Thursday, April 23, 2009

Will '09 Draft Define Ruskell's Career?

by: Michael Steffes

The Seahawks brass -- Ruskell, Webster, and Mora -- all spoke to the media one last time today. They didn't give anything away, unless you consider that significance of the numbers when Ruskell said this:

There aren’t people that every team has a consensus that says these are franchise guys who are going to be in the Hall of Fame. You just don’t have that. And then the people underneath, because you have a lot of underclassmen, you put them in that band of grade scale where the third may not be that much different that the 13th guy.
What I found to be more interesting to note, and thus converse about was the question posed to Ruskell on whether or not this draft will define his legacy. The question likely rose from this Steve Kelly column. Here is what Ruskell said:
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t think that way. I don’t worry about my legacy. I absolutely do not. It’s absolutely not important. What we want to do is bring in the best football player we can to help this football team right way. That’s all that matters.”
We can debate the sincerity of these comments, but I tend to believe Ruskell. There is a lot of distaste for his work, and that is okay. There aren't too many GMs who are universally loved by the fans. Bill Polian and Bill Belichek, maybe? And it wasn't too long ago that this fanbase were pretty pleased with Ruskell. There is one thing that no Seahawk fan can accuse Ruskell of and that is not trying.

There are teams like the Green Bay Packers who haven't signed an important free agent in years, and there are teams like the Skins who cough up draft picks and big money for overpriced vets every year. Ruskell seems to have found a nice balance between those two extremes. The team isn't in salary cap hell by any means, but it also isn't $25 million under it like some teams either. But here are the facts: the Seahawks went to a Superbowl the first year Ruskell was here, and they haven't been back since. Two divisional round playoff losses and a 4-12 season have followed.

On top of that, the recent drafts haven't produced stars like the first Ruskell draft, when the team found Lofa and Leroy. So does 2009 define his legacy? I doubt it. People are quick to speculate that Ruskell could be on the hot seat, but I don't see it. Paul Allen has never been quick to fire people. The Blazers became an unmitigated disaster before he got involved. Bob Whitsett survived years of incompetency, and this Seahawks regime has been far from incompetent. Making the playoffs most years makes the owner money, and so far there has only been one bad year, and there were extenuating circumstances to be considered for that one year.

If somehow Tim Ruskell were to find the only bust in the top 10, then maybe this draft could define his legacy. But does anybody think he would take a high risk player? I don't. I suspect he would take someone he can get something out of before he takes a hit-or-miss prospect. Maybe he'll even pull off a huge trade? I guess that could define his legacy, too.

Hey, whadda ya know? Maybe this draft WILL define Ruskell's time here. The team is certainly at a crossroads. And with a GM who demands a team-first attitude from his players, I am confident he is more worried about the team right now than his legacy. And if it doesn't work out here, I got a feeling with his record, he would find a new job pretty darn quick, anyway. END