Seattle Had Become "Dysfunction Junction"

Seattle Had Become "Dysfunction Junction"

Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke finally acknowledged this week what most people following the organization had known all along -- there was a division in the front office as to which direction the franchise should move.

And that conflict was centered between former team president and general manager Tim Ruskell and longtime head coach Mike Holmgren. "I think, to be quite honest, there was not a harmonious relationship between Tim and Mike Holmgren, and it's probably neither guy's fault, but we learned a lot there," Leiweke said.

The organization had become split between players, coaches and front office staff either pledging their allegiance to Holmgren or Ruskell. And after the Seahawks finished 5-11 this season under first-year head coach Jim Mora, hand-picked by Ruskell to take over for Holmgren, Leiweke determined the organization needed a clean slate.

Leiweke said he was particularly disheartened by the way the team finished, losing four straight to end the year for the first time since 1992, and only scoring a combined 37 points over that four-game stretch. "What has happened the last two years has broken our collective hearts," Leiweke said. "We didn't build this grand facility to win nine games in two years. We didn't fill the stadium, and our fans didn't scream their lungs out to win nine games in two years. We had to do something. Perhaps there are things we can be criticized for, but at the end of the day, we're committed to get this right."

Enter Pete Carroll, whom the team determined would be the big splash needed to set a new tone for the organization and put the Seahawks back on the map nationally with Holmgren now gone to try to rebuild the Browns. Carroll, 58, was introduced as the Seahawks' new head coach and executive vice president on Jan. 12, and he received a lukewarm reception at best from the team's fan base. Some point to his 33-31 record as a head coach in the NFL as evidence he will not lead the Seahawks back to an elite level, but Carroll says he's up to the challenge.

"We're in the NFL, the expectations are you gotta win," Carroll said. "I totally understand it and I get it. I love that part of being in the league. But these expectations don't have to overwhelm us, they have to drive us and guide us."

Carroll was a winner at USC, going 97-19 with national championships in 2003 and 2004. As much as he enjoyed his time with the Trojans, the lure of the NFL proved too strong.

Carroll said the ability to control the direction of the team is what ultimately swayed him to take the job and return to the NFL. "That is what I had at SC," Carroll said. "Where I found my best success was when I had the kinds of opportunities to factor into all aspects of it, and there was one single voice about what the football was going to be like, and there was one place to go and one door to knock on for the players. They knew exactly who was calling the shots. That is what gives me the best chance to be the best I can be."

However, the amount of control that Carroll will have is still undetermined.

On whether he will have ultimate say in choosing personnel, Carroll had this to say. "We're going to work that all out," he said. "We're going to work that out with the lucky guy that gets to come to this organization. We'll figure that out based on his background and what's best for us."

Carroll has a mountainous task before him that includes infusing both offensive and defensive lines with young talent, adding a playmaker or two on both sides of the ball, and ultimately getting this team to believe it can consistently win again.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke was adamant that his decision to fire former head coach Jim Mora wasn't made immediately after the last game of the season against Tennessee, or even by the time Mora had his season-ending press conference three days later. But he understands how people, including Mora, can think differently.

"I do I think I owe Jim an apology," Leiweke said.

He later confirmed that he did offer that apology to Mora over the phone. "Jim and I are friends, and we are going to be friends," Leiweke said. "But while I apologized, it was just one of those difficult, awkward moments you find yourself in. Because as I left the building, Jim knew we were going to go have substantive discussion last week, and we didn't know where those were going to come out. I can look you in the eye (and say) that none of this was preordained. It was a fluid situation. The only thing preordained was we had to fix things."

Mora said during an interview on a Seattle-area radio station that Leiweke told him team owner Paul Allen felt a change needed to be made. However, Leiweke refuted that notion while talking to reporters.

--The Seahawks contacted former Colts head coach Tony Dungy in December to see if he had interest in the team's vacant president/GM position. According to the team, Dungy was in play as a possible replacement for Tim Ruskell, who resigned last month, as late as few days before the Seahawks hired new head coach Pete Carroll.

According to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors the minority hiring process with the NFL, Dungy declined the team's initial inquiry. "They called Tony about three weeks ago to see if he would seriously consider becoming their president," Wooten told ESPN. "He told them he wanted to pray and sleep on it, but the next day he called them back and said he wanted to stick with everything he was doing now. He would have been the guy, I believe, if he had wanted to do it."

Dungy is working as a broadcaster for NBC Sports. He said about a month ago that a search firm from an NFL team had contacted him about a front-office job, but he declined to name the team. Seattle eventually pursued Dungy further, which led the team to clarify what it was offering in its pursuit of new head coach Pete Carroll.

This report comes on the heels of the Seahawks receiving criticism nationally for the way they handed the head coaching search, with some NFL observers suspecting the team's interview with Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who is black, was arranged just to adhere to the Rooney Rule so the team could then offer the job to Carroll. Dungy also recommended that the Seahawks interview Frazier.

However, Leiweke said it was not true that the Seahawks had made their decision when they interviewed Frazier. "We were prepared to cast a wider net, but we knew that there was a process here," he said. "John Wooten and I have become good friends. We've talked a lot. I've talked to Tony Dungy multiple times. I'm actually proud of my history and diversity of hiring. When it came time to hire a president of the Portland Trail Blazers (Larry Miller), we found the best man, who also represented diversity.

"So, I actually took that seriously, and Leslie Frazier and I had a phenomenal discussion."

--Seattle interviewed two candidates for the vacant general manager position on Jan. 12, including Green Bay Packers director of football operations John Schneider and New York Giants head of scouting Marc Ross. New England Patriots senior consultant Floyd Reese and Pittsburgh Steelers front office executive Omar Khan to be interviewed as well.

Three of the four candidates are young, up-and-coming executives in the league. But Reese could have the advantage because of his experience as a general manager in the NFL and his relationship with Carroll. Both Reese and Carroll worked on the same coaching staff in Minnesota in 1985 under then-head coach Bud Grant.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think the onus is on the players to open up and embrace the change. And know that if you want to be a great football player and reach the individual goals you set for yourself within the team perspective that this is a great situation. He really is passionate about getting the most out of each player because it produces a winning program." -- DE Lawrence Jackson, talking about his former head coach at USC, Pete Carroll, taking over the head coaching duties at Seattle.

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