In an oversimplified sense, Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks are like a couple overdue to get hitched.
They’ve been together for 10 mostly happy years. They’ve lived together for so long that you barely remember when they had separate addresses. They’ve remained together even though they’ve both changed over time and revealed their many shortcomings. Despite years of speculation that they would break up, they are meant for each other.
So why the heck haven’t the Seahawks proposed (a new contract)?
If they’re wise, they shouldn’t let another day pass without doing so. The Seahawks need to lock up their quarterback long before free agency begins in March, long before the threat of an NFL work stoppage becomes real.
They can’t risk Hasselbeck going elsewhere, not without a viable quarterback succession plan in place. Though the 35-year-old Hasselbeck is past his prime, he’s still an effective NFL starter who would be coveted in the open market, and what’s more, the Seahawks aren’t ready to move on. Charlie Whitehurst isn’t ready and may never be. It’s likely the Seahawks will draft or acquire a third quarterback to compete with Whitehurst to be Seattle’s QB of the future. So the franchise can’t risk a catastrophe by delaying a decision to commit to Hasselbeck.
Like an overdue couple, both sides are saying the right things in response to the marriage question. They love each other. They can’t foresee a future without each other. They’re committed in some spiritual ether, even though Hasselbeck is technically a free agent.
OK, so sign some papers and extend the bliss.
It would be a nightmare, on many levels, to see Hasselbeck channel Beyoncé and dance and sing “If you liked it, then you should’ve put a ring on it” all the way to Arizona or San Francisco or Minnesota.
Hasselbeck deserves a fresh two-year deal with compensation appropriate for a starting quarterback who led his team to an unexpected playoff victory. Such a contract would show respect for the most successful quarterback in franchise history and extend the Seahawks’ window to find their next long-term quarterback.
“We’re on it,” Seahawks coach/executive vice president Pete Carroll said twice Wednesday when asked about Hasselbeck and the quarterback situation.
Carroll called re-signing Hasselbeck “the top priority in our program.” He mentioned that he and general manager John Schneider met with Hasselbeck right after the Seahawks’ season-ending team meeting Monday.
“You have to deal with this, or you don’t understand the game, and I think we understand it really well,” Carroll said. “That’s why the very first meeting after our team meeting was John and I and Matt. So you gauge what you think of that in terms of sense of urgency. We couldn’t have done it more quickly.”
Hasselbeck says he’s predisposed to wanting to stay in Seattle. Carroll says, when asked if Hasselbeck is his guy, “I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it. He’s our starting quarterback.” But until a deal is agreed upon and then signed, it’s all talk, and the public is open to fret about worst-case scenarios.
The longer the Seahawks go without making a firm commitment, the more people will theorize that someone in the organization must think No. 8 is done. Maybe even Hasselbeck might start to think that. And it’s quite hard to woo a person who already feels the love is gone.
Get this contract done, Seahawks. Now. Leave nothing to chance. In the year that Carroll has been here, he has been proactive and decisive in most every decision he has made. Of course, most of those choices involved getting rid of players who clearly didn’t mesh with the team’s new direction. It’s a lot more difficult to vow to stay with a player for better or worse.
The Seahawks saw “for better” with Hasselbeck in the playoffs (seven touchdown passes, one interception) and during spurts in the regular season. They saw “for worse” during a four-game stretch (13 turnovers) that preceded Hasselbeck’s postseason rebirth.
Overall, Hasselbeck did a decent job with a patchwork offense that couldn’t run the ball and relied upon a group of inexperienced or previously disregarded receivers. Hasselbeck also had to direct an offense that Carroll disliked so much that he fired its coordinator, Jeremy Bates, as soon as the season ended.
If Carroll follows through with his plan to improve the running game — hiring Tom Cable as the assistant head coach/offensive line coach was a good move — there’s little reason to think that Hasselbeck can’t be effective at ages 36 and 37. He can’t carry an offense for an entire season anymore, but if he can stay healthy, he still has enough left to be an extraordinary complementary piece into his late 30s.
The Seahawks’ new management team knows what it has in Hasselbeck. It has a season’s worth of evidence. And if Carroll is making strong statements about re-signing Hasselbeck, then it’s clear the Seahawks are comfortable with bringing him back. So there should be no holdup, unless the franchise is working diligently to make sure there’s not a better option.
That’s understandable, but the Seahawks must remember that Hasselbeck has options, too. It’s better to love the one you’re with, the one you know, than to fish for something allegedly sexier, especially since there are so many unknowns with the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement set to end soon.
“We’re on it,” Carroll says.
Any day now, Seahawks. Propose a good deal while Hasselbeck is certain to say yes. You’ve had more than enough time to figure out how you feel.