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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seahawks fire president Whitsitt

 (The Spokesman-Review)

A week ago many were wondering if Mike Holmgren would return as Seattle’s head coach after the Seahawks lost to St. Louis in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

Turns out the shakeup is taking place in other offices at Seahawks headquarters in Kirkland, Wash.

Team president Bob Whitsitt was fired Friday on the same day vice president of football operations Ted Thompson was hired as general manager by the Green Bay Packers.

Earlier this week, Seattle announced that Holmgren would return for his seventh season.

Whitsitt had been the Seahawks president since 1997. He stepped down as president and GM of the Portland Trail Blazers in June 2003. Both franchises are owned by Paul Allen.

“What I like to do after the season is over is canvass everyone involved and think about what the best way to improve performance is going forward,” Allen said during a telephone conference call Friday morning.

“After talking to everybody and evaluating our performance, I felt the best approach was to take a change in direction and bring in someone with a deep background in football.”

Whitsitt spent 25 years in the NBA, including eight years as president and GM of the Seattle SuperSonics. He was nicknamed “Trader Bob” for his willingness to make NBA trades.

Whitsitt and Holmgren reportedly had a strained relationship, though Allen credited Whitsitt for helping bring Holmgren to Seattle in 1999. Following the 2002 season, Holmgren was stripped of GM duties when Whitsitt hired Bob Ferguson.

Allen was asked several times about the relationship between Whitsitt and Holmgren, but each time Allen reiterated his decision came down to what was best for the franchise.

“This isn’t about particular interpersonal dynamics,” Allen said. “I have to look at the whole landscape. I just felt this was the decision I had to make.”

Seattle won the NFC West with a 9-7 regular-season record, but lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in Holmgren’s six seasons.

Sixteen Seahawks are eligible to become unrestricted free agents, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones and running back Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks had 10 unrestricted free agents after the 2003 season.

“Obviously we have quite a bit of work cut out for us with the number of free agents we need to look at re-signing and the (salary) cap implications,” Allen said. “We’re getting under way very quickly to make the search happen.”

Allen said the search for Whitsitt’s replacement will focus on external candidates. That person would then be involved in finding Thompson’s successor.

Holmgren is on vacation, but he issued a statement released by the Seahawks: “The roar of our fans at Qwest Field last week was both a powerful reminder of what football means to this community and a prelude to what we can achieve as a more focused and unified organization in the future.”

Thompson’s departure was rumored for days after it became apparent the Packers were going to relieve head coach Mike Sherman of his GM responsibilities. Thompson joined the Seahawks in January 2000.

Holmgren coached the Packers from 1992-98.