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Originally published December 3, 2009 at 10:05 AM | Page modified December 4, 2009 at 9:01 PM

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Emotional Tim Ruskell out as Seahawks president

Seahawks president Tim Ruskell is gone after pressing team for a contract extension. The framework to name successor could come next week.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Tim Ruskell sat on stage at the Seahawks' headquarters Thursday morning, eyes red and voice choking on emotion on his last day as Seattle's president and general manager.

"Obviously there's sadness today," Ruskell said. "I will leave here with great memories of this place and the people."

He paused and swallowed hard.

This wasn't easy. Not for Ruskell, not for the Seahawks.

In the afternoon, he walked onto the field after practice and spoke to the team he assembled for a final time as its president.

"We put the pieces of the puzzle together brick by brick," Ruskell said, according to wide receiver Nate Burleson. "And if I could ask one thing, it's go out there and beat San Francisco."

Ruskell's five-year tenure in charge of the Seahawks' football operations ended Thursday with his resignation, leaving a five-year era of the franchise's history to be summarized with five games left in the regular season.

The Seahawks reached their first Super Bowl under Ruskell, but they also lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson for no compensation, a mistake that Ruskell jokingly told his wife he didn't want to follow him for eternity.

"Let's look at that will again," he told her, "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."

He did more than that in Seattle. Ruskell was responsible for acquiring five defensive starters on that Super Bowl team in 2005, including Lofa Tatupu, a second-round pick who made the Pro Bowl each of his first four seasons with the team.

That first season was the high point of his tenure, though, and Tatupu remains the only Ruskell draft pick who reached the Pro Bowl for the Seahawks.

"I am proud of what we have done and we did," Ruskell said. "I wish the new phase had gone quicker, but it didn't and that's the way that the NFL works."

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Seattle won four playoff games in Ruskell's first three seasons after he was hired in February 2005. The Seahawks are 8-19 since, the franchise's worst record over any 27-game span since 1991 through 1993.

That was the ultimate barometer used when Ruskell pushed for a resolution over the past few weeks.

"You typically make these decisions at the end of the year. But I think Tim was anxious about what the future would bring," said CEO Tod Leiweke, Ruskell's boss. "He called the question, and it really forced us to say, 'OK, there's an important question on the table.' "

The answer came down to the win-loss ledger.

"I work for a man, Mr. Paul Allen, who has exacting standards," Leiweke said. "It's also his opinion that this is a unique and special franchise, and with it comes the expectations. So, bottom line, we didn't win enough games."

The Seahawks were 40-35 in the regular-season under Ruskell and 4-3 in the playoffs.

Ruston Webster will serve as interim general manager, and Leiweke said Webster would be a candidate for the permanent position. Leiweke declined to discuss the candidacy of anyone else, specifically Mike Holmgren, who coached the Seahawks for 10 seasons before taking this year off. Holmgren also served as general manager the first four years in Seattle, from 1999 through 2002.

The Seahawks have hired a New York search firm to help in the selection of a new head of football operations. The framework and plans for the search could be announced as early as next week.

Coach Jim Mora has three years remaining on his contract, and Leiweke said he fully expects him to be retained as head coach.

"My heart goes out to Tim and his family," Mora said after Thursday's team practice. "Tim's a good man and a good football man, and I'm disappointed that we couldn't have performed better and given him the help he needed."

The team's players were informed of the move in a meeting Thursday morning at 8.

"That meeting lasted about five, 10 minutes," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "And then we got right on to getting ready to play the 49ers. We all know what's at stake."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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