Charlie or Matt? At this point, the game against the Rams — and any hope of a division title — may rest on that decision.
That quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was listed as questionable on Fridays injury report after getting practice reps in for the first time this week felt like par for the course all season long, the Seahawks — and Hasselbecks performances have leaned in the direction of the unanswered question.
Backup Charlie Whitehurst, himself a figure inspiring some trepidation among the Seahawks faithful these days, took his share of practice snaps after bring labeled the guy by head coach Pete Carroll all week. It was thought that the hip injury suffered in the first quarter of Seattles loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday would make Whitehurst the de facto starter for the all-or-nothing regular season finale against the St. Louis Rams, but Carroll held out hope most days this week that Hasselbeck would do everything possible to get back to good health.
Hasselbeck did more than Carroll expected in practice, showing no sign of injury in his walk or pocket movement, but the coach later said that at this point, Whitehurst is still his guy.
Yeah, Charlies going, Carroll said. Weve been committed to that. Thats what we can count on and thats what we know. Charlie had a good, solid week. He did everything that we needed him to do. So hes ready for the game plan. We got limited work from Matt hes (Hasselbeck) out there getting a little bit of work, seeing what he can do, seeing where he is right now.
Well go to game time and see what happens.
Neither quarterback has played all that impressively this season outside of fits and starts of atypical production against superior NFC South opponents. Hasselbecks best game was most likely against the New Orleans Saints, and Whitehurst was decent in a garbage-time drive against the Atlanta Falcons. Outside of those shining moments, the quarterback position has been a fairly glaring issue Hasselbeck currently ranks 34th in Football Outsiders cumulative opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics, and Whitehurst sits at the statistical kiddie table alongside fellow NFL backups Rex Grossman and Brodie Croyle. Any hope of taking the Rams surprising defense this Sunday will require one quarterback or the other to find some way to muster up reasonably consistent production.
Charlie did very well, Carroll said of Whitehursts practice week. Weve done a lot of good stuff with him. Weve looked to him in tailoring the plan, the things that he loves to do and the things that hes really confident at as you do any week with your starter but this is the second time weve had a chance to do this, with a lot more information than weve had before. So its Charlies second start in his lifetime of the NFL. We have to keep that in mind that we have to take care of him and make sure he can play a game that hes really in command of by the way we call it and direct it and all that. So thats been the (focus) throughout the week, and hes very much in command of what were doing.
Whitehursts first NFL start came against the New York Giants in Week 9, a 41-7 loss in which he completed just 12 passes in 23 attempts for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who ran the Giants defense primarily responsible for the franchises Super Bowl XLII victory, will throw a similar set of schemes that Whitehurst saw against the G-men. The hope, of course, is that Whitehurst learned enough from that experience for a turnaround. Based on the on-field results to date, optimism takes a bit of effort.
Carroll was more concerned today about avoiding the debacle his team suffered in Week 3, when these same Rams beat them, 20-3, at the Edward Jones Dome.
Theyre better, theyre an improved team, Carroll said of the Rams. The quarterback (Sam Bradford) imagine now at this point hes started (all season). Thats got to help them; they know what they have in him. Hes had a very good year. So they come in roaring, I think. For us, we have to do the things right that we need to do in a game like this. We have to take care of the football, we have to not hurt ourselves and play a good, solid football game and make them beat us here at Qwest, and play well enough so thats the case. So thats what weve set out to do to play a very strong football game in a style that gives you a chance.
So, are the Seahawks playing rope-a-dope with this injury report? Will Hasselbeck appear like Lazarus (or, to give a far more annoying example, Brett Favre) just in time to save the day Carroll didnt sound too sure.
No, its not that simple. Charlies ready to go. And in my mind thats how we go until we know otherwise or we have more information we dont have enough right now. This is just the first step to figuring out how Matt can handle the physical stuff. So I dont want us to be distracted by that. Matt, hes diligently going about preparing to play, and thats exactly what we need him to do. And if its possible hes going to will it to happen and hes ready to play on game day, well find out. Im rooting for him just because wed love to have him be with us and be an active part of this game.
So well see what happens.
The smart money is on at least a cameo appearance from the veteran this game, played for the division as it is, is too important for anything to be left out of the plan.