Pete Carroll will have to pick a starting quarterback at some point before Saturday’s playoff game against New Orleans.
But the Seahawks coach wasn’t going to choose one Monday afternoon. Not even after he was asked repeatedly and in a variety of ways to divine whether Charlie Whitehurst would remain the starter after winning Sunday’s game, or Matt Hasselbeck would return to the starting role.
So while the Seahawks may not have a controversy, they certainly have a question. And Carroll went so far as saying the quarterbacks would split the repetitions at practice on Tuesday.
“We’ll just find out where we are and figure it out as we go through the week,” Carroll said.
Well, that didn’t clear up anything, so let’s get a timeline. Is there a day when Carroll wants to decide on a starter?
“No,” he said. “We’ll figure it out. We don’t know yet.”
Let’s get hypothetical, then. Say you’ve got a healthy Hasselbeck, a quarterback at or near 100 percent. Does he start?
“We’ll find out during the week,” Carroll said. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know. I’m going to see how everybody is. I don’t need to determine that yet. I know that you all want me to nail that for you, but I’m not going to because I don’t know.”
There is no easy answer to the most pressing question Seattle faces entering its first playoff game in three years, because Sunday, Hasselbeck was able to play. He showed that to the coaches and a television audience when he warmed up on the field beforehand. But Carroll chose to start Whitehurst, believing the week of practice and his mobility made him a better choice against the blitz-happy St. Louis Rams.
Carroll wasn’t wrong about that, but it only complicates the question as Hasselbeck is expected to practice Tuesday when the team begins preparing for the Saints in earnest.
“The way it worked out, it helped us get ready for this week,” Carroll said. “So I think we’ll have Matt full speed. That’s a big plus for us as we prepare for this week.”
Hasselbeck is the longest-tenured Seahawk. He not only has started four of the seven playoff victories in franchise history, but he passed for 366 yards against this very same New Orleans team Nov. 21. That was the highest total allowed by the Saints all season.
Then there’s Whitehurst, who just won his first start career start in a game in which he passed for more yards than Rams rookie Sam Bradford and rushed for nearly as many yards as Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson.
Mostly, Whitehurst managed the game, avoiding the turnovers that dogged Hasselbeck so repeatedly over a four-game span before his injury.
Whitehurst finished with 192 yards passing, he was not intercepted, and his scoring pass to Mike Williams accounted for the game’s only touchdown. But he also didn’t look downfield much after that first possession. He completed a 61-yard pass to Ruvell Martin on Seattle’s second play, but didn’t complete a pass longer than 13 yards after that.
“He did some very good things,” Carroll said, “but he also left some opportunities that we need to move the football.”
That worked against the Rams, who failed to score a touchdown. It’s much less likely the Seahawks can manage their way to a victory over New Orleans, the defending Super Bowl champion, considering the Saints scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions against the Seahawks in that November victory.
Now that the Seahawks and Whitehurst survived — and even at times thrived — in Sunday’s victory over St. Louis, Carroll again faces a choice at the most important position on his team.