BY Art Thiel 09:12PM 12/23/2010

Starting Charlie would be better

Urgency to win trumps a chance to learn about backup QB

The slide of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck should have given an opportunity to Charlie Whitehurst (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

In choosing Matt Hasselbeck to start Sunday in Tampa, coach Pete Carroll made the safe choice.

It was the wrong choice.

“Matt’s our guy and we want him to play really well,” Carroll said Wednesday, sounding as if he were trying to convince himself as well as all his listeners. “We’re going to try to build up a great plan that he can carry out and gets us a great win.

“That’s really all I’m thinking about.  I don’t have any plan other than that.”

He should have another plan in mind – the near future of the franchise.

Not since former owner Ken Behring in 1995 hauled the team equipment to Los Angeles in a futile attempt move the franchise have the Seahawks been in a weirder position.

They are a mediocre team in desperate need of talent at many spots, yet can make the playoffs in spite of themselves. They don’t necessarily have to win Sunday to stay alive, but a loss, followed by a win next Sunday, could make them the first division with a losing record (7-9) winner in NFL history, as well as a punch-line for every TV studio wiseacre straining futilely to make a better joke.

More important than that aberration, and beyond the benefit of a home playoff game, the most significant position on the roster, quarterback, is without shape or form.

Hasselbeck is 35, at the end of his contract and floundering. Many of the reasons for his downward spiral are beyond his control – third set of head coaches and offensive coordinators in three seasons, no one good to cover his blind side, receivers that can’t stay healthy, a defense that can’t get off the field, etc.

But he’s also done enough on his own to bring into serious question his fitness for another season.

Yet his nominal replacement, Charlie Whitehurst, is neither a kid (28) nor a proven veteran. But he is a player the Seahawks have invested $8 million and two years despite the fact that until this season he had never thrown a regulation NFL pass.

As much as club management owes Hasselbeck the benefit of the doubt for his meritorious service to the franchise, they owe players and fans even more to see whether Whitehurst is a significant part of the future. One more start is a small sample size, but it will provide more knowledge than they have now.

If Whitehurst were to start Sunday and be judged a success, regardless of game outcome, the Seahawks can enter the off-season less than forlorn about the QB spot. As well, if he flops, regardless of outcome, the Seahawks have more evidence to admit the mistake and can plan accordingly.

Since the game outcome probably will be irrelevant to the next week, the risk is small.

If Whitehurst flops, the chance for veteran Hasselbeck, stung by a benching, to come in and do the superhero rescue routine is greater than the situation’s opposite – Whitehurst saving the team on the road against a quality defense.

But now, starting Hasselbeck means he must have a Matt-of-old game or face a quicker hook, even though Carroll tried to deny it.

“I don’t have any thought at all about taking the quarterback out,” Carroll said. “Not at all.”

Carroll has no choice but to say that, but fortunately for the rest of us, we have a choice whether to believe it.

Carroll is in a tough spot because he has a chance to learn a lot from this game, but unlike nearly every other mediocre team in a similar position in late December, he doesn’t have the luxury of playing the backups.

Asked what choosing Hasselbeck, after all his turnover problems, says about his faith in Whitehurst, Carroll was a little testy.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with Charlie,” he said. “It has to do with (whether) we think that Matt can get the job done for us.”

Well, the choice does have a lot to do with Whitehurst, because Hasselbeck’s experience and guts would be a better fallback position in the event that Whitehurst shatters like a Christmas ornament at the end of a cat’s paw. But they can’t trust Whitehurst yet to win them a game.

Carroll, of course, was relentless in thumping the tub for the $8 million backup.

“I’m excited about Charlie’s growth,” he said. “We trust him, we believe in him . . . he’s made good progress. He’s got better, and was very comfortable in the game last week and that’s a good sign.”

But Whitehurst came in after the Atlanta Falcons were already lighting cigars and pouring brandy. In was exhibition time, and Whitehurst was back to being Mr. August.

This freakish season has afforded the Seahawks Sunday a small-risk opportunity to see if Whitehurst can be Mr. December.

Instead, unless Hasselbeck comes through in a big way, both quarterbacks and the team potentially could be losers heading into the first official must-win game of the season on Jan. 2 against St. Louis.

Unlike college ball, where mistakes can take up to five years for the NCAA to catch up, the NFL is all about instant de-gratification.


  • Lucky Infidel

    Hasselbeck probably is gone after this year. They will draft a quarterback and either that quarterback or Whitehurst will start next year with the outside chance that Hasselbeck comes back at a sharply reduced price as essentially an insurance police and mentor in perhaps also the form of a starter, but I doubt the latter. But as for this year, it really is hard to imagine a team with a chance to make the playoffs not going with its overall best proven quarterback, and that clearly is Hasselbeck, although long-term Hasselbeck was more a Holmgren creation than a real naturally talented NFL quarterback. It is a weird situation we currently are in.

  • SeattleNative

    I agree. Hass is essentially done, cooked, toast. I too cannot fathom an NFL team, ostensibly in the playoff picture, deciding to change QB over the last 2 games. But just like Infidel expressed, this has been one strange. WTF season.

  • Jeff

    No way Hass may be a has been but clipboard Jesus is a never will be

  • McMurphy

    Now that you have a comments section, I will probably be visiting this site more often. Without a comments section, it was pretty boring. Let’s be honest, there is not a lot of content on this site, as of yet. So, you need all the content you can get, even if some of it is in the form of reader comments.

    I agree with this column, with at least one exception: how can anyone consider the Seahawks to be “mediocre”? They are clearly one of the worst teams in the league. Consider their NFL rankings in these categories:

    Points scored: 23rd
    Yards gained: 27th

    Points allowed: 26th
    Yards allowed: 29th

    How can that be interpreted as “mediocre”? They are clearly terrible.

    • Greg

      Great website Art ! I love the format and the articles . Thanks …

      I agree with the article , this is the perfect chance to see what you have in Whitehurst . The game will almost certainly not affect the playoff scenario for the Hawks , and it might not be a bad idea for Matt to sit and watch a game and get a different perspective . Next week you can always go back to Hasselbeck if Charlie looks like crap against the Bucs .

    • Joe

      McMurphy, that was by far the best post I’ve seen on ANY site in a long time.

  • jerry

    Whitehurst came within a (derrogatory reference to female anatomy)’s hair to throwing an interception that easily might have been run in for a td by the db if he hadn`t dropped it. Charlie tosses a couple of these every time he plays a game.
    Trust me, this guy might look like Jesus but he will never save the Seahawks.

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    • Eric S.

      I have to agree with Pete Carroll’s decision to start Hasselbeck. He gives the best chance to win the last two games. Hasselbeck at his worst resembles Charlie at his best.

      Pete knows what he has in Charlie. This is no time to teach Charlie how to read defenses or to become more accurate with his throws. This is the time to put the best foot forward so we can win another division title.

      Hasselbeck’s mistakes can be cut down if Jeremy Bates starts calling the games a little better so Hasselbeck’s strengths can be highlighted which is up tempo, short passing, using the TE between the numbers etc. and not too many deep ins and outs or naked roll-outs especially against disciplined defenses.

      Before Pete can address the QB situation next year, he has to decide if he wants to stick with Jeremy Bates as the offensive coordinator. And if he does decide to stay with Jeremy then Jeremy has to decide what kind of an offense he wants to run. If Jeremy feels that he wants to go with an offense that Shanahan or Turner runs then Hasselbeck is not the QB. But with two games left, this is not the time to answer this question. Jeremy can use some common sense and call the plays that Hasselbeck likes so we have the best chance to win the NFC West.

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  • Great article. I agree with you, I also think the Hawks should be starting Whitehurst. I don’t ever remember a stretch of Matt’s play looking so terrible as the past few games. I sat behind the Hawks bench @ SF and he looked completely rattled and off his game like never before.

    What’s also bothersome is the obvious lack of faith in Whitehurst. If Hass at his worst is better than Charlie fighting to be starter, then the Hawks better have an off season QB plan or next year will be a nightmare.

    Hass is done in Seattle, I think it’s safe to bank on that, so maybe the need for him to play well enough to get some calls as a FA in a few months will serve as motivation for him to pull out of the rut. And, if he starts tossing picks like completions, he’ll be benched for the remainder of his career in Seattle. I look at this as one last chance to play well as a Seahawk, I hope he makes the most of it.

    Either way, look for the Hawks to take this division race with a win at home vs the Rams.

    Seahawk Pride!

  • Rick M.

    Matt’s first year with the Seahawks was terrible he lost his job to Dilfer and got it back due to an injury. Why does most fans think Whitehurst is done after only one start? The last three years Matt has had a bad back, broken ribs, a concussion, and now a broken wrist. The time has come to replace Matt, with his touchdown to interception ratio he can not be a mentor to any up and coming quarterback. What bothers me the most is he looks like he is scared, if I can see it the defense can see it. I know I played the game.

  • Art Thiel

    Hey, McMurphy,

    Thanks for reading. We can debate the QB issue, and the Seahawks mediocrity, but I must challenge you where you are dead wrong –the site doesn’t have much content.
    Go to each site’s drop down menu and cruise through the bios, timelines, rosters and tell me again the site doesn’t have much content. The archives on Pressing the Point and Daily Beat are loaded with stories from 2010.
    There’s plenty here, my man. Take some time to find out.

  • It is always pleasure to read your site, will back here soon

  • SeaFan71

    Hey Art,

    Good site, I am checking it every day, solid content!

    As far as the Hawks QB situation, in my mind Sunday made it clear that Hass and CW are not the answer for our organization.

    Hass, God bless him is done,he was great for the Hawks and got us to our only SuperBowl.

    CW, has no fire, no vision, and zero leadership. There are fans out there that will say he needed to start the game, he needed a week of practice with the first unit, he needed to sit in the front of the plane on the way down to Tampa. There will always be excuses teed up for CW. We all know he is not the answer and Pete knows it otherwise he would not be trotting out Hass every Sunday.

    Next year we have to eat that CW contract, get a free agent QB and draft one as well.

  • Lee

    Well it looks like your going to get your wish this weekend against the Rams, good luck. Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer, not even close. There is a reason he was THIRD string in San Diego. The Hawks should focus their efforts on acquiring Matt Flynn from Green Bay. This guy looked great in his first start. He’s an overlooked guy who only played full time at Texas his senior year, he was behind Vince Young, just as overlooked as Hasselbeck was coming out of Boston College. Hasselbeck got a couple of years to learn from the sidelines and it really helped him, and now Flynn is in the same situation. When Flynn gets his chance he is going to take off.

  • OneGuywithCommonSense

    Based upon how bad the entire team has played this season, Hasselbeck clearly included, it wouldn’t matter who the back-up qb was, people would be calling his name. With how bad Check-down Charlie is, we should be hearing JP’s name being called half way through the first quarter of the Rams game!

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  • Kazootie

    MH has been a very good quality pro QB. He is one of few who can take you to the big dance. He has given his body for this job. Could he still have some ledft in the tank? I believe maybe/probably- BUT only for a well constructed team with a design/offense that makes use of his strong points. The Seahawks, alas are quite a distance from a ‘well-constructed’ team.

    Start CW on Sunday- ensure a loss, get a better pick, let Matt heal. See the big picture of building for a championship team 2-4 years down the pike.

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