Chicago Sun-Times

A closer look at Tim Ruskell's drafts in Seattle

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When he was hired by the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, Tim Ruskell walked into a difficult situation as the team's president of football operations and general manager.

Before that, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren had long held the general manager title, as well, so there were some natural issues between the two men. Sources told me that things were fine initially, but they gradually worsened, as the Seahawks started to struggle. As Jason Babin told me last month, he was caught in the middle, when Ruskell traded safety Michael Boulware for him in 2007. A second-round pick in 2004, Boulware didn't start a single game for the Houston Texans and was out of the league after 2007. Babin, meanwhile, has been a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, and he racked up 30 1/2 sacks the last two seasons.

But he did so for the Tennessee Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles because Holmgren refused to play him in Seattle. In fact, Babin appeared in just four games in two seasons.

The point is, you have to take a more in-depth look at Ruskell's personnel decisions. The easiest way is to look at the draft picks. There are duds, like any other GM, but he also has players who didn't thrive in Seattle but are doing fine elsewhere. That points to the power struggle between him and Holmgren.

Here, then, is a closer look at the drafts he led in Seattle:

2009

1st round, 4th overall - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest - He certainly didn't produce the way one would expect of a top-five pick. But that draft class was obviously weak at the top, with only No. 1 selection Matthew Stafford playing at a Pro Bowl level. A bunch of other players selected around Curry have been disappointments, including offensive tackle Jason Smith (2nd), defensive end Tyson Jackson (3rd) and quarterback Mark Sanchez (No. 5). Curry is now in Oakland, and he started nine of 11 games there.

2nd round, 49th overall - Max Unger, C, Oregon - He's developed into a more than solid center, which is why the Seahawks let veteran Chris Spencer walk away.

3rd round, 91st overall - Deon Butler, WR, Penn State - Disappointment in three seasons, with four touchdowns and eight starts.

THE REST - Seventh-round pick Nick Reed made an appearance in Chicago and didn't exactly thrill anyone. But, safety Courtney Greene, another seventh-rounder, has started 13 games in the last two seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A third seventh-rounder, tight end Cameron Morrah, remains on the Seahawks.

2008

1st round, 28th overall - Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC - After earning 6 ½ sacks in two seasons with the Seahawks, he was traded to the Detroit Lions for a sixth-round pick. He has 10 ½ sacks the last two seasons as a backup for the Lions.

2nd round, 38th overall - John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame - He had a quiet year, but Carlson had 12 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons.

4th round, 121st overall - Red Bryant, DT, Texas A&M - The Seahawks didn't have a third, but they selected Bryant, who scored a touchdown against the Bears this season.

THE REST - Fullback Owen Schmitt (5th) only started two games in two seasons for the Seahawks, but he's started 10 for the Eagles the last two seasons. Seventh-round pick Justin Forsett, a running back, has eight touchdowns in the last three seasons as a reserve.

2007
1st round, 24th overall - Traded the pick to the New England Patriots in order to get Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch. The Pats selected safety Brandon Meriweather.

2nd round, 55th overall - Josh Wilson, CB, Maryland - In his second and third NFL seasons, he started a combined 24 games and intercepted six passes and defended 22 others. He was traded in 2010 to the Baltimore Ravens for a conditional pick that ended up being a fifth-rounder. After starting nine games for the Ravens, he signed a free-agent contract with the Redskins, where he's a starter.

3rd round, 85th overall - Brandon Mebane, DT, California - In five seasons, he's started 69 games for the Seahawks.

THE REST - Guard Mansfield Wrotto, a fourth-rounder, started seven games for the Bills in 2010, and he's currently on the Bears roster. Linebacker Will Herring (fifth) and offensive tackle Steve Vallos (seventh) are backups in New Orleans and Cleveland, respectively.

2006

1st round, 31st overall - Kelly Jennings, CB, Miami (Fla.) - The late first-round pick started 44 games for the Seahawks over five seasons. And while he was prolific defending passes, he wasn't very good at intercepting passes (just two picks) or defending receivers. He played in 13 games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011, but Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 69th best cornerback in its rating of the position.

2nd round, 63rd overall - Darryl Tapp, DE, Virginia Tech - In four seasons in Seattle, he started 32 games and contributed 18 sacks and eight forced fumbles. In the last two seasons, he's had 5 ½ sacks for the Eagles.

4th round, 128th overall - Rob Sims, G, Ohio State - After starting 34 games in four seasons for the Seahawks, he was traded to the Lions for defensive end Robert Henderson. Sims has started 32 games at guard for the Lions over the last two seasons.

THE REST - Fifth-round pick David Kirtman, a fullback, hasn't played in a game since 2008. But seventh-round receiver Ben Obomanu has been a decent contributor to the Seahawks the last five seasons.

2005

1st round, 26th overall - Chris Spencer, C, Mississippi - After sitting behind a veteran as a rookie, Spencer stepped into the starting lineup in 2006 and started 70 games over the next five seasons. He wasn't offered an opportunity to return, and the Bears signed him and started 14 games at guard in 2011.

2nd round, 45th overall - Lofa Tatupu, MLB, USC - Immediate impact player, during a season the Seahawks won the division and reached the Super Bowl. But after being selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls, Tatupu didn't play in a single game last season.

3rd round, 85th overall -David Greene, QB, Georgia - Wasted draft pick, as he's never appeared in an NFL game. He last appeared on the NFL radar in November 2008.

3rd round, 98th overall - Leroy Hill, OLB, Clemson - Been a consistent contributor and starter, especially as a rookie with 7 ½ sacks.

THE REST - Offensive tackle Ray Willis (fourth round) started 26 games in 2008 and 2009, but he's currently a backup in New Orleans. But the four players selected in rounds five through seven combined to play in just 15 NFL games, with not a single start among them.

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23 Comments

Please, please hire Tim Ruskell. This way we know Chicago will be out of the playoffs for years to come!

Yawn. Looks very Jerry. Where's the pro-bowlers and all pros?

Uh-oh. Looks like the Bears have asked their beat writers to start talking up Tim Ruskell who is not respected as a talent evaluator anywhere in the league. Sure - he could be a solid C- for Chicago...but how about the Bears go out and interview top notch candidates with a ceiling a little higher than C-. Sean Jensen and the Bears make the mistake that is a hallmark of all losers - accepting mediocrity.

I just LOVE Tim Ruskell! He's a genuine Bumsteader.

Hey, what are all these Bulls basketball posts doing in the Bears blog section below this one?

42xrfsShut it Bumstead, Neil Hayes is just a little lonely, you be nice to him.

He Jensen how about a look at some of his FA and trades.

Oh and Max Unger is more than a solid Center, yeah right? First of all a first and second round draft pick to fill the center positon, and how about a list of some of the guys they skipped on like Logan Mankins. Yes Chris Spencer over Logan Mankins, don't know who thought that was a good idea but really? PFF has Unger ranked 17th, I am not sure the 17th most productive Center is more than solid. Oh wait dah! Your in Chicago now where the Bears gave Garza a raise and said he did a wonderful job, in comparison Max Unger is the golden god of blocking. Tell us where did Garza finish in PFF's ranking system, oh I can't wait, let me tell the fans. Roberto Garza ranked 34th out of 35 Center.

Dude it's the Angelo draft, no real Blue Chips, some mediocre talent a couple of decent players, and a lack of ability to fill certain positions like reciever. He also struggled to build an O-Line, he also had his Angelo moment when he swallowed the poison pill.

Oh and Sean why were you talking to Jason Babin last month about Tim Ruskell? "As Jason Babin told me last month, he was caught in the middle, when Ruskell traded safety Michael Boulware for him in 2007. A second-round pick in 2004." Angelo was fired January third, 7 days ago, anything you would like to share? Something you would like to say insider, wink, wink.

Sean not sure why your trying to put a shine on this pig of a draft history, but it is mediocre at best and his history as a GM is bad. I know your a glass half full guy, but remember one thing that the Bears said. They need to catch Green bay and the only way to do that is to draft better than them. Are those draft picks better than the ones Green bay made? It's not even close, you can't argue a guy for GM because he is not the worst GM ever, rather he is just your run of the mill bad.

Basically Seattle hired a new GM in Ruskell, and he clashed with the coach he was handed after he started to see less and less performance from his players. Both men were fired this after Ruskell was already fired from Tampa. Holmgren and Ruskell had a bit of a power struggle.

So how is this any different than the Lovie situation? Lovie and Phillips just threw Angelo under the bus, you don't think he will clash with Ruskell if or toss him under the bus if things go bad. Are you kidding that's what Lovie does.

Ruskell is not going to make you better than the Packers. The truth is it's cheap to hire Ruskell, Angelo is getting 5 million from the Bears even though he is fired. The Bears are not looking very hard for a GM. DO you really think the Ravens who do not like the Bears are going to do them any favors?

1 real question what has Ruskell done to earn the job? He has been fired from two similar jobs and only been here a year. What has he done to earn the Bears GM job.

Phillips is proving he does not know what he is doing, he is being passive in his GM search, you want a guy you go get him and you give him full GM powers. You don't wait for people to come and beg you for a job. And that move with the Titans, are you kidding me? What kind of football dummy goes to a team and asks permission to talk to one of their guys to make a lateral move? Who does that? Is he totally lost ? You might as well go to the Packers and ask to talk to Ted Thompson, unreal.

"Hey I don't know what I am doing can I have some of your guys to help us?" "Ummm we want you to be Lovie's boss but he is really your boss and you have to do it his way."

>42xrfsShut it Bumstead, Neil Hayes is just a little lonely, you be nice to him.

Sorry Creighton, but it's just a Bumstead gaffe on the part of Neil Hayes to be posting four entries about the Bulls, all dated Jan. 9, 2012, on the Inside the Bears blog.

Man, Sean after your article about-

"The Bears don't need many changes," just some tweaks column.

And this sugar-coating of this dudes sketchy drafts,

I'm convinced you are becoming too much of an insider...

Are the buffets that good up in Halas hall that you guys lose some perspective after awhile?

The Bears(simply) can NOT AFFORD a BAD Draft/Free Agent signing period for 2012, you know how many years this would put us back???

We can't wait on draft picks with pre-existing health problems that will cost them a year or 2.
We CANNOT afford to sign free-agents that take 15-16 to get their behinds in gear.

As it stands right now putting this guy in as an "interim", all ready means there's a chance there will another "Upheaval", if the team stinks and Lovie is fired.

Sean-
I tend to think positive but, the idea of re-hashing these types of scenarios- AGAIN next year is something no one wants to go through.

Whomever is the GM has to knock the draft/free Agent signings out the park.
Will we FINALLY get A BIG WR? Another stud "o" linemen? a Tall CB?
A pass rushing DE? The next GM will probably be replacing 8-12 players. there's a lot of dead weight in this team.

Judging by this guy's resume, I'm nervous.

Sean,
One question for you...Is the GM's job to bring in players who will succeed with other teams? Because that is his only hallmark as a talent evaluator. Your job as a GM is to bring in players that succeed for the teams that pay them. Ruskell has failed miserably at that, as did Angelo. Tagging him as our next GM is basically saying to the entire organization and fan base that we don't care about the draft, which is the difference between teams like Pittsburgh and Green Bay, and teams like us. Free agency should not be to cover up for drafting failures...Free agency is supposed to fill in a gap around developed young players.

Ruskell hasn't made an impact draft pick at all in his tenure. Mebane is a solid player, but you could consider that the same way Briggs in Chicago should be considered. They fell into that success because of a player who developed beyond what they expected. We need to change things, not keep them the same or make them worse...If nothing else, Lovie needs to know he is not the head of the organization, so appointing his next lackey is not the way to go.

After looking at that list, how can the Bears say talent evaluation is a priority and still keep a straight face? It seems obvious that Lovie is looking for someone to treat him with kid gloves and he thinks Ruskell is that guy.

Good job Sean. It's nice to see someone focus on the facts instead of nonsensibly raving like a lot of these posts. Ruskell is the only GM candidate that can work with Lovie and has the experience to turn the Bears around quickly. If it doesn't work in two years, blow iit up and prepare to rebuild.

Hi. I saw this article linked from a Seahawks blog and thought I'd weigh in.

The knock on Ruskell in Seattle was that he was extremely risk-averse, almost exclusively drafting four-year players from major college programs. He didn't look for sleepers or underclassmen with upside. Instead, he focused on limiting downside, and so what he got was about what you'd expect: a collection of players who are good enough to play in the NFL, but not players who wow you.

You might be able to explain some of that with the fact that in his first year, the Seahawks were 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl. They continued to be a playoff team for a couple more years after that as well. So he wasn't out to make major changes to the roster or shake things up in a big way. He was looking for role players to fit in and fill gaps. That's a mistake in itself: a great roster one year can be an aging roster a few years later in the NFL. You always have to be replenishing your talent with guys who can make a difference. Ruskell seems to have learned that the hard way.

Ruskell did seem to strike gold with Lofa Tatupu. That was his very first draft, so he had a great reputation for a while. Unfortunately he wasn't able to do it again. He did have a pretty good track record in the second and third rounds: Mebane, Hill, Wilson, etc. John Carlson was very promising, but the team had to use him as a blocker too frequently, and he lost the 2011 season to injury. But due to Ruskell's apparent allergy to players with upside, his first-round picks were uninspiring, and he didn't find any great flyers in the late rounds either. Watching the draft on TV, my response to his first-round picks (Spencer, Jennings, Jackson) was usually less jumping for joy than saying "really? um, okay, but couldn't they have gotten that guy in the second round?"

Ruskell also puts a lot of emphasis on character. That might be partly a reaction to Holmgren's history of drafting shaky characters (Koren Robinson, Jerramy Stevens, etc.). The guys Ruskell drafts usually steer clear of trouble. There's a question of whether he maybe took that too far, wiping players off his draft boards for the slightest off-the-field concerns.

One correction to a previous post: he wasn't fired in Tampa Bay. He left voluntarily to go to Atlanta for a year, then took his first GM job in Seattle. He was director of college scouting in Tampa Bay, and they had some good teams with his draftees (including the Super Bowl team), for what it's worth.

Well anyway, good luck guys.

Yeah and Mike Martz left voluntarily as well. No he was fired and so was Angelo, who also supposedly moved on.

Of the three men that ran the drafting and free agents in Tampa only one has showed real success in the front office. Rich McCay, the other two have stank it up. Believe he did not build that Tampa team. In fact if you know that Bucs team you know the offense was mostly FA's and that McCay built the defense. And if you ever listen to Warren Sapp neither of these guys was respected in Tampa.

Go outsude the organization on this hire. We need new blood and an unbiased evaluation of the talent on this team to move forward. Ruskell has been in the BEARS system and will see the glass more as half full, than what most of us see it as, have empty.....Go BEARS get a new outside GM and let the draft watch begin!

Also people are not considering the fact that Seattle was the top team in the west for a short time and the cornerstone players of the franchise were all there before he got there and he did do much to build around them. You also have the fact that the west then and now is was and is one of the weakest divisions in football. Thta's not the case in the north were you have the current Champs who are one of the best teams in football and the Lions who are a good football team. The goal is not to be as good as the Lions the goal is to be the best in the division which means being better than the Packers.

Who are the cornerstones that Ruskell put in place in seattle. Plus saying someone was a starter does not make them a good player it just means you didn't have anyone better. Greene started 13 games in two years for the Jags, who cares ? That makes him a part time starter on bad, bad team. Hill has been solidand Lofta has been his best player. Sims is horrible and is nothing more than a stop gap on a bad Lions line. Kelly Jennings spent a lot of his career in Seattle at nickle, Mebane is a solid player but that's about it. Hey Chris Spencer started for the Bears line, that must make him good cause he started for one of the worst lines in football. Bad players never start in the NFL. Al Afalava started a bunch of games in his short Bears career, that makes him a stud.

Oh and the excuse that most of the players who drafted at the top of the 2009 draft were bad so that makes it ok to draft bad players is not exactly the view you want to have when drafting. There is a reason those teams were drafting in the top 10, Stafford was a hit, the Rams made a bad draft pick oh what a shock, the Chiefs actually made a solid pick in Jackson, Seattle drafted a LB in the top 4 because he was fast and athletic and also a bust, Jets are paying for taking Sanchez, even I told peoplo to stay away from Andrea Smith but Armstead and the Bengles wouldn't listen, the Raiders picked Bey a reach and oh wow Al Davis did something crazy, Packers took Raji, oh wow they were already out drafting Ruskell before he got here, that's a great sign, and Crabtree was a good pick, not his fault he was stuck wit hthe QB mess in San Fran at the time, but had a solid year in a run happy offense with an average QB. I am sick of teams talking about draft value at a position, you know what if you need a draft report to draft your players your not doing your damn job. Well Kiper gave Curry a high Draft grade so he has draft value. You know who has draft value? Good damn players who fit your system. ESPN keeps pumping up players and it seems these scouts and GM's are listening to them.

As for Babin he has been back and fourth on 6 different nfl teams in his career and while he had a great year this year, from 2005 to 2009 he was not a starter for 4 nfl teams including the Texans who drafted him and the Eagles who didn't get anything out of him until his second run with the team this year. From 2005 to 2009 the reason Babin didn't start was because he was bad not because of Holmngren, if that was the case why didn't he start with the Chiefs and Eagles? Was the Seattle infighting so big it effected him on two different teams. Babin has had a few knocks on him over the years. He didn't start in Seattle because he was bad back then, he was bad before then and he was bad after then.

You know Mark Anderson was horrible for the Bears, he had a big rookie year followed by a whole lot of bad, but he had a good year with the Pats, so that means he was good back wit hthe Bears right? No I saw him play he sucked, he made sucking at football an art form and that's why he is gone. Just like Babin was gone from several teams over his career.

What do you have against thinking men?

True, Rich McKay was the brains behind the Bucs success. It wasn't Angelo and Ruskell, for sure. Angelo hit on John Lynch but probably meant to hand in a different card.

As usual, looks like another Bear disaster. Can't wait to see who the Bears hire for GM so we can all be embarrassed. I'll say it again: if the Bears really want to win, fire Ted Phillips and hire a team president who knows football.

It won't happen, Wrigley Field Bear. I'll say it again, the McCaskeys are the problem; they love Ted Phillips. He is either their accountant or something akin. George Halas's expense account once contained an error or omission or something like that, which Phillips caught when he was a weensy bean counter. It so impressed the frugal old tightwad that he put Ted on payroll. Money always rules in that family. Who's going to fire Phillips? In pointing your finger at Phillips you are on the right path - you just need to go one step farther. Look at the organizational chart, pal. That's how it works in the real world. You have to go to the top.

Creighton, you're just plain wrong about Ruskell's departure from Tampa Bay. McKay left to go to Atlanta and Ruskell went with him. Ruskell had the same job in Atlanta as he did in Tampa Bay, held it for one year and then went on to take his first GM job in Seattle. He was not fired.

Ruskell was director of college scouting from 1992-2001. During that time they drafted John Lynch (1993), Warren Sapp (1995), Derrick Brooks (1995), Mike Alstott (1996), Donnie Abraham (1996), Warrick Dunn (1997), Ronde Barber (1997), Al Harris (1997), Brian Kelly (1998), Anthony McFarland (1999) and Dexter Jackson (1999). Sure, some of them were no-brainers, like Sapp, who should have been a top-5 (maybe even #1 overall) but slipped because of a dumb marijuana test. But that's still a lot of good picks. You can say he gets no credit for that, but unfortunately that's just making things up. And for a director of college scouting who had no part in the team's successful college scouting, that would have to have been one crazy decision when they promoted him after 2001.

Where did you hear that about Angelo and Lynch? McKay was the GM in 1993 and Angelo was in charge of Pro Player when Lynch was drafted, in fact before 93 the Bucs drafts were largely disasters. Before 93 Angelo was in charge of the draft. Jerry had 10 years to build a winner but didn't then McKay was brought in and 4 years later you had the title contending Bucs, Jerry often likes to take credit for this, or likes say "boy we turned that around." No McKay turned it around and Angelo and Ruskell tagged along. Have you noticed how much talent the Falcons have on that team? They need a new head coach though.

I think McKay is great, I wish he would stop telling the Bears that everyone who works for him is great, cause he is killing Bears.

**"I'll say it again: if the Bears really want to win, fire Ted Phillips and hire a team president who knows football."**

Don't say it again, because it's not true. Ownership is the underlying problem. Jim McMahon and other former Bears players have confirmed it. Ted Phillips and Lovie are the symptoms, McCaskeys are the disease.

I've been saying for years that the McCheapskys are the problem; read my posts. I've also been calling for a boycott of the home games. That's how we got Halas to take us seriously in the mid '70s, when the Bears were a laughingstock, and he ended up hiring Jim Finks who turned the team around. (Not that there was a formal boycott or even a plan, but for the first time in decades home games didn't sell out and Halas was embarrassed. Plus he probably also realized how much TV revenue he was losing.)

As long as home games continue to sell out and the McKaskeys make a lot of money, winning will be second to making money. But if fans show them that they can't make money unless they win, they'll be forced to make a little less instead of a lot less.

Here's what I've got on the Lynch/Angelo connection:
John Lynch drafted by Tampa in 1993.
Jerry Angelo, Director of Player Personnel, 1994-2003
Rich McKay, General Manager, 1994-2003

Source: Wikipedia (not infallible)

Also, I think I personaaly heard somewhere that when Lynch retired he called Angelo and thanked him for having the faith in him...I believe it was to draft him, but don't know exact words now.

Yep, I've noted the Falcon drafts. Pretty impressive since McKay got there. He always was a quick study, even at USC as Pat Haden's guy on the field.

The name Les Snead for GM popped up last week and has now disappeared. He is the man in charge of college personnel under McKay now at Atlanta

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on January 10, 2012 3:29 PM.

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