Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bill T's Ten Cents' Worth

by: William P. Tomisser

I wanted to add my thanks to Chris and Michael for the great job they did over the draft weekend. I felt like putting in my two cents' worth, but they were covering the draft very well so I waited until things died down a bit and added eight cents to come up with a full ten cents' worth. I've listened to several interviews now with both Arron Curry and Max Unger and I wanted to give an opinion of the two guys from the draft who are most likely to help us the most this season.

Aaron Curry

Aaron Curry comes off as a supremely confident player without sounding the least bit arrogant. He obviously plays the game with great passion. In all the interviews, there was nothing negative said about him in any interview by anyone from any perspective. Ruskell said he took the team on his back as a senior and raised the level of play of everyone around him. He went on to say that was what they look for in a player and ultimately made up their minds for them. Ruskell said Curry was the top player on their board. To continue reading, click

Curry said in interviews that he expected to go to Cleveland because there was so much talk about how an outside linebacker wasn't expected to go so high in the draft, historically speaking. He said that he wasn't disappointed that one of the first three teams didn't take him and he was prepared to go to whichever team selected him and give them his best possible effort. He also said in response to it being said that he didn't have good pass rushing skills that he wasn't asked to rush the passer at Wake Forest very much, but that he was very good at it when asked to do so.

Curry at 260 lbs is said to move more like a defensive back than a linebacker. He is considered to be a freakishly gifted athlete. He played in a pro-style defense that is much like what Seattle will be running in 2009, so although he has a lot to learn, the curve won't be as steep as it could have been. He's considered by some highly respected scouts and analysts to be the best linebacker prospect to come out in the last ten years because he can do everything required of a linebacker so well, including rushing the passer and being disruptive in the opponent's backfield. Mora and Ruskell both said that the biggest thing they loved about Curry was that he can do everything well, confirming that part of the reports. They will be able to use him in a number of different ways and situations, Ruskell said.

Curry said his influences were Lawrence Taylor because of his relentlessness, Ray Lewis because of his leadership, and Derrick Brooks because of the fast, athletic way he plays the game. He talks about his game being relentless and fast and said that he doesn't quit until the play is over. Every single time. If we lost Hill and got Derrick Brooks in as a stopgap linebacker for a year, how cool would it be for Curry to learn from one of the three guys he modeled his play after?

Mora was asked who Curry reminds him of. Mora answered "no one," and that Curry is unique. He said that Curry would be the linebacker others would be compared to in the future. That's pretty high praise from your head coach coming in as a rookie before you even attend your first camp. Observers who saw Curry for the first time said that if you wanted to build a mold of the perfect NFL linebacker as far as passing the eye test, Curry would be that mold. He's definitely a beast with pipes that look like thighs from what I saw -- a big guy who moves like a cat. Ruskell said he personally timed him in the 4.3s, but that was unofficial. He was in the 4.5s at the combine in which he posted the top time for a linebacker.

In a draft where it was said to be too bad that Seattle had such a high pick in such a weak draft, I'm not so sure that Seattle didn't get their blue chip elite impact player after all. If there was a player in this draft who would have been worthy of the number four pick in any year's draft class, Curry was it. His character comes shining through. His mom is his inspiration and he admits to being a mama's boy and says he proud of it. I doubt anyone will argue the point with him or call him a sissy. He stayed for his senior year in college because he had made a commitment to his teammates to do so and he honored that commitment. That says something about him as a person right there. There are things that mean more to him than instant gratification and money.

All in all, it looks as if Seattle got themselves another player who has the possibility of being mentioned in the same breath as Kenny Easley, Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Walter Jones by the time he's done with his career here. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but he just has that sort of charisma and everyone sees that kind of potential when they interview him. Seattle did what needed to be done Saturday and picked off the most likely to succeed guy in the draft. This guy looks like he'll be worth every penny they pay him. Some people have said that this is Seattle's best draft ever. Only the fact that they got Arron Curry made that speculation possible.

Max Unger

Max Unger is about as excited as I've ever heard any drafted player sound about being drafted by the Seahawks. He didn't expect it to happen, especially after they traded away their second pick to Denver for the Broncos' first pick next year. Having played for the Oregon Ducks, he wanted to stay on the West Coast so ending up back in the Pacific Northwest was a dream come true.

Unger was one of the top three centers in the draft, and generally considered to be the second best behind Alex Mack. He was expected to be drafted in the bottom of the first round along with Mack and Eric Wood. He slipped out of the bottom of the round, and if it hadn't been for the Denver offer Ruskell said they would have taken him with the 37th pick. When he fell to the middle of the second round, Ruskell felt compelled to made a deal to get back into the second round and take him. Although Mack was the highest-rated center, Unger was said to be a better prospect for the Seahawks and the zone blocking system because of his athleticism and footwork.

Unger played all three offensive line positions in college and is therefore a great utility sort of lineman. He played tackle his first two years in college, then moved inside to center. Although he practiced at guard, he said that he never got into the game at the guard position. Knapp said that he wants to give Spencer a chance to play center in the zone blocking system where he feels that he might be able to do better, even though in some respects the zone blocking system places higher demands on the center as far as calling out the alignment calls and blocking assignments.

Most likely according to Knapp, Unger will start out at the right guard spot with a possibility of moving over to the left if no one from the team steps up to man the left guard spot adequately (read into that "if Wahle doesn't recover"). Seattle probably got the best guard/center prospect there was in the draft for the zone blocking system and specifically for their team. This move will most likely end the Vallos experiment as a center except for an emergency situation as the third center.

Like Curry, Unger certainly comes off as a high-character guy and a player who is absolutely thrilled to be a Seahawk. I love it when a player wants to be a Seahawk like Lofa Tatupu did when he signed an extension to become a Seahawk for life. Unger sounds like another candidate to be that kind of a player. After guys like Josh Brown, both Curry and Unger are a breath of fresh air. It certainly seems logical that a player would put in an extra rep or two on the weights or a few extra yards on a wind sprint when he's playing for the team he truly wants to play for.

In interviews, Max was absolutely exuberant about being drafted by Seattle. He said that he was bummed when Seattle didn't draft him at number 37 and totally didn't expect it to happen after they traded away the pick. 12 picks later, Seattle made a move to get back into the second round and took Unger at 49. Unger said that the move to the inside from playing left tackle in his junior year was good for him and he enjoyed playing in the interior of the line. He prefers to play inside now and is comfortable playing either guard or center. He said the Seattle coaches told him that he'll play both center and guard and be a swing guy. When asked what he felt that he needed to work on the most to improve his game and prepare himself for playing in the NFL, he responded by saying that the speed of the game is what he feels that he most needs to get used to and prepare for.

Draft Thoughts

Seattle certainly looks as if they have selected two outstanding players on day one of the draft, both from a standpoint of being good human beings (as Mora went out of his way to comment on) as well as being outstanding players ready to come in and contribute right off the bat. I expect to see both players starting on opening day.

For the whole draft, Seattle came out of the draft with seven players from the seven rounds and an additional first rounder for next year as the icing on the cake. Once again, every player seems to have a great chance of making the team via the active roster or practice squad. Except for Ruskell's first year here when he only had a month to prepare for his first draft and to set up his draft board, every player from every draft made the team or practice squad in his rookie year (or was put on IR like longsnapper T. Schmitt). I think that once again there's a very good chance of every pick being on the team come opening day. This was another amazing draft weekend for Ruskell, and this time he proved that he indeed knew what to do with a high choice. He was masterful from the end of the season until the draft was over in setting up the whole affair and didn't disappoint when the chips were down.

Does anyone else wonder as I have whether not having Holmgren involved in this draft gave Ruskell the room he needed to operate more freely and clear the way for him to wheel and deal as he saw fit? I've always felt that, even though Ruskell was the GM, Holmgren had a pretty sizable footprint in the draft process and probably was in a position where he was necessarily consulted on just about every move made. With Holmgren gone, we may have seen the first draft where Ruskell was totally free to operate as he chose to do from the deception and misdirection handed out daily to the draft itself and the trades and wheeling and dealing that went on. That's pure speculation on my part, but this draft felt different and I think it's a reasonable conclusion that Holmgren may have had the power to force Ruskell to include him in almost all draft plans and decisions, thereby hamstringing Ruskell to some degree. This was by far Seattle's smoothest draft and the front office seemed to be better prepared to respond to opportunities than ever before.

Ruskell On The Hill Situation

Ruskell was interviewed and asked about removing the franchise tag from Hill. He said that the reason the tag was applied in the first place was to hasten negotiations and get a long term deal done. He then went on to say that wasn't happening, and furthermore Hill was missing camps where the new defense was being unveiled. He said that taking Curry gave them the opportunity to remove the tag in an effort to get negotiations moving again and get the two sides talking.

Ruskell said as a consequence there were talks going on right at that moment. He said that the whole organization was behind the move and that they fully understand that Hill's now a free agent and that they may lose him. If so, they have the $8.3 million to spend on other players so there is a trade off involved. They have already resigned cornerback Ken Lucas and signed fullback Justin Griffith with part of that money. He said that taking the tag off has both sides committed to getting a deal done and Hill himself has said to numerous people, including Mora and his agent, that he wants to remain a Seahawk.

Ruskell said that the tag actually was keeping the two sides from talking and stopped Hill and his agent from being proactive in the negotiations so that nothing was getting done whatsoever. Removing it forces the two sides to negotiate and get a deal done. He also said that the Seahawks were in an important time in their transition and that a lot of stuff was getting installed in the defense. Hill's not showing up at camp was hurting both the team and Hill's ability to pick up the defense. He reiterated that this was a new defense and that they needed everyone who was going to have a big role in the defense for the coming year to be on board and be getting the new information.

Ruskell said this was valuable time for any defensive player and they felt the situation could have gone on until the end of training camp with Hill not signing the tender and missing all that critical time learning the new defense. He felt they had to force Hill and his agent's hand and get the issue decided so the Seahawks could move in whatever direction they needed to without delay. He said that they felt that it was too high a price to pay to potentially have one of their three starting linebackers not learning the new defense until the season began as well as tying all the money up they needed to operate in acquiring additional players for the team.

Asked about what fallout and criticism Ruskell felt should be directed at him if Hill were to go to another team, Ruskell responded by saying that he didn't worry about the criticism and that everything he does is for the benefit of the team. He said this gave them options to do other things they felt they needed to do for the team and that they were unable to do before because of the amount of cap space that was being taken up by the tag. I assume signing Lucas and Griffith was one of those. He said the criticism would come and go according to how well the team played and that the ultimate objective was to get the team winning again. Ruskell said several times that they don't want to lose Hill, but that he felt it was necessary to get the situation resolved.

It seems that he was most worried that Hill and his agent would not conclude a long term deal with the Seahawks and that would potentially tie up the $8.3 million until next year when franchising him could be unaffordable and they would lose him anyway. Hill could hold off signing the tender until training camp was almost concluded and not be prepared to play in the new defensive scheme as well as tying up the money Seattle needed to fix other problems. That's a potential double whammy. For example, the team could have been left with Hill not being prepared to play on top of having to rely once again on Jennings and Wilson to man the second corner position because they couldn't afford to sign Lucas. I imagine the howls would start against the GM in that situation just as much as they will if we lose Hill. Ruskell's got the right idea in ignoring the criticism and focusing on improving the team by whatever means possible. Winning is the only way to stop the critics anyway.

I think Ruskell is 100% doing the right thing in forcing the deal to get done now if Hill is going to sign a long term deal with Seattle or have him move out so we can get whoever is going to play that linebacker spot into the defense now so they can acclimate to the new scheme. He also freed up the money and proceeded with the moves he wanted to make to further put the Seahawks in a position to succeed. If Hill was going to ultimately sign with the Seahawks before, he will still do so. If he was playing us, then Ruskell just put a quick halt to that plan. I think Ruskell expected a deal to be done by now but Hill and his agent decided to play hard to get and were holding the franchise tag money hostage. They decided not to sign the tender, so Ruskell took it off the table and now they have to do the deal or not. We can't wait and need the decision to be made now. Great move, Tim. We should pay Hill a fair contract, but not top 5 money until he's considered a top 5 linebacker.

Remember the Trufant deal which was holding up our ability to get other important deals done last year too until he finally signed his long term contract which freed up the tag money? The difference was that the negotiations with Trufant were always ongoing and the end was in sight, whereas with Hill there was zero progress and no talking going on. It had become an impasse and one that was starting to hurt the club by tying up the tag money. Say what you want about possibly losing Hill but there are other considerations to make and Ruskell has to balance all of them out. He did what needed to be done for the club to move forward. What would you have done?

I know some of you disagree with Ruskell's move, so feel free to have at it. I just ask that you keep it clean and respectful. I endorse what he did but that's just my opinion. Please feel free to put your two cents in on what ever side you feel is right. You all know I love Ruskell anyway, so I tend to think what he does is the best for the team.

Discuss away, fellow Addicts!


Bill T