If Charlie Whitehurst was a free agent, and Seattle could sign him for no more than his current contract and the pressure that contract puts on the Seahawks depth chart, I would consider Whitehurst a bad signing.
Norv Turner took over as head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2007. He earned the position after making the San Francisco 49ers offense look..semi-functional. He developed a reputation as a quarterbacks guru after developing Troy Aikman and wringing a single season of productivity from Alex Smith. And by productivity, I mean, not cripplingly bad quarterback play. Philip Rivers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, perhaps because of Turner, perhaps not. If you buy into quarterbacks being coached up, Whitehurst had it all: consistency, expertise and time.
Whitehurst studied Turner's offense over three seasons, without pressure, but also without game experience. He looks completely and utterly unaccustomed to game speed, even preseason game speed. He seems to have enough trouble simply reading a vanilla zone, and while attempting to decipher it, shows no pocket awareness at all. Whitehurst keeps his eyes up field, but can not walk and chew bubble gum. If he showed better ability to read routes or find open receivers, maybe developing pocket presence could be a realistic goal. But seemingly flummoxed by simple zones, it's a stretch to think he will significantly improve his read and pocket awareness.
I do not see evidence of a cannon arm, a trait that might ease his impending decline, and I also do not see great accuracy. Even his calmest, least harassed, and simplest throws are around the target rather than to it. His tools seem decent. He has good arm strength, a good frame and doesn't embarrass himself on the run. Whitehurst embodies the middle round, prototypical quarterback that has never achieved great success nor tantalized with his tools, but because he looks the part, is handed a clipboard and calls it a career.
Whitehurst turns 28 August 6. He studied the same basic playbook for three years, but when asked to execute it, showed little ability, confidence, competence or promise. He now faces a new playbook and real expectations. The Chargers announcers had a healthy humor about Whitehurst. They did not ridicule him, but instead dismissed him for what he is: A third string quarterback. Before the game, Whitehurst stressed the importance of the preseason for him, talking about how it's his only chance to impress and saying "I prepare for these games just like they are a regular season game."
Mike Sando wrote something to the effect that if Whitehurst develops no one will remember what Seattle spent to acquire him. That is probably true and yet beside the point. Seattle went dumpster diving and returned with Charlie Whitehurst. They have not mortgaged the future hoping he develops. If he doesn't, it's possible Pete Carroll survives, and possible John Schneider survives. Probable, maybe, for Carroll. Whitehurst is not likely to sink the franchise even if he busts as badly as I think he will. However, a team can wager a lot or a little on a low-value asset. It can see Whitehurst for what he is, a backup quarterback with some warts and some potential not unlike Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, or it can lock onto one player, forego negotiations and pay the sticker price for his services. Seattle did the latter. Whitehurst is not only a potential talent evaluation failure, but a troubling indication that Carroll and Schneider trust their own opinions to a fault.