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Ruskell resigns as Seahawks GM, president

THURSDAY, DEC. 3, 2009, 10:12 A.M.

Tim Ruskell began his tenure as Seahawks president and general manager with the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance.

It ended at a news conference this morning when Ruskell announced his resignation at the team’s headquarters with the Seahawks 4-7 and likely to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Ruskell’s tenure began with the most successful window of playoff success in franchise history as the Seahawks won four playoff games from 2005 to 2007, more than in the franchise’s first 29 years combined.

But Seattle has gone 8-19 since the 2008 season began, the franchise’s worst record over any 27-game span since the early 1990s, which included the 2-14 season of 1992.

Ruskell was hired by the Seahawks in 2005 from Atlanta, where he worked as assistant GM under Rich McKay, then Falcons president and GM. Ruskell had previously worked in Tampa Bay from 1987 to 2003, beginning as a regional scout and ascending to director of player personnel for the Bucs.

Ruskell replaced Bob Whitsitt atop the Seahawks’ football operations, and he came to the team with a reputation for having a scout’s eyes for defensive talent.

Ruskell showed that in his first year in Seattle. He overhauled the defense, acquiring five new starters, including middle linebacker 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 one of Ruskell’s draft picks who reached the Pro Bowl for the Seahawks.

In 2006, Seattle lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson for no compensation and re-signed running back Shaun Alexander to a large contract only to cut him two years later. Alexander was the first of a string of running backs signed and subsequently released by Seattle, followed by T.J. Duckett and Edgerrin James.

The Seahawks relied on a number of free-agent acquisitions in Ruskell’s tenure. Some paid immediate dividends, such as defensive end Patrick Kerney, who had 141/2 sacks in 2007 after being signed from Atlanta. He was named runner-up for the league’s defensive player of the year that season.

Others did not. Not only did Seattle sign wide receiver Deion Branch to a big-budget free-agent contract in 2006, but it traded a first-round pick for the right to do so. Branch’s receptions have declined in each season he has been in Seattle.

As a result of the reliance on free agency, Seattle ranks among the oldest third of the league’s teams.

Ruskell’s departure creates an opening atop the Seahawks’ football operations, and speculation will turn immediately to Mike Holmgren, who coached the Seahawks for 10 years. He has expressed a desire to return to the NFL after taking this year off, and it is believed Seattle would be his first choice.

With Ruskell’s departure official, it should soon become more clear where Holmgren fits into the franchise’s framework for the future, though it should be noted the league’s hiring protocol for this vacancy would require the franchise to interview at least one minority candidate.

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