Finally, seriously, we mean it this time, a game the Seahawks have to win
The next eight games will loom large in the evaluation of three of the most important components of this franchise: coach Jim Mora, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and architect Tim Ruskell.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seahawks @ Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13
RENTON — OK, this is it. Last chance for the Seattle Seahawks to save their season.
This time, they really mean it.
"This game is way more important because of how we've shot ourselves in the foot earlier in the season," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "And because of the adversity we've faced earlier in the season."
You've probably heard that before. Maybe even a few times since it has been a Seahawks refrain for four weeks and counting.
"There's a tremendous sense of urgency to win this game," coach Jim Mora said. "Just like there was a tremendous sense of urgency to win last week."
And just like the week before that in Dallas and the game before that at home against Arizona.
If Seattle wins Sunday, it will be one game out of first place in the NFC West. Lose and Seattle is three games back and has also lost both games to Arizona. It would take the instant contraction of about half the NFL for Seattle to reach the postseason.
But before we go and declare Sunday's game in the desert as Seattle's last stand, it's worth considering just how much more than just a playoff berth is at stake for Seattle over the final half of this football season.
The next eight games will loom large in the evaluation of three of the very most important components of this franchise: coach, quarterback and architect, Seahawks president Tim Ruskell. The playoffs aren't going to be the only measuring stick used in the evaluation of those positions moving forward.
Hasselbeck is 34 with one year remaining on his contract. He has missed 15 of the team's last 56 regular-season games, but he's also just two years removed from a career high in passing yardage and just last week broke his own franchise record for completions in a game with 39.
Then there's Mora, in his first season in charge of the Seahawks. Usually, first-year coaches are granted a little slack. Even in the NFL. It takes time for a coach's system to take root. This season, there are 11 NFL coaches in their first full season as head coach with their respective teams. Only two currently have winning records: Indianapolis' Jim Caldwell and Denver's Josh McDaniels.
Mora's situation is not like most first-year coaches. Not only has he been on the staff for two years, but Seattle didn't consider itself a rebuilding franchise, rather one that would reload and make the playoffs. Instead, Seattle started 2-5 for the second consecutive season.
"The first half of the season was a little bit of a struggle for us on a lot of levels," Mora said. "Number one, it was definitely hard for us to find consistency, as I've said, because of the new staff, new scheme, and then the plethora of injuries."
Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu is out for the year and left tackle Walter Jones won't play a down, but the Seahawks had all 53 players on the active roster practicing for two successive weeks. What kind of progress can Seattle show now that its roster — and especially the offensive line — has stabilized?
Mora talked about dividing the season into quarters and on that timeline, Seattle went 1-3 the first four games, 2-2 over the next four.
"Now we've got to try and improve on that," Mora said.
That ultimately may be the most important measure as Seattle evaluates Ruskell, the personnel poobah. He is in the fifth and final year of his contract with the Seahawks, but in his first year without Seattle's iconic head coach, Mike Holmgren.
Ruskell was responsible for acquiring five defensive starters on that Super Bowl team as well as wide receiver Joe Jurevicius. He signed Patrick Kerney and Julian Peterson as free agents — each reached the Pro Bowl as Seahawks.
But only one player drafted since Ruskell arrived in Seattle has reached the Pro Bowl: Tatupu. Guard Steve Hutchinson slipped out the back door under his watch and Ruskell doled out more than $5 million for two backup running backs who combined to gain less than 300 yards rushing in two seasons. Not only did Ruskell offer Deion Branch a contract that exceeded his subsequent production, but sacrificed a first-round pick for the right to do so.
The further Seattle gets into the lineage of players assembled under Ruskell, the further it has fallen from the ranks of the elite. On the other hand, Seattle won more playoff games in his first three seasons as president than in the franchise's first 29 seasons in the league.
Seattle is 7-17 in the last season and a half. Does that represent an injury-induced dip or is it the indicator that this franchise has rolled off the cliff of relevance under Ruskell's watch?
These next eight games will provide an insight into that.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.