BY Doug Farrar 05:13PM 12/20/2010

Carroll: Matt’s the guy, but with a hook

Pete Carroll opts to go with Matt Hasselbeck for now, but whether Hasselbeck remains No. 1 is up to him — and others.

Matt Hasselbeck is still the Seahawks' starting quarterback, but that's hardly cast in stone anymore. (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

Ever since Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was pulled for backup Charlie Whitehurst in Seattle’s 34-18 Sunday loss to the Atlanta Falcons, divided opinions among the team’s fanbase have escalated. Those who believe that Hasselbeck is the best option this team has as it tries to become the least imposing division winner in NFL history think that staying the course makes sense, while the Whitehurst backers see his deep ball and hope his physical tools will be enough to make up for some head-scratching reads and decisions.

Right now, the Seahawks’ quarterback situation seems to come down to the devil you know, versus the devil you don’t. But head coach Pete Carroll clarified the view for everyone interested by naming Hasselbeck the starter going forward. With that announcement, however, came the proviso that if the level of play that has seen him throw 10 interceptions in the last four games continues, there will be a new face taking snaps under center.

“Looking at our situation, and where we are, we’re fortunate to have the chance to battle for a division title. And that’s what we’re going after, and that’s why all of our focus needs to be on Tampa Bay.”

And to that end, Carroll outlined a two-pronged approach to the quarterback situation – first, making sure that Hasselbeck has the support system he needs, and second, making sure that the veteran understands just how much responsibility for the welfare of the offense falls on his shoulders.

“I finished meeting with Matt just a minute ago,” Carroll said at his Monday afternoon press conference, “to make sure he had seen what happened in the game and heard from the coaches. Give him a chance to feel his way through it and see how he responded. We all reflected, and we’re going with Matt. Matt’s been our quarterback, he’s the guy that’s given us a chance throughout, and I’m excited in that sense that he’s going to pull this thing together with us.”

Paramount among the responsibilities of the players around Hasselbeck will be to make the deep routes more bearable, if not more dynamic, by running the correct routes and getting simple timing down. Hasselbeck is the primary architect of his recent failures, but whether Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu are in the game or not, everyone will need to step their own games up that much more. A review of the deep passes in which Hasselbeck didn’t connect with his receivers against the Falcons on Sunday brought up more than one route cross-up that made the quarterback’s job needlessly difficult.

“We have to play well around him,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to take care of the quarterback in all ways — protection-wise, we need to run the football, we need to play better on defense … So let’s not turn it all to where the focus goes to one guy and people can go ahead and try to point the finger. That’s not what’s going on around here.”

Still, while Carroll will protect his starter to the media, he’s also made it known that with two games left in the regular season, and hopefully at least one more after that, the battle for that job is wide open if need be.

“We’re counting on Charlie,” Carroll said. “Charlie’s played for us maybe three times this year – you go back to the Giants, and then the Cardinals, and then again (yesterday) – and he’s done a better job each time he’s gone out. He did some good things yesterday, and he gives us a chance, if we need him, to put him in the game and count on him to be able to run the offense and make some progress. So, that’s good for our team, it’s good on Charlie’s behalf, and I won’t hesitate to play him if we need him. That’s what came out of yesterday, and we’ll move ahead with that thought.”

Beyond Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay and the season-ending turn with the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field, Carroll doesn’t want to know. The quarterback decisions made now do not necessarily reflect – though they will certainly inform – what the Seahawks do in the offseason at the position. There will be more than enough time to talk about free agents and draft picks – Kevin Kolb and Jake Locker are but two names that await off-season scrutiny. For now, Carroll’s just taking a Zen page from his USC days, and trying to live in the moment.

In the next two weeks, he’ll find out just how many more moments the 2010 Seahawks have.