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Matt Hasselbeck Slings to Deon Butler for 32 and Game Winning Field Goal Range

Matt Hasselbeck gets the game ball.

The NFL Draft is designed to assist weaker teams and create parity. Bad teams get better players and become better teams. The very worst teams can pick any player to help rebuild their franchise around. That intent has been disputed by research conducted by Massey and Thaler. Common wisdom is that rookies are overpaid and the strict salary structure punishes bad teams by awarding them potentially crippling investments.

Two things are true: High salaries in the top ten punish bad teams by increasing how much is risked. The best players are usually drafted early.

The San Francisco 49ers started eight picks selected in the top fifty: Alex Smith (1), Vernon Davis (6), Michael Crabtree (10), Patrick Willis (11), Manny Lawson (22), Joe Staley (28), David Bass (33) and Chilo Rachal (38). It took a lot of ass football to assemble that cast. If not for the 90s Niners spilling into the early 2000s, San Francisco would have a dog in the race for worst team of the new millennium.

Smith looked like a competent if unsexy quarterback. Dilfer with a better arm. He's 25.

Davis ran a 4.38 forty. Match him against Aaron Curry on a crossing route and Curry is probably going to get burned.

Crabtree is athletic and explosive and-Oh shit! Lawyer Milloy!

I won't continue fawning. My point is that Seattle beat a better team than itself today. It beat a younger team with far greater resources invested in that youth. It beat that team because the 49ers are better than Seattle, but not significantly.

Josh Wilson was the best all around cornerback playing today. He is a fiend against the wide receiver screen, aware and responsive to his surroundings like a Shaolin Monk. Wilson isn't a stride-for-stride, Asomugha-like shutdown corner. He's a zone corner, but a hell of a zone corner, and drafted to play in a zone scheme. He was supposed to be Ronde. He's supposed to bury the screen, intercept the bounce, jump the route and find the fumble and fly.

Brandon Mebane is an incredible machine. He's a backloaded piston; a battering ram shaped like candy corn. The day Mebane synced to NFL snap counts he became a great young defensive tackle. Mebane is quick, powerful and hard to block. Seattle doesn't need Suh to showcase Mebane, just someone better than Rocky Bernard, Colin Cole, Craig Terrill and the whole sick crew. Like, motile matter -- ambulatory would be an upgrade.

Jordan Babineaux is a young, cheap and functional free safety.

Tim Ruskell never did rebuild but he added some talent while the core rotted. Seattle's next GM inherits a heck of a fine position. I hope he realizes it.

. . .

Two years ago I faced the Shaun Alexander dilemma. Alexander was no longer a good running back. On his best days rushing, he was still a liability as a receiver and pass blocker. But he was beloved even by we who hated watching him. I never feared a miraculous recovery disproving all my theories. I cringed because others saw a miraculous recovery every time he rushed for five.

Hasselbeck isn't there. Quarterbacks do not fall like running backs fall. Losing a little arm strength is not like losing the first gear that got you the job. Hasselbeck can toss a nice pass when he needs. The bender over the defender to Deion Branch was indefensible pass at its best. He threw another high-arcing bomb to Branch that Branch lost behind the defender. It was pretty for a second. Real pretty.

Unlike seeing Shaun sprinting for fourteen, I never cringed seeing Hasselbeck spark to life. It was thrilling. Hasselbeck was never a great quarterback. Well, screw that. Matt Hasselbeck is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play American football. Any quarterback that's made a Pro Bowl can claim that. Hasselbeck is not Manning or within the discussion. He's not Fouts or Unitas or Tarkenton or Marino or-


Game ball guy. I hope you find a team to make your last few millions in the league with. And I hope that team is not the Seattle Seahawks.