Has Pete Carroll lost his mind? That’s the only explanation for the Seattle coach’s belief that Charlie Whitehurst or Tarvaris Jackson will provide the Seahawks with a better chance to win the NFC West than Matt Hasselbeck, right?
The biggest surprise with Carroll’s decision to move on without Hasselbeck isn’t the fact that he jettisoned the veteran, but his willingness to gamble on unproven commodities in Whitehurst and Jackson.
Let’s look at three questions that pop up when looking at Seattle’s QB situation and try to provide the answers:
Why let Hasselbeck walk?
While Hasselbeck will go down as arguably the best quarterback in the franchise’s history, his advanced age (he’ll be 36 in September), extensive injury history and declining production made it necessary for the team to explore other options at the position.
Since 2007, Hasselbeck has missed 13 games due to an assortment of injuries that have robbed him of some of the accuracy, touch and arm strength that helped him earn three Pro Bowl berths during his first seven years in Seattle. As a result, he has failed to post a passer rating higher than 75.1 during that span, nor has he recorded more touchdowns than interceptions in any of those seasons.
Although Hasselbeck played extremely well during the Seahawks’ surprising playoff run last season, the memories of a few fleeting moments shouldn’t overshadow Hasselbeck’s disappointing performance over the past three seasons.
Is Whitehurst the answer?
Whitehurst, who was acquired in a trade from the San Diego Chargers last summer, was expected to be the quarterback of the future, but did little to distinguish himself in his first season with the team. Although he led the Seahawks into the playoffs by guiding the team to a 16-6 win over the St. Louis Rams in the season finale, he was maddeningly inconsistent in his six appearances last year. He flashed arm strength, touch and accuracy as an intermediate thrower, but was woefully off the mark on balls thrown down the field. While this aspect of his game can be masked through clever game planning, it stood out as a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed before he can be fully effective as a full-time starter.
In addition, Whitehurst must become a better decision maker in the pocket. He takes too long to work through his progression, and his inability to deliver the ball on time leads to errant throws, which result in interceptions off tips or overthrows. Sure, some of those errors will be eliminated with more repetitions and game experience, but he remains a work in progress as a potential starting quarterback.
How does Jackson fit?
The flirtation with Jackson comes as a major surprise. The sixth-year pro was roundly dismissed as a potential franchise quarterback after failing to seize control of the Vikings’ starting role during his tenure. Although he flashed some promise during 20 career starts, he is still regarded as a major developmental project. His footwork and fundamentals are still raw and unrefined, but he made strides as a passer over the course of his career. He finished 2008 with a passer rating of 95.4 with nine touchdowns against only two interceptions in nine appearances (five starts). He guided the Vikings into the postseason with his solid play down the stretch, and appeared to be rounding into a solid starter.
While the memory of his pick-six to Asante Samuel in the Vikings’ 26-14 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles still lingers in the minds of many, he isn’t a throwaway at the position. Jackson’s combination of athleticism and arm strength makes him an intriguing prospect, and the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, has a clear understanding of what he brings to the table after coaching him for five years in Minnesota.
Given the abbreviated offseason and training camp schedule due to the lockout, the pre-existing relationship between Bevell and Jackson could give the Seahawks’ offense a chance to hit the ground running in 2011.
Carroll has been taken to task for bypassing the opportunity to make another run at the division crown behind a wily veteran, but he might be crazy like a fox when his gamble on two unproven signal callers results in improved play from the Seahawks’ offense.