Seahawks' Ruskell has fix in mind
General managers aren't always realists, especially in public. They are excuse specialists or flat-out apologists, spin doctors or straight...
Seattle Times staff columnist
General managers aren't always realists, especially in public. They are excuse specialists or flat-out apologists, spin doctors or straight liars, fake optimists or just plain snake-oil salesmen. They prefer whining over honesty. They herd scapegoats.
Not Tim Ruskell, however. He's one reason to think the Seahawks can fix their weaknesses and continue pursuit of a championship.
Today, as a fresh batch of Super Bowl participants is revealed, the home team is evaluating what went wrong during an erratic season and contemplating how to return to its 2005 form. There's this nagging feeling the Seahawks reverted to mere decency this season, and as much as the team could argue against it, we can all agree on one thing: Whatever the problems, this is an important offseason to solve them.
It's not crucial in a headline-grabbing way this time. The Seahawks have no Shaun Alexander or Steve Hutchinson to try to re-sign. Instead, their challenge is to make solid decisions, the ones that sustain franchises. The subtle ones.
It starts with an honest self-examination. As he prepares for his third offseason as the Seahawks' president of football operations, Ruskell is doing just that. The entire organization is. It's refreshing to hear, particularly in this city, where the Mariners and Sonics have frustrated their fans by trying to squeeze progress out of mediocrity for several years.
Clarity is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of sports. No one can hide from the truth. It's obvious. These games are played before thousands, and strengths and weaknesses become easily identifiable. While it takes an expert to understand the nuances of athletics, anyone can comprehend the generalities.
So Ruskell knows we know his team's flaws. He won't hide from them. And, thankfully, he tends to agree with the consensus on what the Seahawks must do to get better. He won't sit idle and blame everything on injuries.
New Orleans @ Chicago, noon, Ch. 13
New England @ Indianapolis, 3:30 p.m.,
"It was an abnormal amount [of injuries], but there's more than that," Ruskell said. "We didn't execute. There wasn't continuity. We never had games where, all the way through, special teams, offense and defense was consistent. Rarely did we have that. And the year before, we didn't say that. So what was that?"
Ruskell defined the areas the Seahawks must improve: the secondary, defensive line, tight end, offensive line (continuity in particular) and overall depth. Once again, those deficiencies were apparent all season. Because the front office is still developing a plan and because NFL folks are as tight-lipped as members of the British Queen's Guard, Ruskell won't reveal how those needs will be filled.
But the Seahawks have enough resources to make their team stronger. Some fixes could be expensive; if they look to free agency, defensive-line and cornerback help doesn't come cheap. Some could cause great debate; what do you do with infamous tight end Jerramy Stevens, who is a free agent?
Most importantly, though, the Seahawks have the brains to improve their team.
"OK, so we didn't have a lot of continuity and consistency," Ruskell said. "How can we make that better? That's really what [coach Mike Holmgren's] address was in the locker room. Everybody look at yourself and say, 'Is there anything I did in this past offseason ... that I could have done better or would do differently?' "
For Ruskell, it was an average second year. His first year was a dream. He came in February and helped assemble a Super Bowl team. The results are mixed for Year 2.
It will be known as the offseason the Seahawks lost Hutchinson, their All-Pro guard. But signing linebacker Julian Peterson was a coup. Trading for wide receiver Deion Branch was a solid decision, though it will cost the Seahawks a first-round pick. A few other noteworthy moves, such as the signings of receiver Nate Burleson and offensive tackle Tom Ashworth, garnered criticism, but they could look like better decisions in time.
Ruskell admits he can improve. He's either a different breed of GM or so new he doesn't know any better.
"I'm not a finger-pointer," Ruskell said. "We don't have finger-pointers here. I think everybody points their fingers at themselves, including myself.
"What could I have done better? What decisions didn't work? What did? And if we do that, and we're going to do that, then it's not going to be the same situation because we do have enough talent. We do have a good enough coaching staff. We've got great fans. Our stadium is unbelievable.
"We've got so many good things going. We should do better than that."
Ruskell has the appropriate mindset, for sure. In a sport as violent as football, there are no certainties, and considering the Seahawks' history, it would be foolish to bet on long-lasting prosperity.
But right now, they have more hope than usual. They know who they are, good and bad. They're real with themselves. Now it's on Ruskell to turn his spot-on thinking into results.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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