The Shadow Season and the Convoluted Race for the Seahawks Quarterback of the Future

Last season, Seahawks fans were blessed with not only a team to root for, but when that went tits up, a team to root against. Rooting against the Broncos never got old, held a dramatic thread all the way into week 17 and helped some of us younger fans get back in touch with our roots. Well, residual and hard-fought historical hate is always welcome at Field Gulls, but the incentive is gone. Seattle will not again be able to turn Alphonso Smith into Earl Thomas.

A different, more complex tale of hate, pessimism and self-serving sadism begins in 2010. I don't want to write off Charlie Whitehurst. Not completely. But Seattle was targeting Jimmy Clausen at 14. The FO knows that it needs more talent at quarterback. Best case scenario: Whitehurst takes the reigns and Seattle is set. I've challenged myself again and again to write up how and why Whitehurst can succeed, but it seems dishonest. I don't like selling something I myself do not believe. Instead, Seattle is more likely to enjoy a partly successful but uneven season and spend its first-round selection in 2011 on a quarterback. That should be a completing piece, and by 2012, Seattle could be an up-and-coming contender again.

Some think Seattle is the worst team in the NFL. I think that's preposterous. I mean, the Rams. The Broncos. The Bills. The Jaguars. It's about time the Cardinals fell apart. And lest we forget, injury and decline alters every season. Seattle has fought both for years, but is finally peaking through to the other end. It has a good base of young talent, an effective when healthy quarterback and a weak schedule. I think this is the season Seattle bounces back, sort of. Seattle was a good coach from finishing 7-9 last season and I think will finish 7-9 this season. 7-9 is always a safe prediction, because it's awfully close to 8-8, and all records gravitate towards 8-8.

A 7-9 record would put Seattle just outside the top ten. It might be able to maneuver up, but I do not think that is Schneider's style. Seattle needs a repeat of 2010. It needs for many of the worst teams in the NFL to have their quarterback of the future in place. Here's how that can happen.

NFL Quarterbacks Worth Rooting For:

Jason Campbell: If Campbell can show any spark at all, I think the Raiders will be thrilled to stick with him and thereby avoid drafting another quarterback early. JaMarcus Russell has left them, how do you say, butt hurt.

Kevin Kolb: The Eagles extended Kolb for one season suggesting they are not yet sold on Kolb. They shouldn't be. It's easy to see how this could be a disappointing season in Philadelphia. Kolb could suffer some growing pains, they're young at a lot of positions, and they don't have Jim Johnson anymore, R.I.P. Kolb needs to show something to persuade the Eagles into buying in long term.

Donovan McNabb: I think McNabb could age well, but like any 33 year-old quarterback, the cliff could be around any bend. Short of injury, I think he'll be ok. Injury, decline, and Red Oni and his owner will target youth.

Vince Young: Young is in his make or break season, and assuming regression from Chris Johnson, will be counted on to shoulder more of the offense. Can he? I hope he can. If he falters, the Titans are a worse team than Seattle, playing in a tougher division, and could be looking for a new quarterback.

David Garrard: Garrard turned 32 in February. Jacksonville is overdue for a successor, but then again, they might just be killing the franchise. Middle-tier quarterbacks can decline rapidly.

Matt Cassel: Cassel sucked in his first season, but not so much to destroy hope. Teams like to avoid young quarterbacks when they can and I think Cassel must prove himself only competent to stick. Be competent, Cassel. Please.

Colt McCoy-Jake Delhomme: Cleveland is my guess for first overall selection: Tough division, no quarterback, no pass rush. It's not hard to see how this ship could sink. I have a hard time seeing McCoy showing enough as a rookie to dissuade Mike Holmgren from selecting a quarterback in 2011, but I could see McCoy showing enough to dissuade Holmgren from selecting a quarterback early in 2011.

Levi Brown-Brian Brohm: Buffalo could finish 0-16 and still not draft a quarterback. It's that bleak for Bills fans. However, you never know. A sudden change of heart could complicate things. Or a sudden change of location. It'll be easier if someone can show some potential. Edwards and Fitzpatrick have had their shot and are not going to suddenly figure it out now. One of Brown or Brohm is Seattle's best hope to lock down this position.

Alex Smith: I hope Smith shows just enough to stick while the rest of the 49ers suffer various, horrendous deaths.

Matt Leinart: See: Alex Smith.

Teams Worth Rooting For*:

Steelers: It will be awkward, even impossible for some, but it's probably in the Seahawks best interest that Pittsburgh finishes ahead in the standings. It's no secret that Ben Roethlisberger is on the outs. I hope Dennis Dixon and the Steelers defense adds up to an improbable and short-lived playoff run.

Vikings: Awaiting Brett Favre's decision is tolerable when Favre just led your team to the NFC Championship, but this game will prove tiresome eventually. I could see Favre in Cleveland by 2011. It's not like he has the sense to retire. Minnesota needs a new quarterback, and if the wheels come off in 2010, Brad Childress could be in the market.

Browns: Cleveland selected need picks in the first two rounds and corroborated why that's an often criticized strategy. Joe Haden ran a slow forty. It mattered for Malcolm Jenkins. It matters for Haden. It won't upend him. It won't force him to safety, probably. It does mean he lacks elite speed at one of the most speed dependent positions on the football field. The Browns pass rush won't bail him out. McCoy might impress and stick, but I'd rather Delhomme leads them to an improbable record and takes them out of the discussion. I don't see. I don't like their draft class and I don't like their chances in 2010.

Teams Worth Rooting Against**:

Lions: Matthew Stafford.

Rams: Sam Bradford.

Broncos: Tim Tebow.

Falcons: Matt Ryan.

Buccaneers: Josh Freeman.

Bears: Jay Cutler.

Packers: Aaron Rodgers.

Jets: Mark Sanchez.

Bubble Teams***:

Bengals: Carson Palmer looked, well, pretty lousy last time I watched him, and though he's only 30, he's had reconstructive surgery on one of his knees and his throwing elbow. Teams always take too long to release a "sure thing". If Palmer is good enough, Cincinnati will procrastinate.

Panthers: A second-round pick is a sizable investment and I don't think the Panthers will give up early on Jimmy Clausen, but the situation is volatile. For one, Clausen might be a total POS. It's part of the disadvantage of being an outsider. I tend to give dislikable players the benefit of the doubt, but it's entirely possible Clausen has career altering personality problems. I'm more concerned about John Fox. Fox is in the last year of his contract and considered a lame duck. Coaching change means uncertainty and Clausen could be squeezed out in the process. It would be better for the Seahawks if the Panthers play well and perhaps secure an extension for Fox. Or, at least, keep themselves out of the quarterback hunt.

The Final Ingredient****:

Jake Locker: Short of total collapse, Locker will receive a first round grade. There's not a lot of drama here. The question is: will Locker be the first quarterback selected? If so, Seattle is probably SOL. Not to say I root for a bad season, and not to say a bad season would instill confidence in me about a prospect I'm on the fence about, but a good if not spellbinding season might be the best chance Seattle has of landing Locker.

Ryan Mallett: The formula for Mallett is simple: Play well enough in 2010 to be selected in the first round. If there's any doubt, Mallett will benefit from returning for 2011 and declaring in a less contested class. Kick ass and he could go first overall.

Pat Devlin: Devlin is treading a fine line. Right now, his tools and the success of Joe Flacco have made him a top prospect despite playing for Delaware. A good season could make him a first round pick. A bad season could force him to return for 2011.

Andrew Luck: Luck has time. He is only a sophomore. He redshirted his freshman season and will be eligible for the 2011 draft. I don't think Luck is any hurry, but like any prospect, if 2010 is a slam dunk, he would be foolish not strike while the iron is hot.

Blaine Gabbert: Same story. I won't keep listing names, but the premise is clear: The more prospects that earn a first round grade, the better the chance Seattle can draft one. At the same time, if too many players shoot up the boards, prospects like Mallett, Devlin, Gabbert and Luck might return and await a less crowded class. As long as three worthy players earn a first round grade, Seattle is in good position.

Others include: Christian Ponder, Case Keenum, Jerrod Johnson and Terrell Pryor.

It's complicated, and not as easy to follow, but I will track the situation all season, because it's as, no, more important than Denver losing in 2009. Seattle will most likely need a quarterback of the future and will probably be best served drafting that quarterback in 2011, but achieving the right mix of fit and availability is by no means guaranteed. The best possible scenario is for young quarterbacks to achieve, older quarterbacks to hold up, teams without quarterbacks to somehow play well and enough college quarterbacks of interest to play well that Seattle will have its shot without tanking its season.

*Teams likely looking for a quarterback of the future regardless of their record.

**Teams with a realistic shot at finishing worse than Seattle but are locked into young quarterbacks.

***Teams with uncertain futures and uncertain quarterback situations.

****Quarterbacks seeking a first round grade.

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