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2009 Season Retrospective: Matt Hasselbeck

Matt Hasselbeck




Outlook: Here's something you learn as you get older: Very little worth doing is easy and everything takes three times as long as you hoped. I spent the better part of this morning looking for quality play diagramming software. Seems: easy. Surprisingly: not. And since what I found is pretty expensive, I am inclined to make sure that I find the right product before committing. So if you know a good provider and would like to help me out, it would be tremendously appreciated. I am about to flood the site with play diagrams from the Jeremy Bates offense, and after making them mostly from scratch last season, I learned that it's time intensive and sloppy looking making play diagrams from scratch. You can not always go for the quick return. Sometimes getting what you need takes a little more time and resources than you would like, but at least you are not constantly starting from scratch.

I have a few more season retrospectives to publish, but we're mostly done. About everyone agrees that Hasselbeck was poorly matched for Greg Knapp's system. Jeremy Bates' offense is much closer to Knapp's than it is to Holmgren's. It involves a lot of moving pockets, rollouts and throwing down field. In 2008 it even involved designed quarterback draws.

Knapp didn't enter with too sterling a reputation, and so when his offense failed, it was easy enough to call him a hack and move on. Bates is a little better regarded, especially in light of the Broncos offensive miracle of 2008. If Hasselbeck struggles in this system, I wonder, which way will the blame fall?

I wonder, does Hasselbeck have a credible chance of ending the season as the Seahawks starting quarterback? And should he?

Pete Carroll is not a dull man, especially not regarding matters of public perception. Hasselbeck is beloved in Seattle and a media savvy head coach does not introduce himself to a city by benching or replacing the most popular and respected player. If Seattle had a quarterback of the future or was able to acquire a quarterback it could be sure it would stick with, the Seahawks organization would have a graceful way of moving on. But Seattle didn't and wasn't able to acquire one and even the most roseate Whitehurst backer is smart enough to know he is a long shot with limited time to prove himself. Not knowing Whitehurst too well and with Charlie only signed for two seasons, pragmatically, the only choice for Carroll is to publicly support Hasselbeck. He is the closest thing to a starting quarterback the Seahawks have. So Carroll has said the right things. He has spoken of Hasselbeck's drive and intelligence and leadership and all the typical qualities affixed a veteran player. But what should Carroll say? Hasselbeck is terribly mismatched for my offensive coordinator's scheme? Of course not.

No, truth is seldom found in words. It's found in actions. And trading for Charlie Whitehurst is an action. Seattle could have signed someone through free agency. It could have spent less to acquire Brady Quinn. It could have retained Seneca Wallace and removed all doubt. But it targeted Whitehurst and spent more, because Whitehurst fits the profile of a Jeremy Bates quarterback. Whitehurst has a very different set of tools than Hasselbeck. Those tools are, not incidentally, a lot like Jay Cutler's tools. Those tools are, not incidentally, a lot like newest backup J.P. Losman's tools. And those tools are, particularly arm strength and foot speed, tools Hasselbeck has never had in abundance and are certainly not tools he is carrying well into his mid-thirties.

The discussion about Hasselbeck always seems to center around whether Matt is still capable of being a good quarterback. But, in light of his contract, the scheme Seattle wants to run, its inexperience on offense and Matt's age, we should be asking whether Matt is still a justifiable investment for the Seattle Seahawks.

Supporters invoke Kurt Warner, but Warner was a year younger than Hasselbeck is now when he signed with the Cardinals. Warner signed to a team farther along in its rebuild and did not succeed during Arizona's rebuild. His former team, the Giants, drafted a franchise quarterback, Eli Manning, struggled for a while, and then won the Super Bowl. Warner enjoyed two and half good seasons for a ready made Cardinals offense, and the Cardinals themselves had two good seasons with Warner, and are now, possibly, screwed. It was a pairing of a team ending a rebuild but that lacked a quarterback with a quarterback with a few good seasons left that lacked a team. Ditto Brett Favre in Minnesota. Green Bay moved on with its young talent and when Aaron Rodgers emerged, the Packers reopened their championship window for another decade. All four teams ended with a quarterback that fit where they were as a franchise and what they needed to best be able to compete.

Seattle drafted young and talented at 14 and 60. It took a recovering player with long odds to contribute with its next pick, Walter Thurmond. It could have done what Tim Ruskell did for years and select polished players able to contribute immediately, but it didn't. And we lauded the organization for that vision. Carroll and John Schneider made the hard decision of adding talent and accepting that talent will take time to develop.

Among that talent is its coaching staff, and key among that coaching staff is Jeremy Bates. Bates has proven he can coach an elite NFL offense, but he didn't do it with Matt Hasselbeck or a quarterback anything like Matt Hasselbeck. That is not some incidental sticking point. Bates cannot channel Holmgren circa 2003 and be successful. Bates built a system that worked fantastically well in the modern NFL, and that system was built around an athletic quarterback with a cannon arm. You wouldn't force Cutler onto Holmgren, yet some want to force Hasselbeck onto Bates.

The discussion should no longer center around whether Hasselbeck can be good again, but whether this new coaching staff, this new general manager, this young core of talent, whether Earl Thomas and Russell Okung and Brandon Mebane and Josh Wilson, whether the future of the Seattle Seahawks should be tied to Matt Hasselbeck. Because, what truly does a successful season by Hasslebeck give the Seahawks? It doesn't make him younger. It doesn't re-sign him. It doesn't give us good reason to believe he will continue to play well into his late thirties. It certainly doesn't give us good reason to think he will continue to remain healthy. For all the flak the Seahawks offensive line has received, Hasselbeck's recent injuries -- the ribs, the shoulder, the back, the broken fingers in 2006 -- have had little to do with his protection. And his injuries did not start when the line crumbled. Hasselbeck suffered a bruised thigh, an injured groin, a balky elbow, a separated shoulder and a torn labrum playing behind Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. A good season, a return to 2007, a performance at 90% his peak, gives us nothing. It gives us 2010 and a framework for false hope.

It's over.

The Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle is over but for the painful goodbye.

Denial doesn't make Matt younger, doesn't make Matt healthier, doesn't change history, doesn't make the rest of the Seahawks better or better able to compete this or next season, and it doesn't reclaim the past. People either see how much Matt Hasselbeck has declined, or they don't want to know. It is time those that do not want to know fight through the fog of nostalgia and denial and face the truth. The slim chance that Hasselbeck could rebound is not nearly enough reason for the Seahawks to build around their once great quarterback. Hasselbeck may have good seasons left, but those seasons should not be played in Seattle. If there's a Minnesota that can take him, I wish him well, but Seattle must be Green Bay.

Hasselbeck was maybe the best quarterback in franchise history, and as the best quarterback in franchise history, perhaps the greatest Seahawk ever. He wasn't just a good player, Matt Hasselbeck is a good man and person we all love cheering for. His talent, hard work and intelligence made him a millionaire and a star. And he earned it, because Hasselbeck gave hope and passion and distraction and joy to millions of fans. No one else, not another in millions, could have taken this team so far. But the end is coming, and the end is indifferent to our selfish need to delay it. The end is coming, and I for one would rather see the end, than wallow any longer in the demise.