BY Doug Farrar 05:33PM 12/30/2010

With more reps, Whitehurst hopes to surprise

Can Charlie Whitehurst surprise the fans who wonder about him, the teammates and coaches who are counting on him, and — perhaps most importantly — himself?

Charlie Whitehurst led an effective drive against the Atlanta Falcons (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

The first prime-time game for the Seattle Seahawks in more than two years, and the first division-deciding game for the team since the 2007 season, will most likely be in the hands of a quarterback who has attempted 63 passes for Seattle this season. Charlie Whitehurst became a controversial figure in the Emerald City ever since Pete Carroll and John Schneider traded a third-round pick and a move in the second round to the San Diego Chargers for the right to sign him to a two-year contract in March that could yield as much as $10 million, based on incentives.

Those who have seen Whitehurst take limited snaps are of divergent opinions regarding his ability to grab those incentives. There are those convinced that the only way to see whether Whitehurst will ever be a competent NFL quarterback is to give him enough rope to fail, and just as many are convinced that they’ve seen more than enough.

For Pete Carroll, there’s no choice – this is the path the Seahawks chose instead of drafting a quarterback early or going the established veteran route, so his first shot at a division title is up to a replacement for an injured Matt Hasselbeck. There’s a chance that Hasselbeck, who hurt his back/hip/butt (depending on who you’re talking to) in the loss to the Buccaneers last Sunday, will start … but the odds seem against it.

It’s all on him,” Carroll said of the pressure on his new quarterback. “We already talked about that. This is the big opportunity, this is the big challenge, this is the big spotlight – this is all of that for him and it’s nothing that a player doesn’t dream of having. So he’s prepared as well as he could have to this point. I think he was surprised coming into the game last week – it happened so fast that we didn’t respond the way we’d like to. And I know that he’s anxious to get back out again and go. It took him awhile to get warmed up and get going last week and it was too late for us. But he’s done some really good things and we’re going to watch him handle it, and deal with it. He knows it’s one of those moments.”

Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said that Whitehurst, who has been getting all the first-team reps this week, is starting to reflect that experience after a rough season. “He’s playing well right now,” Bates said. “He’s throwing the ball hard, he’s moving around in the pocket. You know, the tough thing about our offense is if you’re the starting quarterback you get every rep, and that’s what I’ve always believed. That’s what we did in Tampa, it’s what we did in Denver, New York…and the backup quarterback doesn’t really get any reps – it has to be mental reps. So playing backup quarterback is tough, it’s a tough role.

“So this week Charlie is getting the reps, so it helps. It helps getting the timing and helps understanding the game plan a little more, and just getting the confidence of where everyone’s going to be, and the execution, of course, is going to be sharper. So we’re excited for him. And at the same time Matt (Hasselbeck) is getting healthy – he’s moving around better every day. And it’ll be interesting to see what happens (around) game time.”

For Whitehurst, who has only thrown the first regular-season passes of his five-year career in the 2010 season, it’s all about getting those key reps – even quarterbacks who look bad to start (such as, for example one Matthew Hasselbeck in the distant recesses of Seahawks history) can only get better (or prove their lack of ability) with more time under center.

“When you go in there, you expect to play well and play at a very high level,” he said. I think there’s times I have done that and times I haven’t. I know it takes time. This is a competitive league. But you want to be good and you want to be good now. I think I could have played better this year but I’ve got another opportunity and I want to go out there and play well.”

Whitehurst isn’t just playing for a division title this Sunday; he’s also trying to cement his status on a 2011 roster that is likely to see as much change as there has been in the 2010 campaign. Anything less than victory could very well leave unanswered questions hanging in the air all the way through a very long offseason.


YourThoughts

  • Don Chesvick

    I hope Charlie plays well on Sunday, but hope there is some signs for Matt on National TV saying stuff like :

    Whatever happens Matt Thanks for the memories # 8 or Mr. has 8 has been great Thanks again Matt.

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