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Seahawks draft history: From the dark into the light, or in other words, a look back at the Tim Ruskell era

Entering the fourth draft under Pete and John, it's important to look back at the guy that ran the show for the five years prior. Just how bad (or good) was Tim Ruskell?

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

You won't find a picture of Tim Ruskell in this article, because SBNation apparently has no pictures of Tim Ruskell. That's because Ruskell is a former front office person of Seattle before SBNation really got the ball rolling on photo rights and such, but I also sort of think of it as a microcosm of how I'll remember Ruskell: We will never forget that he was here but I'd rather not see him.

Of course, not everybody has a bad opinion about Ruskell and not everything Ruskell did while he was in charge of the Seahawks was bad. That's partly why when Ruskell was fired and replaced (momentarily) by interim general manager Ruston Webster in December of 2009, John Morgan wrote about how Webster could be a good solution to keep the ideology of Ruskell without having to keep the man himself:

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.

Thankfully, Seattle did not retain its coaches. (Well, not all of them. Not the most important one that had to go.) Though they could have; three days after that article came out, the Seahawks beat the 49ers and improved to 5-7. With .500 in reach, Jim Mora could keep his job, maybe Webster has the interim tag removed, Seattle stays the course with the belief that they could get back to the "slightly-above-mediocrity is good enough to win the NFC West every year" mentality. That 5-7 record quickly turned to 5-11 in ugly fashion and Mora was rightfully fired.

The perception at times during 2009 could have been that the team was "not that bad", especially after a 28-0 win over the Rams in Week 1 or a 41-0 win over the Jaguars in Week 5. But we have also learned that good teams also rarely get blown out. By the end of the year, nine of their eleven losses were by double-digits. They beat the Rams twice, when the Rams went 1-15. They beat the Lions, who went 2-14. They didn't beat anyone with a record over .500.

Shut it down.

It's easy to be critical of Ruskell now, but heck, Mike Holmgren's first draft pick was Lamar King. His entire first draft in 1999 was awful. He would later draft Shaun Alexander, Darrell Jackson, Steve Hutchinson, Ken Lucas, Heath Evans, Floyd Womack, Maurice Morris, and Rocky Bernard. There's some good-to-great names in there with only four years as the general manager. After Holmgren stepped down, Bob Ferguson acted as GM for two years and drafted Marcus Trufant, Ken Hamlin, Seneca Wallace, Josh Brown, Michael Boulware, Sean Locklear, and Craig Terrill among others. He signed players like Chike Okeafor and Grant Wistrom as well, but after two disappointing finishes, Ferguson stepped down after '04.

This begins the Tim Ruskell era in 2005, which of course becomes the only Super Bowl run in franchise history and will forever be tied to Ruskell, but how much did he change from the players that Holmgren and Ferguson brought in? How responsible is he for the 2005 Super Bowl appearance and the downfall that led to his dismissal and the hiring of John Schneider and Pete Carroll in 2010?

The big free agent signings by Ruskell going into 2005 were Kelly Herndon, Jamie Sharper, Chartric Darby, Joe Jurevicius, and Peter Warrick. Now let's take a look at the five drafts under Ruskell and see how they turned out. Spoiler alert: :(

2005 Seahawks draft

1 26 SEA Chris Spencer C Mississippi
2 45 SEA Lofa Tatupu LB USC
3 85 SEA David Greene QB Georgia
3 98 SEA LeRoy Hill LB Clemson
4 105 SEA Ray Willis T Florida St.
5 159 SEA Jeb Huckeba LB Arkansas
6 196 SEA Tony Jackson TE Iowa
7 235 SEA Cornelius Wortham LB Alabama
7 254 SEA Doug Nienhuis T Oregon St.

"Don't act like you're not impressed" shouts Ruskell, bathrobe untied. While Spencer was pretty much a "bad choice" like milk on a hot day, the Seahawks hit on Tatupu and Hill. Sure, Tatupu declined faster than we had hoped, and Hill pretty much thinks every day is Friday and that he ain't got shit to do, but the 2005 Super Bowl doesn't happen without at least Tatupu.

The bad news: Spencer was taken two picks after Aaron Rodgers and one pick ahead of Roddy White. It's easy to pick nits on past drafts, but Spencer is officially one of only three six centers drafted in the first round during this century along with Nick Mangold and Jeff Faine. (And Alex Mack, Eric Wood, and Maurkice Pouncey.) And he is not Nick Mangold. Drafting a center in the first round is the move of a team that has luxuries because the value of a center will just never compare to the values of other positions. Pretty much 98% of centers were not drafted in the first round and that happens for a reason.

David Greene was picked at 85 and never played in the NFL. Ray Willis hardly played in his career but started 16 games in 2009 and helped get Jim Mora fired so there's that. Jeb Huckeba, Tony Jackson, Cornelius Wortham, Doug Nienhuis.

The good news: Tatupu was one of the best picks in the entire draft and Hill worked out very well for a third round pick. They saved Ruskell's first draft.

2006 Seahawks draft

1 31 SEA Kelly Jennings DB Miami (FL)
2 63 SEA Darryl Tapp DE Virginia Tech
4 128 SEA Rob Sims G Ohio St.
5 163 SEA David Kirtman RB USC
7 239 SEA Ryan Plackemeier P Wake Forest
7 249 SEA Ben Obomanu WR Auburn

The most difficult part about following up 2005 was that Seattle would be picking at the bottom of every round, replacing some very important departed players, and that they would have to overcome this "curse" surrounding Super Losers. The Seahawks lost Steve Hutchinson to Minnesota, gave a big contract to a 29-year-old Shaun Alexander, traded a first round pick for Deion Branch, and attempted to stick it back to the Vikings by signing Nate Burleson to a $49 million contract that also cost them a third-round pick. Ha! Suck it, Vikings!

Would the 2006 draft have a "Lofa" to help balance any mistakes? No-fa.

The bad news: Jennings was widely regarded as a terrible liability on defense and recorded just two interceptions in his career. Tapp wasn't terrible, but the best thing about him was that one day he woke up and was this new guy named Chris Clemons. Burleson, who had one good season in Minnesota and was coming off of an injury (oh god the comparisons) and cost a third rounder. Kirtman played in six NFL games. Plackemeier was a punter and he averaged 40 yards per punt in 2007.

While 2006 is normally considered a decent season by Seattle for following up the Super Bowl with a playoff run that fell just short of the NFC Championship, let's consider it even deeper than just that: Seattle was the best team by far in the NFC in 2005, they went 9-7 the next year, then Tony Romo beat the Cowboys in the first round, and now Seattle didn't have a first round pick the following year because of Branch. Ruskell went all-in after 2005 in every area except for the one that he should have been pushing all-in for, which was Hutchinson.

All of the karma points were quickly fading.

The good news: Rob Sims and Ben Obomanu were okay values? Obo stood as little chance of making the league as any seventh round pick but has stuck around for much longer than anticipated. Though he was taken three picks ahead of Marques Colston. *shakes fist at Colston for overshadowing an admirable career*

2007 Seahawks draft

2 55 SEA Josh Wilson DB Maryland
3 85 SEA Brandon Mebane DT California
4 120 SEA Baraka Atkins DE Miami (FL)
4 124 SEA Mansfield Wrotto G Georgia Tech
5 161 SEA Will Herring LB Auburn
6 197 SEA Courtney Taylor WR Auburn
6 210 SEA Jordan Kent WR Oregon
7 232 SEA Steve Vallos G Wake Forest

Also relevant to what is happening right now: Seattle didn't pick until 55th in 2007. Would they make the best of it?

The bad news: Josh Wilson was like "ya know, whatever!" and spent just three seasons in Seattle. I wouldn't come down too hard on Wilson, he provided some value on special teams in addition to some big plays as a corner (6 interceptions and three touchdowns over the 2008-2009 seasons, 69 kick returns in 2008) but the team was put in a position where you felt like they had to get something good early in order to make up for their missing first. Atkins, Wrotto, Taylor, and Kent didn't turn into much. Darryl Jackson was traded to the 49ers for a fourth round pick that was used on Wrotto.

The good news: Mebane makes his case as the finest draft pick under Ruskell's watch. Interesting note is that Mebane is one of only sixteen players in that draft to be a "starter" for all six seasons (listed as starter for at least nine games in a given year) and him and Le'Ron McClain (4th) are the only two to be drafted after the second round. Herring has been a nice role player for the Seahawks and Saints, while Vallos still plays in the league six years after nearly being undrafted.

Seattle went 10-6 and won a playoff game against the Redskins, but Matt Hasselbeck was 32, Shaun Alexander was 30, Bobby Engram was 34, Walter Jones was 33, Patrick Kerney was 32, Mike Holmgren was nearing retirement. But they'd be okay, right guys? Guys? Hello?!

2008 Seahawks draft

1 28 SEA Lawrence Jackson DE USC
2 38 SEA John Carlson TE Notre Dame
4 121 SEA Red Bryant DT Texas A&M
5 163 SEA Owen Schmitt FB West Virginia
6 189 SEA Tyler Schmitt LB San Diego St.
7 233 SEA Justin Forsett RB California
7 235 SEA Brandon Coutu K Georgia

Seattle is in their apparently most-comfortable spot again, picking 25th in the first round, but they move down three spots with the Cowboys and receive extra picks in the fifth (O. Schmitt) and seventh (Coutu). They weren't done moving though, and traded up in the second round with the Ravens, sending the 55th and 86th overall picks to Baltimore. The Ravens drafted Ray Rice and Tom Zbikowski, but they gave up the chance to draft John Carlson so they're probably like "oh man!" right now.

Ruskell made a buttload of deals in this draft, like moving a sixth for Charlie Frye, but those are the most important ones.

The bad news: Jackson isn't very good. Carlson was cool for a minute and then so much less cool in retrospect. You can definitely have too many Schmitt's. Two kickers on the 53-man roster, y'all. Two kickers.

The Seahawks went 4-12 after Holmgren announced this would be his swan song but this was one fugly duck of a season. Can you believe that Hasselbeck signed a two-year deal with the Colts in 2013 when you consider that in 2008 he was 33 and coming off of an injury plagued season with 5 TD and 10 INT? Yesterday I watched the movie This Is 40 (Three word movie review: This Is Bore-ty) and Paul Rudd used the term 'anal fissure' which just sounds like a terribly annoying thing to have. 2008 and 2009 were the anal fissure's of the decade.

The good news: Bryant was a great find, but we just wouldn't know it until new coaches came in and started fixing everything. Forsett was a seventh round steal and they still cut him, only getting lucky when the Colts cut him too.

2009 Seahawks draft

1 4 SEA Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
2 49 SEA Max Unger C Oregon
3 91 SEA Deon Butler WR Penn St.
6 178 SEA Mike Teel QB Rutgers
7 245 SEA Courtney Greene DB Rutgers
7 247 SEA Nick Reed DE Oregon
7 248 SEA Cameron Morrah TE California

Maybe Aaron Curry is the best thing to ever happen to the Seahawks. They didn't really pass on a player that would have made a super big difference, though Pete Prisco at the time downgraded them for taking Curry over Mark Sanchez. What if Seattle had been decent in 2009? Even if they had been 8-8 instead of 5-11, this team was headed down a scary path of bad moves under Ruskell. Being terrible allowed them to move on from Jim Mora and Ruskell without anyone questioning whether or not they should.

Though somewhat ironically, Ruskell also did some very helpful things for the organization in this draft when he traded their second round pick to the Broncos for a 2010 first (Earl Thomas) and then moved back into the second by trading a third and a fourth in order to draft Unger.

The bad news: Curry. Butler was considered a solid pick but hasn't been healthy or all that spectacular. Teel played in as many games as Greene. Oh David Greene, not Courtney Greene. Did you know that Ruskell drafted two players with the name Greene because I didn't until right now. Everybody loves Nick Reed.

The good news: Unger. Cam Morrah was good value for a seventh round pick. Ruskell and Mora would be fired and the healing could begin.


Ruskell first round picks: Spencer, Jennings, Jackson, Curry, and sort of Deion Branch.

Ruskell second round picks: Tatupu, Tapp, Wilson, Carlson, Unger, a 2010 first round pick (Thomas).

If you judged a person only on what he did in the first round, you could see why Ruskell would be disliked. There's almost no value there. If you judged him on his second round picks alone, he could be grabbing John Schneider-level status: One of the best linebackers we've ever had, a DE that turned into Clemons, Wilson was okay and eventually traded to the Ravens for a fifth round pick (which was used in swapping several picks with the Lions, one of which became Richard Sherman), Carlson was pretty good for awhile, an All-Pro center, and a pick that turned into Earl Thomas.

Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by chance, Ruskell and the rest of the staff helped build a significant piece of this team in the second rounds over his five year tenure. After the second round, Ruskell didn't do too terribly and it's easy to forget how rare it is to find starters as you go deeper into a draft thanks to three years of being abundantly spoiled by this current front office.

There were missteps by Ruskell, probably most of which can be found following 2005. I am not trying to sit here and fault him for everything and say he's only doody and that Schneider is only fresh and fruity. Ruskell's first pick was Chris Spencer picked at 26th overall, but is that any worse at this point than when Schneider picked James Carpenter at 25? Every GM makes mistakes, but the thought process has to be sound. At times, Ruskell's wasn't. At this point, it seems like Schneider's and Carroll's usually is and for that, we might be headed towards something special.

Which without Ruskell would have never happened. Thanks, man.

Kenneth on Twitter