Tod Leiweke wore a perma-grin throughout Tuesday’s press conference. Whether it was smiling broadly and shaking his head in affirmation to some of his newly hired coach, Pete Carroll, and his enthusiastic statements. Or whether it was shaking hand with the handful of players assembled to watch the press conference.
However, he lost the grin for a while when talking to reporters after the press conference about this past season, the decision to hire a new coach and to fire Jim Mora and past dysfunction between the front office and former head coach Mike Holmgren. He was contrite in the handling of the Mora situation, but not sorry about the result. And of course, being a business man, he broke out the whole glossary of business building terms like model, snyergy, connectivity, collaboration, structure and of course shoulder-to-shoulder.
“What has happened the last two years has broken our collective hearts,” he 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.
He was relatively candid about the situation (well as candid as a CEO can be), even admitting there was a feeling of a hopelessness with the organization at the end of the season.
“I will tell you as the season ended, I felt something I hadn’t felt since I’ve been here, which was a lack of hope,” Leiweke said. “Paul Allen, especially with what he’s gone through this year, deserves, as do our fans.”
“That feeling of a lack of hope was a great motivator. Your adversity can become your opportunity. When I talked to Pete Carroll, I found great hope in what he had to say. Part of that hope was his willingness to go shoulder to shoulder with a GM.”
A lack of hope wasn’t something he necessarily felt when he said that Mora would remain the coach after the Ruskell resignation. What changed?
“I stood at this podium not too long ago and felt that we wouldn’t make a coaching change,” Leiweke said. “But those last four Seahawks games were really difficult. Three of them we were blown out in, and to lose that last home game like we did and feel the lack of hope, I just felt we weren’t a GM away from getting this program to where it needs to be.”
So Mora had to go.
“I would say telling Jim Mora he was no longer the head coach of the Seahawks was probably the most difficult day of my career because of a great affection I have for him,” Leiweke said.
But Leiweke was adamant that the decision to fire Mora wasn’t made immediately after that game or even by the time Mora made his season-ending press conference. But he understands how people, including Mora, can think differently.
“I do I think I owe Jim an apology,” Leieweke 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 where those were going to come out. I can look you in the eye, that none of this was preordained. It was a fluid situation. The only thing preordained was he had to fix things.”
So the fix is Carroll.
Though Leiweke was adamant in saying that his interview with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier wasn’t just a token interview to appease the Rooney Rule.
“I didn’t fly to Minnesota where it was 4 below zero and spent two days, because there was other things we could have done if that was just a box we were going to check,” Leiweke said. “Leslie Frazier was a serious candidate.”
“Leslie Frazier is going to be a head coach in this league,” Leiweke said. “He is a super-impressive guy. I went to Minnesota not knowing if we would get it done with Pete. There were some significant issues and I spent the better part of the day and an evening watching football with a guy who I just came away hugely impressed with. As I flew to L.A., I knew if it didn’t work out with Pete, there were some excellent candidates out there, specifically Leslie.”
And he was also clear that had Frazier been given the job, it probably wouldn’t have come with as much institutional power as Carroll, despite some earlier reports.
“Well, the fact is, it wouldn’t have been the same job that we talked to Leslie about,” Leiweke said. “I don’t think so.”
So how much power does Carroll have? Well that’s a gray area. When asked to describe the flow chart of power, Leiweke said, “We’re still working on it.”
Leiweke admitted that he may not only bring in a GM but a cap/contract specialist as well if they hire a younger GM.
“There could be three doors, there could be a cap contract door, a GM door, and Pete will have his own unique door,” he said.
Still this seems really unsettled. This whole shoulder to shoulder thing supposedly means that the GM and Carroll and a potentially a cap/contract guy would be equal in power. But I doubt that’s the case.
Carroll will have the most power – a hint of that will be his presence in the GM interviews , which started today.
“He’s going to sit in on all the interviews with the candidates and his voice is going to count in a significant way,” Leiweke said. “If we hadn’t given him this kind of authority, I don’t think he would have come. Pete is not yesterday’s lunch. This is a man recruited by multiple other teams.”
AT THE END OF THE DAY (a phrase that is now being used far too often) … all of this falls on Leiweke’s head. This was his decision. This was his process and his plan.
“We needed to clean the slate and begin a new era here. Hard decisions were made. We made them. I made them. I take full responsibility for them.”