BY Art Thiel 08:08PM 12/27/2010

So absurd, it has to work

Whitehurst will be the hero in ‘Clash of the Tiniest Titans’

Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst can't be that bad twice in a row (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

RENTON – For TV networks, a New Year’s weekend usually is a wasteland of old movies, infomercials, reruns and Black & Decker Lutefisk Bowls.

So it was hardly a surprise that NBC, already desperate for visitors, demanded from Fox the rights to the Seahawks-Rams game in order to ooze it into the 5 p.m. Sunday night prime time spot.

Unscheduled reality programming doesn’t get better than this:

“Clash of the Tiniest Titans: America’s Funniest Playoff Teams.”

Football fans with a lust for the absurd crave the amusement of watching the winner become not only the NFC West champion, but advance to the playoffs with a home-field advantage in the first round.

Should that winner be the Seahawks, the game will have the additional benefit of creating the NFL’s first playoff team with a losing record (7-9).

That calls to mind another analogous bit of entertainment: the 1959 Peter Sellers movie “The Mouse That Roared,” in which the fictional, hapless Duchy of Grand Fenwick attacks the U.S.

The movie was a hit. As would be the Seahawks, darlings of a sports nation that loves freaks.

But before we set up that playoff mismatch, the Fenwicks, er, Seahawks must first get there. And they must get there, it was confirmed Monday, on the quarter-back of Charlie Whitehurst.

Keeping Matt Hasselbeck from his usual role as starter is a bad butt muscle, oddly appropriate given this game between back-enders. A week of rest from practice might help, according to Pete Carroll, but the head coach hedged no bets in declaring a full week of practice for Whitehurst.

“I’m trying to make it so there isn’t any uncertainty,” Carroll said. “I’m going with Charlie because we know he’s ready to go.”

That, of course, summarizes the biggest fear for Seahawks fans: “Says who?”

Coming off another battering, this one 38-15 Sunday at the hands of Tampa Bay, Whitehurst evinced nothing that would suggest he was ready to lead his team to victory in a nationally televised, prime-time, do-or-die game.

In three quarters of play following Hasselbeck’s non-contact injury, Whitehurst was on the far side of feeble. Even Carroll admitted same, more or less.

“We had chances to put the ball down the field that he didn’t feel comfortable with,” Carroll said. “He kind of made some conservative decisions. The ball just kept kind of getting dumped down.”

Basically, Whitehurst did a Barney Fife – shook like a leaf when the gun was in his hand. He was scared to throw deep, sloppy about dumping off, and struggled with play-calling and cadence.

To which I say:

Perfect for the Seahawks. The Rams aren’t ready for Whitehurst to be Dan Marino for a day.

Consider two things:

*It is nearly impossible for a professional athlete to play as bad as he did Sunday two times in a row;

*Even when the Seahawks had Hasselbeck in the first Rams game Oct. 3, they lost 20-3 in St. Louis.

And that was the period of the season when the Seahawks were, ahem, playing well.

A week ago, I advocated for Whitehurst to start against Tampa Bay simply because the game outcome likely would not affect Seattle’s chances at a playoff berth. Whitehurst needed the experience and Hasselbeck could use the rest. And if Whitehurst really was flailing in a close game, Hasselbeck was better prepared to come off the bench for a late rescue.

Well, Whitehurst played, but because of injury instead of intent. He wasn’t ready. He took too seriously Carroll’s admonition to take care of the ball, and lost his athletic aggressiveness. That’s on Carroll.

Nevertheless, game action was what Whitehurst needed, not only for this season but to help determine the Seahawks’ future at the position.

For reasons likely to be about house politics, Carroll instead danced with the guy who brung him. Starting Hasselbeck was not unreasonable, just not gutsy. And as events turned out, the game AND Hasselbeck were lost.

But now, Whitehurst has his bad mojo out of the way. He will have the complete support of players and coaches, plus a week of preparation. Then there’s the home field, which should be sufficiently weather-whipped to provide additional advantage beyond decibels against a dome team.

Seahawks 17, Rams 16, NFL purists with fingers in their eyes, two knuckles deep.

Besides the flabbergasting nature of the triumph, the Seahawks as 7-9 division champions would fit well into the 2010 local sports condition.

When the football Huskies get to a bowl game with a 6-6 record, thanks to three last-moment wins, and when Felix Hernandez is voted the Cy Young Award with the fewest victories (13) ever for a winner, it adds, if not luster, then at least a grease spot, to our local legacy:

We do mediocre right.


  • 1coolguy

    Geeze, unless the hawks find an O-line, it really doesn’t matter who is QB. CW has a great opportunity to shine, yet what has he done with his playing time?

    MH needs to retire and the hawks need to draft / trade for a QB that can make them competitive. Given teh O-line, the guy HAS to be mobile.

  • Bill Harris

    Hey ARt…I ran across this article by accident. I used to read your columns years ago and I had forgotten how much I actually enjoyed each one. I totally enjoyed reading this one today and will try to get back here often to try to catch your point of view as often as possible. Thank you. Bill

    • Dave J

      Realistically, Seattle needs to be done for the season. A ticket to the big dance is a losing proposition: a) very little chance to make it out of the first round, and b) loss of draft pick status. There have been few bright spots for the Seahawks this season and way more frustration. Time to admit that rebuilding needs to continue. Whitehurst starting only acts as a catalyst for making that happen.

      It’s a bummer that it takes a freak show of a matchup to get any NFL team on their only prime time game of the season (cite some of the mismatches that have been shown Sunday/Monday nights this season). I wish we could put on a good show for the masses, but once again that’s highly unlikely. Go Seahawks – in the 2011 draft that is!

      Thanks, DJ

  • Barb D

    In this port of mediocrity at least we have a more-than-decent sports writer! Thanks.

  • RikitiTrax

    Come on now! 5, I said FIVE!!, wild card teams have won the Super Bowl!!!!! Is it beyond the realm of conceivable out-comes to see the Hawks get HOT with Charlie Whitehouse and advance in the 2010 Playoffs??? LET HIM THROW THE LONG BALL!!!!!!! PLEASE!!! That’s why we brought Charlie here. Boy am I a DWEEB or what. Seattle is the absolute worst city to want to be an avid sports fan in. I MEAN 1 NBA Championship and 2 WBNA Championships!! What a total embarassement. Like you said Charlie surely can’t play that badly in consecutive games.

  • Stu A

    Your pen, now sporting the fashionable SPN logo, still cuts most sharply. Keep wielding!

  • Sam Chowder

    Just wanted to say good luck with SportsPress Northwest! It’s a great idea. I’ll be coming here all the time.