The Seahawks' most significant departure Saturday may not have had anything to do with the 20 players who were released.
Alex Gibbs, the offensive-line coach Pete Carroll considered a critical part of the staff, told the team he was retiring.
"We wish Alex the best in his retirement," Carroll said in the team's announcement of the move. "We're grateful for the time we had with him, and we're all better for it."
There's no way to minimize the magnitude of his departure, coming just eight days before the team's season opener.
Gibbs, 69, was described as "worn out" by a team spokesman. He is a coach known for his intensity and demanding style. Gibbs is one of the league's foremost experts on the zone-blocking system that Seattle will continue to use. What Seattle does in Gibbs' spot remains uncertain. Art Valero, hired from St. Louis in January, is the assistant offensive-line coach. Pat Ruel, Carroll's offensive-line coach the previous five seasons at USC, is now working in the UFL.
The offensive line has been an increasingly troublesome spot for Seattle over the previous four seasons, culminating last year when the Seahawks started four different players at left tackle waiting for Walter Jones to recover from knee surgery. He never did.
Seattle drafted Russell Okung to play left tackle, and signed veterans like Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts. Okung suffered a high ankle sprain in the second exhibition game and is considered unlikely to play in the season opener. Mansfield Wrotto — a converted guard — started at left tackle the past two games. Pitts and Stacy Andrews, a lineman Seattle is expected to acquire in a trade from Philadelphia, also may be candidates to play left tackle.
Gibbs' addition to the coaching staff is the reason Seattle parted ways with Mike Solari, Seattle's offensive-line coach the previous two seasons. Solari was offered a chance to remain in Seattle as the tight-ends coach, but turned it down. Solari is now the offensive-line coach for San Francisco.
Normally, the departure of an offensive line coach isn't big news, but considering Gibbs is one of the best and that we are only a week away from the beginning of the 2010, this is bad news for Seattle. Coaching changes right before the start of a season often cause havoc. It's just another reason to be wary of any Seattle players if you still have drafts on the horizon.