A local radio station Monday morning took calls from listeners on the fate of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Should the Seahawks re-sign the veteran free agent or let him go?
The tally split right down the middle.
It was totally unscientific and represented the subjective offerings of listeners without specific insights into the front-office debates on the matter. But the even split perfectly captured the communal ambivalence.
With the NFL labor deal hammered out, the issue of Hasselbeck will be a priority for the Seahawks this week. Initially, there were some expressions of mutual interest, and an offer was on the table, but no agreement was reached before the lockout in March.
Now? Well, we’ll find out pretty quickly as the exhibition season starts in slightly more than two weeks.
And reflecting the division among callers, it seems for every argument to keep Hasselbeck, a fair counter can be offered. There’s no easy answer on this one. Players age, teams evolve, choices have to be made.
So let’s seek clarity in this muddy debate.
Hasselbeck will be 36 on Sept. 25 and has missed 13 games because of injuries the past three seasons while being an erratic contributor on bad teams.
But after he went through an abysmal four-game stretch late last season with 12 turnovers, he rebounded with two marvelous playoff games (seven touchdowns and one interception).
So, he’s been inspiring and infuriating.
He’s tough enough to play hurt, but brittle enough to get hurt often. He’s laudably competitive, but that leads him to take too much on himself at times with negative results.
He’s had the recent misfortune to play behind bad offensive lines and run dubious plays called by revolving coordinators.
On a team running short of leaders, you need a Hasselbeck. But on a team with almost no experience on the offensive line, you don’t need an aging quarterback vulnerable to weekly dismemberment.
But if not Hasselbeck, who? A trade for Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb would be expensive, particularly for a rebuilding team reliant on draft picks. Just about anybody else available at this point – Hasselbeck included – seems like only a short-term patch until the quarterback of the future is drafted.
Backup Charlie Whitehurst? He was unconvincing in his apprentice appearances last season.
Former Vikings free agent Tarvaris Jackson is considered a candidate. He’s been spotty in 20 NFL starts, so you’d surely think Hasselbeck would be a better option to come in and get this team operating on such short notice.
But Hasselbeck would be forced into another quick assimilation of a scheme run by his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years – Darrell Bevell. Despite Hasselbeck’s familiarity with Seahawks teammates, Jackson would be a quicker study on the offense since he’s run it the last four seasons under Bevell in Minnesota.
As for his place in the market, Hasselbeck is more valuable to an established team lacking only a quarterback than to a Seahawks team rebuilding in so many areas. Another club could easily woo him with a longer and more lucrative deal.
It’s clear he’s not the long-range answer here, so he might relish the chance of getting another shot at a ring with another club, despite his often-stated affection for the community.
To many fans, Hasselbeck is a reminder of the good days, the Super Bowl run and the stretch of NFC West dominance. He’s the best quarterback in franchise history. And he’s surely one of the most likeable and admirable sports stars we’ve had. For those in the media, he’s been a dream to cover.
GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll can’t afford sentimentality, however. They have to be dispassionate about rebuilding this team. The busloads of players shipped in and out in their first year offer evidence they’re capable.
They preach about the need to constantly upgrade the talent. But they can’t be so locked into change that they discount the possibility that Hasselbeck might be the right guy in the short term to get them into the future, given the variables of cost and other options available.
With money to spend, we should assume that Schneider and Carroll will be aggressive, perhaps even daring, and nothing should come as a surprise.
What happens with Hasselbeck will be a quick statement of where they’re headed.
It will make half the fans happy either way.