It has been a wild 48 hours. First, it was going face to face with Andrew Luck’s beard, followed by the news that Matt Hasselbeck was done as a Seattle Seahawk, watching Titus get his cast cut off, and finishing with Seattle signing both the Undertaker (aka Robert Gallery) and possibly the best big-play receiver in franchise history, Sidney Rice.
Even with all the activity I am still scratching my head over the Hasselbeck move, really for two reasons:
1. With Whitehurst on the last year of his two year deal, and Tarvaris Jackson signed to nearly an identical contract to the one Charlie inked 18 months ago, the Hawks have decided to fill the most critical position on the field in a short term manner. I am just fine with not pulling the trigger on the long term view if you don’t feel there is a franchise quarterback available; however, if you are looking to the short term how does Hasselbeck not give you a better chance to win than Jackson or Whitehurst?
St. Louis is yet to add in free agency, Arizona’s line is a mess and Steve Breaston moved on to Kansas City, and San Francisco has lost a middle linebacker, a starting center, re-signed Alex Smith and has a disgruntled Frank Gore holding out. All the while, the Hawks make the biggest waves to date with the addition of the nasty lineman they needed in Gallery and a home run threat Hasselbeck never had in Rice. If selling short is the play, then Hasselbeck is the best stopgap until next year’s quarterback move is made.
2. In recent interviews, John Carlson, Golden Tate and Deon Butler all expressed the same feelings regarding the loss of Hasselbeck. They were all saddened to see a friend and colleague leave, but beyond that, read between the lines. Every one of them expressed how much they learned from No. 8. Matt’s health, arm and overall athleticism have diminished with age, but his mind and football acumen filled in the gaps. He has the willingness and ability to teach, demand precision and accountability, highlight the nuances and details of every route and offensive concept, and as his former teammates expressed, “teach the little things you don’t see in the X’s and O’s of the playbook.”
With Matt Hasselbeck gone, the starting QB job is Charlie Whitehurst’s to lose. (AP)
Whitehurst and Jackson simply cannot do that, and in a year where an entire offseason was wiped out, where rookies and young players will dominate the offensive huddle, to flush away Matt’s experience is a curious and bold move.
Finally, the NFL teaches you very quickly to move on, and that’s what the Hawks – and in particular, Charlie Whiehurst – must do. Make no mistake about it, this is his job to lose going in, and there can be no excuse for age or inexperience. He is entering his sixth year in the NFL, which is nearly twice as long as the average career, while taking hundreds if not thousands of reps in practice, preseason games, and even two NFL starts.
He got valuable work when Hasselbeck was injured and limited in many weeks of practice, and he will have seven extra days of practice reps on Jackson. The extra week of work is because the new CBA stipulates that all veteran free agents signed to a new contract cannot participate with their new teams until Aug. 4.
To hold off Jackson, who coincidentally went 17 picks ahead of Whitehurst in the ’06 draft, Whitehurst must do three things throughout the preseason:
1. Command his team and huddle. Whitehurst continually took a back seat to Hasselbeck last year, and even this offseason. He is a soft-spoken, easy going Southern guy (think Dustin Ackley with long hair and a beard), and he must stick to who he is, but he also better bring a sense of urgency and intensity we didn’t see a year ago.
2. Be consistently accurate. Whitehurst has a longer delivery which can be harder to repeat and cause inaccuracy when a pocket collapses on top of him. He can spin it and throw a beautiful deep ball, but to gain the trust of his coaches and his huddle he will have to refine his ball placement, critical in the timing/West Coast system Darrell Bevell is installing.
3. Win. Pretty simple. His head coach preaches “Win Forever” and every drill, scrimmage and preseason game will be an opportunity for Whitehurst to beat out Jackson.
We will all be watching this competition closely, and though I think Pete Carroll and John Schneider will ultimately be judged by the franchise quarterback they draft, sign or trade for in 2012, the two will engender further trust and confidence in the 12th Man if the quarterback play in 2011 just simply gives them a chance to win … forever.