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The Road Back, Part 4: Changing of the Guard

Had I been alive, I probably would have backed Jim Zorn.

Zorn is underappreciated, even by Seahawks fans. His numbers appear abysmal. Some of that is a function of his surrounding talent. Expansion teams are set up to fail, and the early Seahawks were a gaggle of rejects from other teams. Some of that is the depressed passing environment of the late seventies. Zorn took the reins when running ruled and passing was a dicey proposition for the ever-conservative head coaches of the NFL.

By 1983, Zorn was finished. He was younger than Matt Hasselbeck, had enjoyed a comparable peak at a younger age, and was, like Hasselbeck, seen as both victim and culprit. The early eighties Seahawks offenses were abysmal, but Zorn barely rose above the fray. His health was slipping and his numbers were trending down and a kid with spotty pocket awareness and fumble problems was looming.

Dave Krieg took over permanently in 1983. If one stat could tell a story, consider Krieg and Zorn's respective yards per completion in 1983: 14.6 and 11.3. The epilogue might read: Krieg accomplished his passing superiority at the expense of sacks. Krieg and Zorn by sack percentage: 13.5% and 4.2%.

I'm not sure Matt Hasselbeck is finished. 2010 is the first time since Hasselbeck took over for Trent Dilfer that he must win his position out of training camp and through the preseason. Even if that's nine parts lip service to "competition" and only one part real, it's significant. I can't help but notice there is no competition lined up for Lofa Tatupu or T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Seattle spent big to acquire Charlie Whitehurst and would be thrilled for Whitehurst to seize the job. He's younger, healthier, less expensive, under contract longer and fits the offense better. Hasselbeck's contract is up after this season and I can't recall mention of an extension. It's entirely possible Hasselbeck does not want to continue playing in the NFL. Or that he doesn't want to continue in Seattle. He's an intelligent man, charming in a disarming and clever sort of way and his career doesn't have to end with football.

I try to avoid wistful digressions about how good Hasselbeck was, because it reads like an obituary, but if not for good will and memories, Hasselbeck would certainly be the most frustrating and angering player on the roster. He has had some spotty surrounding talent, been injured for sure, but one need only watch week sixteen of last season to see Hasselbeck has been his own undoing. However it started and whenever it will end, should it end, Hasselbeck isn't simply struggling with a poor supporting cast, he has declined in every meaningful way a quarterback can decline, from arm strength and accuracy to poise and decision making.

So, Whitehurst...Is Charlie Whitehurst the next Dave Krieg? No no. No no. Krieg was great. Perhaps in retrospect, greater than Hasselbeck. By career AV, Pro Football References catch all for career value, Krieg dominates Hasselbeck 97 to 73. 24 points is like two more 2007s under Hasselbeck's belt. Krieg was good, frustrating, sack prone as all get out, but good. Whitehurst couldn't be, could he?

One can nevertheless draw parallels. Krieg moved well and could toss it deep. Ditto Whitehurst. Krieg struggled mightily with pocket awareness, especially at first, but settled down enough to succeed. Whitehurst will surely suffer some sacks. We can't know if he'll overcome. We can't know, really. We know what he is, where he is in his career and we can have an idea about what he does and doesn't do well, but projecting what a quarterback will become is the Holy Grail of scouting. To spend a tired phrase, if I could, I wouldn't...

When something special and unexpected happens, you're not supposed to look back and wonder, "How can I get it again?" But we do. And though expecting a breakthrough season from a team some consider the worst in the NFL might seem as delusional as it is greedy, fickle fate bends both ways. Sometimes you expect nothing, and the reason you expect nothing is exactly why something special happens. The Seahawks are in transition. Perhaps they are building. Perhaps they are still weathering the collapse. And perhaps, Pete Carroll knows a thing or two about winning whatever the tactic, Golden Tate is the latest Biletnikoff winner to explode on the NFL, the run game is no longer a sinkhole, and the kid that takes too many sacks is about to save us from our broken down but beloved quarterback.