day's focus on Ruskell, who he feels will be a life-long friend.
As emotional as the day was for Ruskell and his family, he did take a moment to lighten the mood.
"I talked to my wife the other day," Ruskell said. "I said, 'Let's look at that will again, and it says burial, but let's go for cremation so they won't be able to write 'Here lies the man that lost Hutch' on my tombstone.", a reference to the infamous decision to use the transition tag, not franchise tag, on All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson in 2006.
As under siege as Ruskell has been, he remains proud of what he accomplished in Seattle.
"When we came here there was a little bit of disarray and things just weren't quite right," Ruskell said. "Obviously that's why a search was put on, and we were able to quickly move out the people that weren't interested in doing it right and bring in people that had energy and had talent, and we all worked together.
"That was a great moment."
"I really would hold our record in terms of our drafts and how they've gone and how many of those players are still here up against anyone in the league," Ruskell said.
Ruskell's Greatest Hits
1. Traded up to draft Lofa Tatupu in second round of 2005 NFL Draft. Tatupu quickly developed into a perennial Pro Bowler (2005-07) and is the heart, soul, and unquestioned leader on defense.
2. Drafted Leroy Hill in third round of 2005 NFL Draft. Hill had 7.5 quarterback sacks as a rookie and is arguably the most physical player on the Seahawks' defense.
3. Drafted Josh Wilson in second round of 2007 NFL Draft. Wilson has emerged as one of the few play-makers on defense the last two seasons.
4. Chose Brandon Mebane in third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. A penetrating, disruptive presence on the entire of the defensive line, Mebane became a starter and an example of the mid-round talent Ruskell has a keen eye for recognizing.
5. Traded up to draft John Carlson in second-round of 2008 NFL Draft. Carlson led the Seahawks in receiving in 2008 and is one of NFL's most promising young tight ends.
Bonus track: Played a large role in the team building the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seahawks' waterfront headquarters along the shores of Lake Washington in Renton, Wash.
Ruskell's Greatest Misses
1. Despite having an aging future Hall of Famer at left tackle, neglected to draft an offensive tackle from 2006-09. As a result, the Seahawks have used six different left tackles in the last 15 games.
2. Placed the transition tag on Hutchinson. Widely regarded as the best guard in the game, the future Hall of Famer has been to three straight Pro Bowls, and is headed to a fourth, since leaving Seattle.
3. Waiting until key players' contracts came to an end before seriously addressing extensions. There's a fair amount of irony here, but part of the reason Hutchinson left Seattle was because he was disappointed in not getting an extension before the '05 season ended. Seattle also had to use the franchise tag to keep kicker Josh Brown for 2007 before he angrily skipped town as a fre agent in 2008. That's the year they used the franchise tag on Marcus Trufant, after Trufant's Pro Bowl season, before signing him to a long-term extension and Seattle took a similar parth with Leroy Hill before his extension.
The only limitation teams have regarding signing core members of the team to extensions during their rookie contracts is that they need to wait until year three.
4. Trading for Deion Branch, signing him to a $39 million dollar contract, and not restructuring the deal before it's fourth year. Even when healthy, Branch has produced like a mid-round pick, cost a late first-round pick to acquire, and has been paid like a Top 10 pick.
5. Flawed approach to the running back position. Ruskell signed Shaun Alexander to a $62 million dollar contract, that included $15.1 million guaranteed, after the then-soon-to-be 29-year old running back had carried the ball over 400 times (including post-season) the previous season. Unsurprisingly, Alexander's age and wear-and-tear, along with a less effective line, contributed to the 2005 NFL MVP getting hurt. Between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Alexander missed 9 games and totaled just 1,612 yards on 459 carries with 11 touchdowns, a far cry from his 1,880-yard, 27-touchdown season in '05.
To replace Alexander, Ruskell went the re-tread route, signing Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett, and Edgerrin James.
Bonus Track: Over a 15-month span, spent $138.1 million dollars in contracts, including $65 million guaranteed, locking up three linebackers who spent a grand total of 8 plays together on the field in 2009.
Based on just those players' 2009 salaries, that amounts to $1,043,750 per play.
In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.
Ruskell Announces Resignation
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