Lifeless Seahawks ‘searching for answers’
This is how awful it’s become in Seattle:
Mike Holmgren professes his love for the city and for the
Seahawks he coached to six postseasons and their only Super Bowl.
He says he “absolutely” wants to talk to the team about returning
as its general manager in 2010.
He then has a day or two of talks this month with Seahawks chief
executive Tod Leiweke, and instead goes to … Cleveland?
The Browns have exactly one postseason appearance since
reincarnating through expansion in 1999, and have just one playoff
win since 1990. Yet, Holmgren chose that over the Seahawks’ present
Yes, these are Seattle’s darkest days since at least 1996, when
former owner Ken Behring briefly moved the team to Southern
California until the league interceded. Paul Allen bought the team
and the Seahawks stayed.
As their play suggests – consecutive losses by 27 at Houston, by
17 at home to Tampa Bay, by 38 on Sunday at Green Bay, plus nine of
this season’s 10 losses being by double digits – these Seahawks are
running around with their head cut off.
The same team that Roger Goodell lauded last summer for
direction and leadership now has no general manager or president
since forcing Tim Ruskell to resign Dec. 3. Allen has been
undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma and has been working from
home, though he did attend Seattle’s last home game.
The only one left above coach Jim Mora is Leiweke. And this
month he said, “I’ve never professed to be a football
Seattle has no known GM candidates other than interim GM Ruston
Webster. Mora doesn’t know to whom he’ll be reporting next season.
That’s assuming he will be here, though Leiweke said this month,
“I fully expect Jim Mora will be retained.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever been involved with a team that’s
gone through this,” Mora said Monday.
This was weeks after Mora said the league sees the Seahawks as
soft, that Seattle needed more “dirtbags.”
The most recent proof was a 48-10 loss to the Packers on Sunday
that was a late Seahawks touchdown away from being the worst margin
of defeat in their 34-year history. It was the most points the
Seahawks had allowed since Nov. 27, 1983.
“I’m searching for answers,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.
“I wish I had one.”
Seattle needs way more than one.
The former four-time NFC West champions and the conference’s
2006 Super Bowl representatives are 9-22 since their last playoff
game in January 2008.
Weeks after that game, the Seahawks made the unprecedented move
of naming assistant Jim Mora as Holmgren’s successor with a known
start date, January 2009. The franchise said it was making the
transition “seamless,” keeping the Seahawks a playoff contender
without major upheaval.
Yet the opposite has happened. Seattle is now only contending
for a second consecutive top draft pick.
Last year’s team went 4-12, its worst season since 1992. But
Seattle’s decision-makers wrote that off as anomaly because of a
string of injuries that was among the worst in NFL history – 26
players missed a total of 164 games in 2008.
Holmgren began having second thoughts that 2008 wasn’t the way
he wanted to go out, yet he admitted late in the season the
decision had already been made.
So an already awkward year got more so, with Holmgren not really
wanting to leave and Mora and Ruskell trying to make it seem as
though they weren’t pushing the future Hall of Fame coach out.
Now, the Seahawks are citing the upheaval and transition as the
reason the offense is sickly, the defense is ransacked and the team
is again among the worst in the league.
“We kind of downplayed the fact of how much change was made.
But when you change the head coach, both coordinators, both
schemes, almost all the assistant coaches, and then almost 20
players – 11, 12 new starters – that’s just not always going to
come together that quickly,” Ruskell said in retrospect.
It’s Ruskell who’s linked with many of the missteps that help
put the Seahawks where they are.
He traded a first-round draft choice to acquire Deion Branch
from New England, then gave the former Super Bowl MVP a $39 million
contract with $13 million guaranteed. Branch has had seasons with
53, 49, 30 and now 41 catches – plus two knee surgeries. It’d be a
surprise if he was back in 2010.
Ruskell’s decision not to overhaul an aging and ineffective
offensive line has helped leave Hasselbeck with a bad back, broken
ribs, bruised throwing shoulder and banged thumb. The Seahawks
expected Walter Jones to come back from major microfracture knee
surgery for this season, even though there is no precedent for a
35-year-old weighing above 350 pounds doing that successfully.
Jones never played in 2009. He had a second knee surgery, and
the six-time All-Pro left tackle may never play again.
Ruskell’s succession plan of having right tackle Sean Locklear
move over to replace Jones has failed. When Locklear hasn’t been
hurt, Mora has criticized him for not being tough enough.
Then there is left guard. Ruskell and salary cap guru Mike
Reinfeldt – now the GM of the Tennessee Titans, whom Seattle faces
in its finale Sunday – let Pro Bowl blocker Steve Hutchinson leave
while mismanaging the franchise tag system months after Seattle’s
Super Bowl in 2006. The Seahawks have had five different starting
left guards in the four seasons since Hutchinson left for
The line is the first place Holmgren said he would start in
rebuilding the Seahawks if he was running them in 2010.
“Going from Mike Holmgren’s philosophy to Jim’s philosophy and
how he wants to do things could not be done in one year,” Ruskell
That wasn’t the line he and the Seahawks were selling their fans
and ticket-buyers last year or before this season.
“Those teams that are playing so darn well right now – the
Minnesotas, the New Orleans – they’ve gone through this period, and
now they’ve got an identity. They know who they are,” said
Ruskell. “(The Seahawks) are not there yet. It didn’t
So now what?
One of the first questions the new GM must tackle is about
Hasselbeck. He turns 35 next season, the final year on his
contract, and there is no long-term replacement behind him.
For the first time since Holmgren hand-picked him from Green Bay
in a 2001 trade, Hasselbeck’s future in Seattle is in doubt.
“That’s something you think about and you talk about at the end
of the season,” Mora said. “I’m confident in Matt. We’ll look at
his body of work and see where we think he’s headed and talk to
him, but that will come later.”