Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ruskell On The Issues

by: William P. Tomisser

Tim Ruskell has my confidence heading into Seattle’s most important draft in a decade. He also seems to be well grounded as we head into the first coaching change in his career as a GM and being the guy in charge. He spoke to KJR yesterday and had some pearls of wisdom to impart to The Seahawk Nation at large.

After his interview, there was additional talk on KJR about him and some of the things he had to say. The discussion turned to some of the ways what he does best will help the Seahawks regain the prominence they have come to expect as the team to beat in the NFC West. This story is based mainly on that interview and subsequent discussion as well as bits and pieces from Pete William's book "The Draft".

Michael Steffes posted a link to the interview three articles back from this one called "Tim Ruskell On KJR" if you want to hear what Tim had to say for yourself.

Ruskell cleared up a few misconceptions about Holmgren’s leaving which had a lot of rumors floating around it concerning any part Ruskell may have played in the decision. He stated that Holmgren’s decision to leave was all Holmgren’s when asked point blank on whether he had forced him out.

He said that Holmgren came to him and told him he should start thinking about who he wanted to hire to replace him about a month before he went public with his announcement that he was retiring effective just after the 2008 season concluded for the Seahawks.

He said that while Holmgrem might have regretted the way his final season turned out and maybe wished he had another year to work it out, he was still committed to the pact he made with his family. That should put to rest the nasty rumors about the evil Ruskell forcing out the beloved head coach Holmgren against virtually everyone’s wishes except for the guy in section 308, row 4, seat 14 who didn’t like Holmgren’s clock management and was glad to see him go.

But I digress. To Continue……………

I think Ruskell is a very good judge of football talent at all levels and has made many more good decisions for the Seahawks than poor ones. You have to remember that this is his first GM job too and he’s learning just like everyone else does in their first job at anything.

When it comes to players and talent evaluation, we’re lucky to have him in our corner and I think this year’s draft is going to bear that out. He said he’s looking forward to drafting so high in every round for once and expects to find players to fuel Seattle’s bid to return to power in the NFC West.

First of all, he runs a very thorough scouting operation that has a very good handle on college players eligible for the draft. He grades on more than just the measurables by examining the recruit as a football player before asking if he’s the proto typical size, weight, and speed.

He said that they don’t hold it against a football player for being big (in a joking manner) pointing out that Mebane, Bryant, and Grant are all good sized players. He doesn’t use size as the top of his list and he doesn’t turn a player away automatically because he doesn’t measure up size or speed wise.

Ruskell likes to measure the size of a player’s heart before his height or weight. He likes to measure the value of a players character to be as important as his 40 time. He wants his players to put out 100% at all times when they’re on the field and considers that as much as any other factor.

He doesn’t like players who give up on plays or take a rest in place while the game is progressing. He would never have drafted Sam Adams for just that reason. We just witnessed his team going through meaningless games at the end of a season where we were long out of the hunt. What did we see?

The team was playing hard and never gave up and looked like they were still in it even though we were down to the backups and their backups in some cases. I attribute that to the kind of player Ruskell drafts and signs as free agents. Look for more of the same philosophy in April.

Secondly, Ruskell keeps up on players through his network throughout the league and who's available and who's still got gas left in the tank in case we need someone. Sometimes, he’s been in desperation mode like he was with the receivers last season but he still came up with some players in a vain effort to try and keep the team afloat.

Lastly, he keeps up on the Seahawk players themselves and who's playing well and who's not based on the coaches input, not popular opinion which is worthless.

He's ready to release a player before he becomes a real liability like in the case of both Jackson and Hackett. He's also ready to keep a player who's bad play may be due to other factors (like he's claiming with Russell lately). He's not cutting players who can still be useful to us even though popular opinion may say we make the cut.

I have to admit, I have to see this one about Russell to believe it. If we bring in someone else to play and use Russell as in a backup and savvy veteran role to mentor the new safety and be a good locker room influence, that would be a good use of his talents as far as I’m concerned.

He is supposed to be possessed of unusual on field savvy even though he rarely seems to use it when he plays football. Sorry, I just had to say that.

Although everyone is going to have a bad call once in a while and make a mistake here and there, I like what Ruskell's doing this year and look forward to seeing the Seahawks gain some of their previous swagger.

He's shown us that the value of having the future coach on the staff for that last two years is that Mora knows the players and the team well and doesn't have a big learning curve ahead of him getting to know the players like all the other newly hired head coaches do.

He talked about that one too yesterday. If there are any changes to be made player wise, he's ready to make those changes right now. He's also on top of the hiring curve for coaches. While a lot of teams are still going through the process of interviewing and hiring their new head coach, Mora is already on board, up to speed with the team and players, and having his pick of coordinators and assistant coaches to hire.

At the very least, he's hiring coaches he's comfortable with because of previous experience together or who are coming with very good recommendations from trusted sources. He's hired coaches already who potentially have a big upside and before anyone else has a chance to even interview them. I'd say he's at least a good week or two in front of most of the other teams in the league right now.

I really like the aggressive start Ruskell and Mora have made and anxiously await their 11:00 am conference this morning. You can see it live on FSN or listen on KJR.

Another thing Ruskell said on his interview on KJR yesterday that I've pointed out before is that it's also important for the coaches on a football team to have good chemistry and work together just like the players do. He believes in having the entire organization from the water boy to the owner working together as a huge team with just one objective. To get to the Super Bowl and win it.

He pointed out that as far as the draft is concerned (and he said it was also true when Holmgren was here), he always solicits input from the head coach, the offensive and defensive coordinators, and from their respective staff's. He said that the resulting draft board and who is valued at what position is a composite of all the work the scouting staff put in as well as the analysis of the coaching staff.

When completed, they basically have a board that makes decisions on draft day quick and easy to make. Even though Tim Ruskell is the final authority, if there is a last minute decision to make he will quickly solicit a response from Mora, Knapp, and Bradley if there’s time and filter that decision through what his coaches have to say as well as his own instincts.

Tim’s belief in a team effort is a huge part of who he is and it carries on through to the coaches and trickles down to the players themselves. He's the antithesis to the way Whitsitt ran the program and the team couldn’t be in better hands if working together as a team is one of the major objectives.

The players have been expressing confidence in their new head coach when interviewed on KJR and are excited about the new level of enthusiasm being displayed. Several have expressed optimism that they will come back and take back their spot that they loaned to Arizona this year as the leader of the NFC West.

I think there are some teams who would love to be where we are now in our efforts to put together our new staff and get the team working on the main objective. Seattle is showing signs once again that last season was an aberration as Tim Ruskell himself called it and the team’s front office, newly hired coaching staff, and definitely the players, are hard at work to reclaim the West in 2009.