Unloaded in July because the Seahawks wanted to get younger, Matt Hasselbeck of the Titans is off to the best start of his 13-year National Football League career.
Dont quite know why this is so, but many professional athletes come to Seattle to die (Exhibit A: Chone Figgins) and resurrect after they depart. A prime example of the latter is Doug Fister, who went 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA for the Mariners this past season and then 8-1, 1.79 after the club dispatched him to playoff-bound Detroit on July 30.
A few days before the Mariners traded Fister, the Seahawks, determined to get younger, unloaded longtime quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who wound up signing with the Tennessee Titans. Originally dismayed at his release by a franchise he represented since 2001, Hasselbeck must be giddy over the way things have worked out in his favor.
The Titans have a winning record (2-1) while the Seahawks struggle with a no-can-do offense that ranks 30th in points scored and 31st in yards gained. With that calamity unfolding, Hasselbeck, who led the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance (XL) and represented Seattle in three Pro Bowls, is not only off to the best start of his professional career, but is on a pace to shatter all of his single-season passing marks.
He ranks third among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage at 69.9 percent (career high is 65.5 in 2005), and eighth with a passer rating of 102.2 (career high is 98.2, also in 2005). Hasselbeck is also eighth in total yards (932), having averaged 310.7 through Tennessee’s first three games. His highest average with Seattle: 247.9 in 2007, his last year as a Pro Bowl player.
Hasselbeck is among the top 10 in all stats that matter, including yards-per attempt at 8.4. When Hasselbeck quarterbacked the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, he averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. How his 2011 numbers compare with those of his successor, Tarvaris Jackson:
If the NFL announced Pro Bowl squads today, Hasselbeck would probably be one of three AFC quarterbacks selected.
Hasselbeck told the Associated Press recently that, aside from having to learn a new offensive system, the biggest difference between playing for Tennessee and Seattle has come on Monday mornings.
I dont wake up feeling like Ive been hit by a freight train, Hasselbeck said, a reference to the protection he receives from the Titans offensive line (it has allowed one sack) vs. the lack of same he got from the Seahawks (29 sacks in 14 games last year).
Apart from his four-TD spectacular against New Orleans last Jan. 8 in the first round of the playoffs, Hasselbeck did not have a respectable 2010, throwing for a career-low 12 touchdown passes while matching a career high with 17 interceptions. Some of that had to do with the lack of talent surrounding Hasselbeck, some of it was due to injuries. In any case, his bounce back with the Titans is not surprising given the pocket protection he has received, and reminiscent of a similar story 19 years ago.
Following the 1991 season, what passed for the Seahawks braintrust, owner Ken Behring and GM-coach Tom Flores, decided to unload veteran Dave Krieg, the franchise leader in every passing category, and entrust the job to a younger quarterback.
The Seahawks elected to go that route after Krieg had thrown 11 TDs vs. 12 interceptions in 1991, while sharing time with Jeff Kemp.
The Seahawks wanted either Dan McGwire or Kelly Stouffer, players that had come at the cost of No. 1 draft picks, to play quarterback, but neither could. McGwire made just one start, contributed no TDs and three interceptions, while Stouffer made seven starts and threw three TDs vs. nine interceptions. Neither lasted long in the NFL.
The job largely fell to 30-year-old Stan Gelbaugh, a Bills-Cardinals castoff, who took most of the snaps in a season that ended 2-14, worst in franchise history.
Krieg, meanwhile, moved on to Kansas City, where, with better line protection, he enjoyed a renaissance, producing his fifth career 3,000-yard season (with 15 TDs) and leading the Chiefs to the playoffs.
Thirty-four years old when the Seahawks let him go, Krieg had three good seasons in him after leaving Seattle.
No telling how many Hasselbeck has left at age 36, but hes having at least one, while the Seahawks attempt to figure out whether Jackson is the right long-term replacement, merely a short-term solution, or no solution at all.