The failure of the Tim Ruskell era is complete. Ruskell, the Seattle Seahawks' team president from 2005 through 2009, saved his worst pick for last, though it certainly didn't seem that way at the time. Ruskell had the fourth overall pick in 2009, and he spent it on Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry, considered to be the safest pick in the draft that year.
The reigning Butkus Award winner never found his way in the NFL — his great makeup speed hid his nearly complete lack of instincts for the position — and he was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of undisclosed draft picks (believed to be a seventh-round pick in 2012 and a conditional mid-rounder in 2013) on Wednesday. The trade was first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill told reporters at the team's facility that Curry cleaned out his locker and said his goodbyes Wednesday morning.
"I talked to him, and he came and said how much he had learned from us and how much he is going to miss us and everything," Hill said Wednesday. "I think now he won't have all those high expectations that he had here, so he can just relax and play ball. I wish him luck, and I think everything will work out for him."
Curry was demoted to the second team in late September and replaced by rookie K.J. Wright, though Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll termed Wright's ascent to be a "competition." In truth, the new Seahawks regime had grown tired of Curry's unspectacular play and missed assignments.
That Carroll went out of his way to praise Wright's football acumen at the time seemed to be a not-so-subtle dig at the instincts of the man he was replacing on Seattle's strong side.
"He's been ahead of the curve for a rookie coming in, particularly in the play-calling position that he's in," Carroll said of Wright in September. "We didn't know he was going to be that sharp. He's responded very much like a veteran player and his conscience is really there. He works extra hard to get his stuff right. He's just one of those guys that really has a great way of applying himself and he picks things up well."
Those things could never be said of Curry, who became the highest-drafted linebacker since the Washington Redskins took Penn State's LaVar Arrington with the second overall pick in 2000. But while Arrington made three Pro Bowls, Curry was a misplaced chess piece throughout his Seattle career. He failed to show the kind of savvy in zone coverage required of an elite outside linebacker, and he was inexcusably out of position and assignment far too often, even when given specific and limited responsibilities.
The Seahawks tried Curry at multiple positions, finally believing that they may have found his optimal spot as more of a stationary strong-side player. "Aaron, he's deep into what we're doing," Carroll said. "We know how to utilize him now. Last year, we tried to figure out how much we should move him around in pass rush situations. He's really an outside linebacker and he does a really good job of doing that. He's playing first-team in the nickel package right now, and that's something he didn't do before."
The Seahawks aren't the only team recently hamstrung by a high-picked defensive draft disappointment. The New York Jets selected Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft, and Gholston has started just five games since. The Jets waived him in February. The Buffalo Bills selected Penn State end Aaron Maybin with the 11th pick in the 2009 draft, and released him in August.
And to be somewhat fair to the Ruskell administration, the 2009 draft was fairly disastrous for a number of teams. In the top-11 picks alone, there have been several "busts" or underachievers to date. Curry, Maybin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Michael Crabtree and Mark Sanchez could each be said to have performed below their draft spots to date.
Curry leaves the Seahawks with 126 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 35 games.
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