When Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle in 2010, he was taking over a Seahawks franchise that had fallen into complete dysfunction following their only Super Bowl appearance in 2005.
General manager Tim Ruskell botched the handling of All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson by going behind head coach Mike Holmgren’s back and only placing a transition tag on Hutchinson when the front office had collectively decided to franchise him prior to the NFL combine in 2006. It opened the door for Minnesota to sign Hutchinson to an offer sheet with a “poison pill” included that made the deal impossible for Seattle to match.
The mistake was one of many incidents that led to a falling out between Ruskell and Holmgren as the team that won the NFC in 2005 began to fall apart at the seams.
Ruskell constantly missed in finding productive players in the draft and Seattle’s veteran team began to break down. In Ruskell’s five years as general manager, the Seahawks drafted just two players that would become Pro Bowl selections in linebacker Lofa Tatupu (2005) and center Max Unger (2009). Carroll had three Pro Bowl selections in his first draft class alone in left tackle Russell Okung, safety Earl Thomas and safety Kam Chancellor. In addition, wide receiver Golden Tate – Seattle’s second round pick in 2010 – just signed a big second contract with the Detroit Lions.
Ruskell drafted more fullbacks (three) than running backs (one, Justin Forsett) and failed to hit on any of his first-round draft picks.
In 2008, Ruskell selected San Diego State long-snapper Tyler Schmitt in the sixth-round of the draft. In addition to the oddity of drafting a long-snapper in general, Schmitt’s back was so jacked up he only appeared briefly in one preseason game.
“He is a young man and has a back like mine. So it’s not good,” Holmgren said at the time. Holmgren was 60 years old at the time. Schmitt was just 22.
It was a microcosm of the ineffectiveness of Seattle’s personnel department under Ruskell.
Holmgren went 4-12 in his final season as head coach in 2008 with Ruskell promoting Jim Mora to head coach for the 2009 season. Mora led Seattle to a 5-11 record as Ruskell resigned midseason. Mora was then fired after just one season as head coach with owner Paul Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke convincing Carroll to return to the NFL.
The roster Carroll had inherited was old, small and slow in comparison to many other teams across the league. Under Carroll, Seattle won a historically weak NFC West in 2010 and pulled off an upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Seattle compiled 284 roster moves in their first year with Carroll at the helm in an attempt to overturn the roster.
The Seahawks have now made the playoffs in three of Carroll’s four seasons as head coach and won games in the postseason each time. Seattle won their first Super Bowl in February with a 43-8 thrashing of the Denver Broncos.
Along with general manager John Schneider, Pete Carroll has righted the ship that had fallen so horrendously off-course under Tim Ruskell. The success has earned Carroll a well-deserved contract extension.