RENTON, Wash. - Tim Ruskell has resigned as president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.
Ruskell announced his resignation Thursday, weeks before his five-year contract with the team ends.
"Obviously there's great sadness today but I will leave here with great memories of this place and the people. It's been the people for me," Ruskell said during a news conference.
The team's ownership gave Ruskell full authority to shape the franchise soon after he arrived before the 2005 season. Seattle made its only Super Bowl that season.
Since then, he has presided over decisions including failed top draft choices, expensive free-agent busts - and the awkward ouster of popular coach and former GM Mike Holmgren at the end of his contract this past January.
Ruskell brought in his own coach for 2009, Jim Mora. The 4-7 Seahawks are on their way to a second straight season without a playoff berth. Last season they finished 4-12, their worst record since 1991.
"It didn't happen quickly enough, but it wasn't because we didn't do it right," Ruskell said.
"When you're rebuilding a pro franchise, the last thing to come is the wins," he added.
Seahawks vice-president for player personnel Ruston Webster will serve as interim general manager.
Ruskell arrived in February 2005 as a veteran of 20 years in scouting following a stint in Atlanta as the assistant GM, when Mora was the Falcons' coach. Ruskell presided over three consecutive NFC West titles to begin his Seattle tenure, including that Super Bowl season of 2005 when he overhauled the defence and scored a major coup in drafting overlooked linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
But the Seahawks have regressed since then.
Ruskell was part of the decision that allowed perennial Pro Bowl offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson to leave for Minnesota as a free agent soon after the 2006 Super Bowl; Seattle's line hasn't been the same since.
Ruskell signed running back Shaun Alexander to a US$62 million, eight-year contract with $15.1 million guaranteed even though Alexander was about to turn 30 - an age at which most running backs begin to decline. Just over two years and several injuries later, Alexander was released.
To replace him, Ruskell spent millions on veteran running backs Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Edgerrin James. Jones is fighting for his job with emerging Justin Forsett, a seventh-round draft choice in 2008 whom the Seahawks cut last year then brought back. Duckett and James were released this season.
Seattle is 29th in the league in rushing. It has twice set franchise lows for yards rushing in a game, more recently two weeks ago when the Seahawks managed just four yards on 13 carries at Minnesota.
Ruskell traded a first-round draft choice to New England in 2006 for wide receiver Deion Branch, then gave the former Super Bowl MVP a $39 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Branch has had seasons with 53, 49, 30 and now 26 catches - plus two knee surgeries, including a reconstructive surgery.
Ruskell's No. 1 draft choices have been: injury-prone centre Chris Spencer; undersized and periodically benched cornerback Kelly Jennings; cornerback Josh Wilson, who recently reclaimed his starting job; defensive end Lawrence Jackson, a disappointment in his rookie season last year; and outside linebacker Aaron Curry.
Curry, the fourth overall pick whom the Seahawks signed to a $34 million guarantee this summer, has great potential but recently had his workload scaled back because coaches thought he was getting overwhelmed.