The pass was as pretty as a grade-school teacher’s penmanship, floating into the hands of Ben Obomanu with such precision that the wide receiver broke nary a stride on his way to the end zone.
Ah, so that’s what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider envisioned when they paid a steep cost to acquire Charlie Whitehurst as a backup quarterback.
Problem is, by the time Whitehurst finally completed a throw with a payoff more consequential than a short dink or a soft lob, the New York Giants on Sunday had all but assured the Seahawks would suffer their most lopsided home defeat since Qwest Field opened in 2002.
Whitehurst’s 36-yard pass to Obomanu made the score 41-7 early in the fourth quarter, and while the touchdown denied the visitors a shutout and finally stopped the bleeding, it did nothing to a change a game that could be interpreted as a warning.
If Charlie Whitehurst is the future, the Seahawks might want to add a safe room to the VMAC training complex.
Or to paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green’s legendary post-game rant: Whitehurst is who we thought he is. There’s a reason the fifth-year veteran was making his first NFL start Sunday at the suspiciously advanced age of 28.
The most optimistic of Seahawks fans hoped Whitehurst, as the stand-in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck, would survive the league’s most feared pass rush by making some plays amid a torrent of blindside hits. The Giants’ front four, it turned out, was contained – Whitehurst didn’t take a single sack – but until he hooked up with Obomanu during garbage time, the quarterback didn’t make any significant plays, either.
“He did some good things,” Carroll pointed out. “But he didn’t do enough things to make a difference.”
Whitehurst was as self-critical as you’d expect of somebody who needed a touchdown pass, thrown two hours after the issue had been decided, to push his quarterback rating past 40 – “I was disappointed in the way I played, he said, “and I have to get better” – but it’s not like the rest of the Seahawks rallied to his cause.
Wide receiver Mike Williams had an opportunity for a 17-yard touchdown catch of a second-quarter Whitehurst pass that, while not perfect, was going to be about as good as it got Sunday. The ball went out of Williams’ hands and into the grasp of cornerback Terrell Thomas.
A sloppy turnover, and had the Giants not owned a 21-0 lead at the time, it would have been a killer turnover.
Unable to perform the supernatural task of getting close to Whitehurst’s worst throws, the receivers could have done a better job on those that were salvageable.
Meanwhile, the running game wasn’t so much a threat designed to keep the Giants off balance as an excuse to eat up the clock in the second half, when the Seahawks went into historic-embarrassment prevention mode.
And then there was the play-calling. Well, one play, but symptomatic of Whitehurst’s lack of support.
On a third-and-1 at the Seattle 30 – the Hawks were trailing only 7-0 at the time – Leon Washington appeared to take the ball on a right-side sweep, then tossed a long lateral to Whitehurst on the left flank. Two men were wide open down the sideline: tight end Chris Baker and, beyond him, Mike Williams.
Whitehurst’s pass was overthrown to Baker. Or maybe it was underthrown to Williams. Whatever, the Seahawks coaches somehow were thinking razzle-dazzle before Whitehurst’s career as a starter was 10 minutes old.
“Baker is wide open to make 20 or 30 yards right there, and we get a little charge out of that and we get moving and we’re probably on the 35- or 40-yard line, or something like that,” said Carroll, sharing the daydream as it was scripted in the playbook. “It didn’t happen. It looked great in practice, and we just missed it in the game.”
You know what else might look great in practice? A handoff to Marshawn Lynch that produces two yards on a third-and-1. The idea of acquiring Lynch, if memory serves, was for a power back capable of picking up a short gain for a first down.
There’s a time and place for trick-play gadgetry. That time, and that place, is not during the third meaningful drive of Whitehurst’s NFL career.
Without his coaches exuding common sense, without his receivers extending a helping hand, without a ground-game component, Whitehurst wasn’t up to the task of personally reviving a moribund offense.
In order for an untested quarterback to be modestly effective against the Giants, the players surrounding him needed to step up their games to the point of flawlessness. Instead, the players surrounding him regressed.
“Charlie survived his first game,” concluded Carroll, typically accentuating the positive. “He made it through, he was poised and handled it OK. But he was unable to make anything other than the one big play, throws-wise.”
All of which explains why Whitehurst, a good guy with glaring limitations, has spent five years on the sidelines.
He is what he isn’t.