It's not just Hasselbeck, and that's one reason it's problematic to re-sign Hasselbeck. For the Seahawks. For Matt Hasselbeck.
The problem with an opinion piece is that it creates its own momentum, and when you're done, you've said something and it's honest, but it also tends to be narrow. Though I don't really want to drag out of the Hasselbeck debate more than it has to be, there's no responsible way of ignoring it. So I wanted to take a little more, eh, judicious tact and discuss some other elements of the decision.
Matt Hasselbeck can not be easily evaluated as a talent. That is the fun and frustration of analyzing football. I won't rehash the basics, but I want to reiterate that even after years and years of failure, we can not say for certain that Hasselbeck is a bad quarterback. It's still possible that Hasselbeck has played with mostly inferior or incompatible talent and that in the right situation, he could thrive.
Everyone has an internal pie chart of possibilities and probabilities relating to Hasselbeck's future. Some people, too many people unfortunately, see it like this:
Chance that Hasselbeck could succeed: 0%
Chance that Hasselbeck will fail: 100%
Chance that Hasselbeck could succeed: 100%
Chance that Hasselbeck will fail: Tim Ruskell
I imagine most people are not 100%, but I also imagine some people are frustratingly close. That is, their opinions are polarized. Many people bring in other dangerous elements too, like loyalty, trust, respect, honor, etc. that muddy and make the conversation irrational. I have tremendous respect for loyalty as a character quality, but it has no place in a discussion about signing a player. It's abstract, it's unfalsifiable, and it implies a kind of intimacy between fan and player that's kind of unhealthy. If loyalty plays a part in contract negotiations, great, but I doubt that's so much loyalty as the value of familiarity, comfort and not having to uproot one's family.
I assume Seahawks fans actually watch the games and root for Seattle to win and do not simply like the idea of being a fan: the pageantry, the identity, the community and the history. And I assume that when people talk about Hasselbeck, it's as a player and as an asset, and not out of some kind of sense of duty and appreciation. But I guess how I enjoy the team isn't universal or objectively the right way, and for those that do not care or do not care terribly much about winning, those that don't watch until the playoffs, or only watch games they attend, or only watch sporadically, or only watch when the Seahawks are winning, or stop watching blowout losses, or mostly just follow the box scores and highlights, that Hasselbeck struggling so much these past three seasons is subordinate to Matt Hasselbeck being the greatest quarterback in franchise history. I respect all that. It's just not how I think.
That said, my intention is only to talk about Hasselbeck the player and Hasselbeck the asset. That is, Matt Hasselbeck's ability to make the team I love successful. My internal pie chart is pretty negative, and that's probably why I seem so vehement about Seattle not signing Hasselbeck. It's something like:
Chance that Hasselbeck excels in Seattle: 5%
Chance that Hasselbeck is league average: 25%
Chance that Hasselbeck continues on his three-year trajectory: 40%
Chance that Hasselbeck declines further: 30%
Keep in mind, even as an often accused Hasselbeck hater, I don't think it's impossible that he could excel. I don't think it's remote that he could rebound to a league average level. It's just not what I think is likely, and I have a healthy fear that Hasselbeck could decline even further. That isn't the whole story either.
The other thing to keep in mind is the overall quality of the Seahawks team. So, not only is it unlikely, in my opinion, that Hasselbeck bounces back, but what if Hasselbeck does but the defense doesn't? How many years can we expect Hasselbeck to defy age while Carroll attempts to fix a badly broken defense?
Once we factor in that the Seahawks on the whole are probably years away from meaningful contention, and that Hasselbeck is 35 and has been riddled with injuries, it just doesn't make much sense to me to tie the future of an aged quarterback with that of a rebuilding team. It doesn't make sense for Hasselbeck. It doesn't make sense for the Seahawks.
And I challenge those who believe Seattle would be justified even smart signing Hasselbeck to a contract to explain in what scenario it would be good for Hasselbeck or the Seahawks. Because I may fall on the pessimistic side of the debate, I may have less faith in Hasselbeck returning to glory than some or even most, and I may think the Seahawks are farther away from contention than some or even most, but who out there believes it is probable that in the next two or three seasons Hasselbeck turns his career around AND the Seahawks franchise itself turns its fortunes around?