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Updated: March 6, 2015
So much crap gets dumped on the head coach if his players don’t live up to expectations, but who takes the heat if those players simply aren’t very good? The General Manager.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at the Seattle Seahawks’ general managers and all of their mistakes. I’ll eventually get around to giving them credit where credit is due, but let’s face it: this is a team that’s never won a Super Bowl. Is it fair to place all of the blame on the following gentlemen? Of course not; you can do your best and still fail for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, I can’t help but look at these moves as contributing greatly to the Seahawks’ failings.
I’m a little fuzzy about the bulk of these guys; for the longest time, I never remember general managers for the Seahawks getting the kind of credit (or blame) that general managers for other sports got. There was never really a Seahawks-equivalent to Wally Walker or Woody Woodward when I was growing up. Probably because there was so much damn turnover within the organization. Still, it always felt like the head coach took most of the credit (or blame) for how teams finished. Until very recently, I’d never heard of Mike McCormack; I only knew Chuck Knox. The Seahawks were HIS team. Moves that were made corresponded accordingly.
The first general manager I remember despising in all of my sports fandom was Tom Flores. I knew he was our general manger because, in 1992 he became our head coach (and retained his title of general manager). In 1992, the Seahawks had the worst season I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime: 2-14. We would “improve” to 6-10 in 1993 and remain at 6-10 in 1994 (all three were last place finishes in the AFC West) before he finally retired in disgrace.
Following the Flores Reign, we had our VP of Football Operations, Randy Mueller run the team. I don’t know WHY I was unable to find any terrible trades, draft picks, or free agent signings under Mueller’s tenure, except to say that we were so very average, ordinary, the epitome of .500, that his moves were neither terrible nor amazing. Of course, he corresponds with Dennis Erickson’s term as head coach, so, you know.
I once again started paying attention to the Seahawks’ general manager in 1999, because that’s when Mike Holmgren arrived on the scene. Hindsight tells us he kinda got a raw deal in the whole thing, but you could say fans were wary to say the least. Tom Flores (Head Coach/GM) wasn’t completely forgotten around these parts; it was fair to ask, “Is handling both jobs too much for one man to handle?”
Look, no general manager is going to be perfect (except, apparently, Randy Mueller); EVERYONE is going to have bad moves they wish they could take back. Mike Holmgren is no exception. I think it’s a testament to his expertise that he ONLY had five real glaring bad moves. But, let’s face it, Mike Holmgren was brought in to be the savior. He got his start under Bill Walsh, coached for some other-worldly 49ers and Packers teams, and was given the keys to an entire franchise for an obscene amount of money and contract years. Anything short of Water Into Wine was going to be criticized accordingly.
Holmgren immediately kicked things off with a playoff appearance his first year, then spun his wheels until 2003. With the team 0-1 in the playoffs through the 2002 season, it was apparent to fans and management alike that Holmgren needed help (now, whether this was true in REALITY is another matter; I think he would’ve turned this franchise around without the help of subsequent general managers).
Bob Whitsitt, as Seahawks general manager, is probably worst known for signing Grant Wistrom (I don’t know what he’s BEST known for, but I reckon he probably had a good player or two come into the fold), but he wasn’t long for this organization.
Unlike Tim Ruskell, who stuck around WAY past his expiration date based solely on his 2005 draft (a.k.a. Lofa Tatupu in the 2nd round and ONLY Lofa Tatupu in the 2nd round). The beginning of the end for him came right after our Super Bowl appearance; like Woody Woodward, once he got a sniff of success, he immediately crapped all over himself. It started with the Steve Hutchinson fiasco and spiraled downward when he tried to buy his way back into the Championship Game. Tack on his utter impotence in the Draft, and you had yourself a 4-12 and a 5-11 team in his final two seasons.
Now, we’ve got John Schneider; only, you can’t say John Schneider without saying Pete Carroll as well. Whether or not these are the guys to bring us back to our glory days, you have to admit that the Seahawks did it right this time. It’s impossible to succeed when you don’t have the head coach and the general manager on the exact same page. That’s where we erred with Holmgren; we kept bringing in oil to his water and it ultimately ruined us.
Mike Holmgren will likely go down as the greatest Seahawks coach of all time, but the tumult he had to endure was a real slap in the face. He was given the keys to the franchise, then when he was on the precipice of glory, those keys were taken away and given to guys who didn’t mesh well with what he was trying to accomplish. If we had just given him more time to bring in the guys he wanted to bring in, we never would’ve heard the name Tim Ruskell. The ultimate “Fuck You” to Holmgren’s legacy was Ruskell hiring Jim Mora Jr. to be our secondary coach (and Head Coach In Waiting).
Luckily, we now have two guys who are working in conjunction with one another. So far, you have to like what you’re seeing if you’re a Seahawks fan. We may not have our “quarterback of the future” yet, but we’re also not reaching on quarterbacks who have no business in the NFL (Charlie Whitehurst aside, though the jury is still out on him; and besides, he’s only under contract for one more season). These guys aren’t throwing money at our problem because they know our problem is too big for money to make much of a difference. We need to build through drafts, plural. If 2011’s Draft is the bonanza I hope it is, we could be looking at something truly remarkable.
And if it’s not? Then we’re looking at a real mess on our hands. The world of the NFL is a Win Now world. Schneider and Carroll have a little leeway now because they just started (and because they took a bunch of losers into the 2nd round of the playoffs); but give it a couple more years. If we’re not back contending for championships, then it’ll be time to usher in the next management and coaching tandem.
Mike McCormack (1983 – 1988)
April 28, 1987 – Brian Bosworth, 1st Round Supplemental Draft Pick
April 23, 1988 – Undisclosed Draft Picks to Phoenix Cardinals for Kelly Stouffer
Tom Flores (1989 – 1994)
April 21, 1991 – Dan McGwire, 1st Round Draft Pick
April 25, 1993 – Rick Mirer, 1st Round Draft Pick
February 25, 1994 – Nate Odomes signs 4-year, $8.4 million deal
Randy Mueller (VP Football Operations 1995 – 1998)
Mike Holmgren (Jan 8, 1999 – 2002)
April 17, 1999 – Lamar King, 1st Round Draft Pick
April 14, 2000 – Ahman Green & 5th Round Pick to Green Bay Packers for Fred Vinson & 6th Round Pick
April 15, 2000 – Chris McIntosh, 1st Round Draft Pick
April 21, 2001 – Koren Robinson, 1st Round Draft Pick
April 20, 2002 – Jerramy Stevens, 1st Round Draft Pick
Bob Whitsitt (2003 – 2004)
March 4, 2004 – Grant Wistrom signs 6-year, $33 million deal
April 24, 2004 – Marcus Tubbs, 1st Round Draft Pick
Tim Ruskell (2005 – 2009)
February 23, 2006 – Steve Hutchinson assigned Transition Tag
March 5, 2006 – Shaun Alexander re-signs for 8-year, $62 million deal
March 24, 2006 – Nate Burleson signs 7-year, $49 million deal
April 29, 2006 – Kelly Jennings, 1st Round Draft Pick
September 11, 2006 – 1st Round Pick in 2007 to New England Patriots for Deion Branch
March 4, 2008 – T.J. Duckett signs 5-year, $14 million deal
March 7, 2008 – Julius Jones signs 4-year, $11.8 million deal
March 2, 2009 – T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs 5-year, $40 million deal
April 25, 2009 – Aaron Curry, 1st Round Draft Pick
John Schneider (Jan 2010 – Present)
March 17, 2010 – #40 overall draft pick & 2011 3rd round draft pick to San Diego Chargers for Charlie Whitehurst & #60 overall draft pick; Whitehurst signed to 2-year, $8 million deal
March 11, 2013 – #25 & #214 overall draft picks & 2014 3rd round draft pick to Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin; Harvin signed to 6-year, $67 million deal