I. Three things we know
1) Matt Hasselbeck has a problem playing from behind.
He has committed 13 turnovers in the past four games. Twelve of those have occurred when Seattle was behind in the score. Now, that’s not exactly shocking given the fact Seattle has held the lead for 32:22 total over those four games. But what it shows is that Hasselbeck’s turnovers aren’t leading to the deficits, rather the turnovers are a product of playing from behind. He’s taking a bad situation and making it worse. Much worse.
2) Hasselbeck’s production is nose-diving for the second consecutive December.
Hasselbeck’s quarterback rating through November last season: 81. His rating in the five games played after Dec. 1: 65.1. The decline is just as clear cut this season. His quarterback rating was 78.9 when November ended. It is 50.1 in the three games this month.
3) Hasselbeck is trying to do too much.
The lack of a consistent running game has put a lot of pressure on the Hasselbeck. Seattle is starting Ben Obomanu and Mike Williams at wide receiver, Ruvell Martin is getting more repetitions than rookie Golden Tate and tight end John Carlson – who many expected to have a Pro Bowl season – has caught one pass the previous three games combined. Hasselbeck has felt the pressure to make plays, try to make something happen, and he has made something happen. For the other team.
II. Three things we don’t know
1) How much of a toll this has taken on Hasselbeck?
He has heard the backup’s name chanted before, but that was 2001, a season the Seahawks were squatting at Husky Stadium, and the backup was Trent Dilfer, who had a Super Bowl ring. Hasselbeck has taken Seattle to four consecutive division titles since then, started in the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the crowd was chanting Charlie Whitehurst’s first name, and the fact Hasselbeck is in the final year of his contract only amplifies the feeling of uncertainty. How is he holding up? Coach Pete Carroll must evaluate that this week.
2) How much does an eroding skill set have to do with Hasselbeck’s struggles?
He is 35, now, which isn’t prohibitively old for a quarterback, but declining arm strength and other physical skills could be a factor. Is Hasselbeck attempting throws that he used to be able to make that he simply can’t anymore? Are his decisions essentially writing checks his body is no longer capable of cashing?
3) Does Mike Holmgren’s absence explain the struggles as much as anything else?
For eight years Hasselbeck played for one coach in Seattle, and he knew Holmgren’s offense as well as any quarterback ever has. Now, he’s using his second different playbook in two seasons. He was intercepted 17 times last season, the most of any year in his career. He has been picked off 17 times this season, making it he simply doesn’t have that governor that kept him from going overboard in terms of his risks. It’s unrealistic to expect offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and Hasselbeck to have the relationship Holmgren forged with the quarterback over eight years, but something has got to change.
One thing we’re still trying to figure out
1) Who should start at quarterback this week?
Seattle is still in consideration for a playoff berth, and the idea of starting anyone but the quarterback who gives the team the best chance of winning on Sunday chafes against Pete Carroll’s emphasis on turnovers.
And the truth is that if Carroll makes a change, it has more to do with Hasselbeck’s inadequacy more than Charlie Whitehurst’s preparedness to play.
There’s also a long-term consideration here. If Hasselbeck remains the starter for the next two games, is there anything he can do that will bring clarity to Seattle’s quarterback situation going forward. And if not, is it worth playing Whitehurst the final two games to decide if he is part of the future equation as a backup, as a place-holder while a young quarterback adjusts to the NFL or even as a potential starter?
It is a difficult question to answer, but for the past two weeks, Hasselbeck has taken a bad situation and made it worse.