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Monday, January 17, 2005 - Page updated at 05:17 P.M.

Whitsitt fired; Thompson to Packers

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seahawks

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A shakeup of the Seahawks didn't take long at all.

Less than a week after the season ended, owner Paul Allen fired team president and longtime business associate Bob Whitsitt, starting a search for a new president of football operations.

Allen, who rarely speaks to media, announced his decision yesterday after assessing the team's pending free-agency situation, its on-field performance and internal dynamics. The move came just three days after coach Mike Holmgren announced he would stay with the team, and on the same day the Green Bay Packers hired Seahawks vice president Ted Thompson as their general manager.

Whitsitt, 49, was relieved of all duties associated with the team and Allen's other interests.

"I felt that the best approach, at this point, was to take a change of direction and bring in somebody with a deep background in football to run the football side of our organization," Allen said. "That was a very significant decision. I didn't take it lightly at all, but I think it is the right decision for the franchise."

Whitsitt spent the past eight years as the Seahawks' president, but made his biggest sports impact as president and general manager of two NBA franchises. One was Allen's Portland Trail Blazers, beginning in 1994. Whitsitt handled those roles in Portland as well as his job with the Seahawks until before the 2003 football season, when he left the Blazers to focus on personnel decisions for the Seahawks.

Before his roles with the Trail Blazers, Whitsitt had been the Sonics' president and general manager for eight seasons.

Today on TV: NFL playoffs

N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 7

St. Louis at Atlanta, 5 p.m., Ch. 13

Whitsitt helped negotiate Allen's purchase of the Seahawks, assisted with the development of Qwest Field and was instrumental in the Seahawks' hiring of Holmgren in 1999.

After the 2002 season, Whitsitt convinced Holmgren to step down as general manager and hired Bob Ferguson to fill that role. But Allen said Whitsitt was key to the Seahawks bringing Holmgren back as coach after a 9-7 record this season and plenty of unfulfilled expectations.

There was speculation that Whitsitt and Holmgren did not get along, but Allen said that was not the reason for his decision.

"This is not about particular interpersonal dynamics," Allen said. "I have to look at the whole landscape, the expertise of different people involved and ask myself the question, 'What can I do to improve the future prospects of the franchise?' "

Whitsitt, contacted by The Times last night while watching his son Sean play basketball for Lakeside at Rainier Beach, would not comment, adding, "I'll talk about it with you guys when I'm ready."

Holmgren is on vacation in Arizona, team officials said, but the team quoted him in a statement: "The roar of our fans at Qwest Field last week was both a powerful reminder of what football means to this community, and a prelude to what we can achieve as a more focused and unified organization in the future."

Allen and CEO Tod Leiweke are looking for a new president, and whoever is hired will presumably then hire a vice president of football operations to replace Thompson. The search for Whitsitt's replacement will focus on candidates outside the Seahawks' organization.

Randy Mueller, an NFL analyst for ESPN and former Seahawks vice president, is a candidate. He was a finalist for the Seahawks' general-manager position two years ago.

Other possible candidates could include Mike Reinfeldt, former lead contract negotiator and salary-cap manager for the Seahawks before he resigned last year; Tom Modrak, currently assistant GM with the Buffalo Bills; and Bill Kuharich, vice president of pro personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs. Kuharich interviewed for the Seahawks' GM job in January 2003.

Whoever is hired will be part of the decision-making process involving 16 Seahawks' players whose contracts will expire, making them eligible to become unrestricted free agents in March.

Ron Wolf, the former Packers general manager who worked with Holmgren in Green Bay, said he would turn the job down if offered and has no desire to work full-time now that he is retired.

Thompson, the Seahawks' former vice president of football operations, was given full decision-making authority as far as personnel decisions for the Packers. In Seattle, he advised on such matters and also ran the college draft.

"It's a great opportunity for him," Wolf said of Thompson. "They (the Packers) were well aware of his capability, and they triggered him from the outset."

Thompson had previously worked in the Packers' front office when Holmgren was Green Bay's coach, then joined Holmgren in Seattle in 2000.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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