Many in the Field Gulls community know the work of Ruston Webster. Others know the name but not the significance of the man. Webster was Tim Ruskell's right-hand man. His official title was Vice-president of Player Personnel. He is now the team's acting general manager.
Webster represents the Seahawks best chance to retain the Ruskell way without retaining Ruskell. If you don't know what that means, this excellent story written by Doug Farrar in 2006 can shed some light.
The Seahawks have one of the NFL's most detailed methods when divining the true nature of a prospect, and it starts with the area scouts and the man-hours they put in. "They start looking at (players) the summer before, so that could be a five- or six-hour process," he said. "Then, they go in August and see them in their training camps, and that's an all-day deal. We ask our scouts to visit our prospects three times. Then, there's the cross-check. Then, there's the All-Star Game. Then, there's the bowl game, if he's there. Then, there's the Combine. Then, there's the workout. It adds up.
"It's a lot of man-hours. When you talk about all the people involved, especially the area scout - he would be the number-one guy."
Spoken like a former area scout.
And from this story, Rob Rang's take on Webster himself:
“Webster is very highly regarded throughout the league for his eye for talent and dedication to the craft,” Rang said. “He and Ruskell seem to share similar philosophies on grading prospects. Both have the ability to locate players outside of the first few rounds that fit the specific requirements of the schemes their coaches prefer. Each also shows the ability to accurately project the board, maneuvering through the draft to address positions of need, while still maintaining value.
. . .
However, the two men are not carbon copies of each other – Webster has a few less compunctions about casting a slightly wider net at times. “The one notable difference between Ruskell and Webster is that the latter has shown at least some willingness to gamble in the late rounds and in free agency on players with off-field questions,” Rang noted.
And finally a look at Webster from 2002, from Bucpower.com:
After Webster finishes his phone calls, he begins watching film of the player he's going to visit that week. Tuesdays are dedicated to watching more tape. Wednesdays are road days. Webster and the team's area scouts arrive at various college campuses in the morning, and begin by watching tape there. Then it's time for practice, where the scouts get an up- close look. ``You get more out of the tape, but you need to see the player in person,'' Ruskell said. ``Just to get the body language, how he moves in relation to the rest of the team. And what he's doing in between plays and how he affects a game, what is his role in a game. You can't get a lot of that off the tape. While tape documents talent and skills, face-to-face meetings provide opportunities to examine a player's character. It's huge,'' Ruskell said. ``You have to go to the school and hear what the coaches say about the guy. ... They can give you a good-faith estimate.''
Thursdays and Fridays are similar to Wednesdays, but at different locations. While some NFL teams don't send scouts to Saturday games, there aren't many Saturdays where every member of the Bucs' scouting staff (and sometimes General Manager Rich McKay) aren't on the road for a college contest. ``Some teams feel that they've scouted all week so they'll give them Saturday off,'' Ruskell said.
Ruskell was always a better scout than general manager. His greatest success came in the draft and his greatest failures from over-management. Justin Forsett embodies Ruskell's managerial career. Ruskell hit a homerun by drafting Forsett in the seventh round. It had his fingerprints all over it: High achiever in a major conference, undervalued because of concerns about size and NFL-ready athleticism, that fell because of a historically stacked running back class. Less than a year after hitting that homerun, he made, in my opinion, the worst move of his career by cutting Forsett to retain, among other fungible pieces, Brandon Coutu. Seattle lucked into Forsett returning to the team, but the mistake was made.
Promoting Webster to President and General Manager retains the methodology that earned Seattle so many talented late and mid-round selections. It, hopefully, dismisses the reactive and often hasty roster maneuvers and free agent signings.
Webster is a guarded favorite. He knows Seattle's players, is likely to retain Seattle's coaching staff and is the best candidate to build off what Ruskell has started. He isn't an offensive mastermind or high profile, and for the people who "hate" Ruskell, rationally or irrationally, Webster is a conservative, graceful pick and not a radical, franchise-rebuilding pick.
If you think Seattle is rebuilding but on its way, and the team itself can convince the front office of that by winning, Webster is a solid candidate. If you think this ship needs to be sunk, and only as many players as can fit on life rafts retained, Webster is little more than a middle man, riding the ship down in place of the departed captain.