The Opening Three and Out

What is a franchise quarterback?

This details the opening drive.

It was forgettable.

So, let's take a quick detour before we get there.

Everyone knows that a quarterback's performance is hugely dependent on his surrounding talent. And almost everyone agrees that quarterback is the most important position on a football team. A quarterback is not more important than the other 10 players on offense or the other 44 players on the active squad. Even Peyton Manning could not thrive with sufficiently bad surrounding talent. But that kind of surrounding talent is hypothetical. As Indianapolis has proven season after season, there is something like a replacement level in football. A floor. If you have Peyton Manning, you can roll with Austin Collie, and if Collie goes down, there's probably another Collie level talent to be had.

In that sense, quarterback is more important than the other 10 players on offense. A great quarterback means the other ten players do no have to be as good and do not have to be as healthy. It's possible for a quarterback to play at a high level because of his surrounding talent, but someone like Kyle Orton, for instance, is probably not going to play nearly as well without Brandon Lloyd or Ryan Clady. That means the passing offense is dependent on more players and thus more vulnerable to injury or decline. It also means that Denver needs to have more money and resources tied up into its offense and that might mean the defense suffers. Think of the early Holmgren years in Seattle.

The value of a great quarterback isn't in that quarterback's ability to have a good game or a good season, it's that quarterback's ability to be good every year, as surrounding talent changes, as health fluctuates, against murderous schedules and the NFC West. It's that ability to be good when the team isn't and to be great when the team is. Teams starting Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger have a shot every season. They have more chances because the team doesn't need everything to break right to be a contender. When things do break right, they have that one player that can push them over the top. So they are both more often a contender and more likely to be a formidable contender.

The 2005 Seahawks were a great team but fragile. They fielded three legitimately great players in their prime. Then, in 2006, one suffered injury and precipitous decline, one put the Seahawks over the barrel in a no-holds-barred mission to sign with Minnesota, and one--well, Walter Jones couldn't do it alone. Over the next few seasons the Seahawks devolved from contender to fringe playoff team to basement dweller. Had Seattle a quarterback as talented as Jones, and a left tackle as talented as Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks may very well be contenders to this day.

When we talk about Hasselbeck and his future with the Seahawks, the question has never been, can Matt be good again? It's will Matt contribute to Seattle being a great team again? Can Hasselbeck be the kind of talent that ensures a good to great passing offense every season, with good surrounding talent or just adequate, through injuries, without great talent around him? Or is he someone like Kyle Orton, who can be good, but is unlikely to ever start for a great team?

Anyway, four dollars a pound.

1-10-SEA 21 (14:56) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short left to 89-J.Carlson to SEA 22 for 1 yard (41-R.Harper).

Within five: 9

Within 10: 9

Seahawks: WR (left/right), TE (right), I (right)

Saints: 4-3 over

Five blockers. Four rush. Hasselbeck pumps left, looks right and finds John Carlson running a flat. He slows and looks back and catches and is tackled immediately by Roman Harper. Saints start out with their strong safety sitting underneath. Interesting.

2-9-SEA 22 (14:19) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short left (91-W.Smith).

Within five: 7

Within 10: 10

Seahawks: 2 WR (left) TE (left/right), RB (Chris Baker motions right before the snap.)

Saints: 4-3 (OLBs pressuring right "B" gap and left "C" gap)

Saints rush six. Seattle responds with seven blockers. Ben Obomanu runs a quick-curl. Harper buzzes underneath Obo's route. The pass is tipped at the line by Will Smith and tumbles incomplete.

3-9-SEA 22 (14:16) (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep right to 11-D.Butler.

Within five: 7

Within 10: 10

Seahawks: WR (left), 2 WR (right), Split backs, Shotgun (Obomanu motions from right slot to left slot prior to the snap)

Saints: 3-3

Saints rush five. Seahawks block with seven. The blitz is picked up. Justin Forsett strings out Scott Shanle around left end. Deon Butler draws single coverage on the right. He's matched one on one against Jabari Greer. Usama Young jumps underneath. Hasselbeck slings it deep to Butler and Butler attempts to run under it, but the pass is too errant and falls incomplete.

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