Matt Hasselbeck is the best quarterback in Seahawks history, the keel who steadied Seattle’s offense in Week 1 through an awful start to an unexpected victory.
He’s also the biggest reason Seattle’s chances capsized in Denver on Sunday when he was picked off three times, all in Denver’s half of the field.
Hasselbeck has been intercepted 14 times in the past six regular-season games, and for the first time in at least five years, Seattle has a quarterback brought in to earnestly compete with Hasselbeck after trading for Charlie Whitehurst in the offseason.
So is Hasselbeck’s position a question in Seattle? Not for coach Pete Carroll.
“Matt’s our guy, and we’re counting on him,” Carroll said. “We know that Matt gives us the best chance to win and he’s doing everything he can to prepare and he’s busting his tail and all that. He’s doing a good job.
“We feel fortunate to have Charlie waiting in the wings, but it’s not his time yet.”
Hasselbeck is the longest-tenured Seahawk, someone who has played for the Seahawks under four general managers. Carroll’s commitment to Hasselbeck didn’t change just because Hasselbeck was intercepted three times. But the coach didn’t minimize the impact of those mistakes when he spoke to the team after the game.
“He was pretty tough on me, pretty hard on me,” Hasselbeck said. “He called me out right after the game on the turnover thing. I expect that, and I have no problem with that, and the standard has been set.”
That’s true for Carroll, who has made it clear he wants an offense that takes care of the ball and a defense that takes it away.
It’s also true for Hasselbeck, and it was just one week ago that he was praised for the way he bounced back against the 49ers after his first pass was picked off. Hasselbeck completed 16 of his next 20 passes, and it was clear Seattle has the most established, proficient quarterback in the NFC West.
One game didn’t change that.
“I’m not worried day-to-day,” Hasselbeck said. “In this league, you could be the hero one week and then the goat. That’s how it goes. I’m just looking to have a great week of practice and hopefully come out and have a good game Sunday.”
Hasselbeck didn’t replay the loss at Denver in his head Sunday night. He replayed it on a laptop during the flight back from Denver. He watched a condensed version, first with center Chris Spencer and later with Whitehurst.
Hasselbeck’s performance didn’t get better with repeated viewing. However, it does help to get beyond it.
“You can get closure,” Hasselbeck said of film study. “It’s very tough for all of us players and coaches to sleep on a Sunday night because plays are running through your head.”
Hasselbeck turns 35 on Saturday, but he plays a position that has a much later expiration date than others. Rich Gannon won the league’s MVP award at age 37. Brett Favre is 40, and not even two retirement announcements have kept him off the field. Kurt Warner is 39, and does anyone doubt Arizona wouldn’t love to have him back?
Hasselbeck is learning his second new offense in two years. But it’s more than just the playbook that has changed — so has the depth chart at quarterback. The Seahawks didn’t acquire Whitehurst to be the starter right away, but they did bring him in because they thought he was capable of being that.
How much longer before seeing him in that role?
“When Charlie gets his chance to play, then we’ll see how far he takes it,” Carroll said. “But that’s not even in our minds at all right now. We’re going with Matt and he’s really the guy that’s going to take us. We’re going to ride him and make sure that we support him and do all the things that he needs to help him, around him, so he can be successful.”