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Originally published December 29, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Page modified December 30, 2009 at 8:42 AM

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Steve Kelley

Blame Tim Ruskell, not Jim Mora, for Seahawks' disaster

Seahawks coach Jim Mora hasn't done a good coaching job, but he deserves another year — and a revamped roster — to prove himself.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Sunday

Tennessee @ Seahawks, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 7

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The easy thing for me to do with this column, probably even the popular thing, would be to write that the Seahawks should fire coach Jim Mora.

Certainly the ammunition is there.

In this last month of the season, the Hawks have fallen so hard, so fast they look every bit as bad today as St. Louis, Detroit or Washington. And, even though Mora promised us in July that this season wouldn't be a repeat of 2008, in some ways it has felt even worse.

Every Sunday it must get harder for the Seahawks coach to find answers to questions as he stands in front of a podium for his postgame news conference.

Every Sunday he looks at his inquisitors and gropes for reasons that explain why his team has fallen so flat, so often

But the point Mora can't make that should be made is that the person most responsible for this 5-10 season already has been dumped. The man who put this incredibly mismatched roster together has left the building.

Tim Ruskell, former president and general manager, is gone and that has put all of the pressure on Mora to answer questions that have lingered since Ruskell faded away.

Simply put, the Seahawks are lousy. They are playing with a beaten-up quarterback, no running game, no consistent wide receivers and a soft-as-oatmeal offensive line. They have no pass rush and a weakened secondary.

Their offense is so bad that its numbers are comparable to some of the scoring statistics from the dark days of the Tom Flores era.

Their MVP should be their punter Jon Ryan.

The team on the field is a greater indictment of Ruskell than Mora. You think Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Bill Parcells or Tony Dungy could win with this team?

The question of whether or not Mora should return next season is more complex than it seems. And, in all honesty, I'm not sure of the answer.

I agree with Mora's predecessor Mike Holmgren, whose basic philosophy is that a coach needs more than one season to fix a franchise.

But I was there in the 18-degree chill of Green Bay last Sunday, watching the Seahawks collapse and wondering why the NFL's "On Any Given Sunday" theme never applies to the Hawks.

Why can't the Seahawks rise up from the ashes and upset a team heading to the playoffs? Why can't they do what Tampa Bay and Carolina have done? Why can't they ever be spoilers?

The Seahawks have deteriorated in this first season under Mora. The past three weeks have been especially bad. And all season, they haven't looked as if they belonged in the same league with the elite teams.

They lost by 17 at Indianapolis and by 21 at Dallas. They lost by 26 at Minnesota and by 38 last Sunday at Green Bay.

"Any Given Sunday" has become "Every Grim Sunday" for the Seahawks.

In this first season as their head coach, Mora hasn't done his job. He hasn't found a way to consistently motivate his team. But in his first season as the head coach, Mora hasn't had the tools to do his job.

That's the conundrum.

Soon the Seahawks will sign a president to replace Ruskell and the decision on Mora's future should be the new president's — and only the new president's — to make.

And before we get too excited, Bill Cowher isn't coming to Seattle. And the other glamour boy, Mike Shanahan, will want more control over personnel than the Hawks are willing to allow.

I think the most important question the new president will ask himself is, "Are we better off starting over?" And if he decides the answer is to fire Mora, he'd sure better know that the next guy is the right guy.

If he keeps Mora, he should ask him to make major changes with his offensive coaching staff. And the new president should turn over as much as one third of the team's roster.

I don't think Jim Mora will be fired. I think Ruskell's replacement will see that Mora has had success before as a head coach in Atlanta. He'll probably give Mora another year and a better team.

I don't know if keeping Mora is the right or wrong call. I do know that, either way, we'll all know the answer to that question a year from today.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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