NFL Nation: Ruskell out

Thoughts from Ruskell's news session

December, 3, 2009
RENTON, Wash. -- Thoughts and observations from the news conference to announce Tim Ruskell's resignation as Seahawks president and general manager:
  • Ruskell's top personnel lieutenant, Ruston Webster, takes over as interim GM. Webster is a candidate for the full-time position. The team will begin a comprehensive audit of the strengths and weaknesses of the football operation. The search for a replacement begins right away.
  • "We will not join them. They are going to join us." That was what CEO Tod Leiweke said about the next GM. In other words, the team would like to maintain as much continuity as possible, pending that comprehensive audit, perhaps.
  • Leiweke said the team envisions retaining coach Jim Mora and staff. That is surely true right now, but the fact remains that Mora will likely work for someone less invested in him than Ruskell was, perhaps giving Mora less margin for error in the future.
  • Leiweke would not comment on whether Mike Holmgren might be a candidate for the job, saying he was "not going to go there" at this time. I would expect the team to consider Holmgren in some capacity, but there's little chance, in my view, that the team would give him total control without checks and balances.
  • Ruskell was emotional in the beginning, particularly after Leiweke said nice things about him and his family. Ruskell was emotional again later in the news conference when recounting some of the team's accomplishments. There was also humor. Ruskell, mindful that Steve Hutchinson's departure after the 2005 season might one day be written on his managerial tombstone, joked that he would consider cremation as an alternative.
  • Ruskell said he had a "fantastic" relationship with Holmgren. He slipped up a little, I thought, when he said the relationship was excellent even though he had heard "the only general manager (Holmgren) had gotten along with was himself." On second thought, Ruskell was probably entitled to say something such as that given the way Holmgren has publicly promoted his potential candidacy for the job.
  • Ruskell forced the organization's hand about whether the team would extend his contract beyond this season. Leiweke said the organization wasn't ready to do that because the team simply had not won enough games lately. Making the decision now helps the Seahawks conduct a more thorough analysis and search.
  • Ruskell said he underestimated the struggles that might have resulted from changing the head coach, both coordinators, both schemes and multiple starters in one offseason. He said the process simply did not play out quickly enough.

Those were some of the key points. I'm heading home from Seahawks headquarters and will resume regular blog programming as soon as possible.
Tim Ruskell returned my call this morning and explained his reasoning for stepping down as president and general manager with five games remaining in the season.

Basically, Ruskell had sought clarity from the organization regarding his role with the team beyond this season. This process had spanned the past couple of months. When it finally became clear the team would not commit to him, Ruskell decided the best course would be to step down now, particularly as his status had become a distraction.

"We were getting ready to go into those meetings about free agency and the offseason," Ruskell said. "If I am not going to spearhead those meetings and it wasn't going to happen no matter what our record was, you become a lame duck. And I did not want that."

Ruskell and CEO Tod Leiweke are scheduled to speak at a news conference at 1 p.m. ET. I do not expect the team to announce a long-term replacement. The more likely course, in my view, would be for ownership to promote someone from within on an interim basis. We'll get those details from Leiweke once the news conference begins.

I asked Ruskell whether recent reports about his potential demise played a role in the timing of his departure. He said those reports made his status a potential distraction, but that this move had been coming for some time.

"That was a false report planted by somebody trying to stir it up," Ruskell said.