When Matt Hasselbeck returned from injury on Sunday the Seahawks offense was markedly better. Hasselbeck didn’t throw an exorbitant amount of passes for a ton of yards, though he threw four touchdowns.
But the offense looked crisp.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh showed why the team broke the bank to bring him in. Finally, for the first time since Joe Jurevicius last stepped on the field turf at Qwest Field, the team has a physical receiver, and with Hasselbeck under center they have someone who knows how to capitalize on his physicality.
But truthfully, the thing I noticed most watching Hasselbeck on Sunday wasn’t actually related to what happened on the field that day, but rather what didn’t.
Seneca Wallace didn’t start, and after two weeks of Wallace, which preceded a near-healthy Hasselbeck start, one thing was blatantly obvious: Wallace is not an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Wallace is a product of the Mike Holmgren era. Holmgren was notoriously loyal to his draftees—Koren Robinson ring a bell? But his loyalty to Wallace was baffling. Wallace didn’t show the arm strength or accuracy to succeed in anything but a pared down version of Holmgren’s offense, and at his best, his legs could make up for an offensive line that has spent a large portion of the past three years undermanned or injured.
Holmgren was as devout a West Coast offense (WCO) purveyor as there was this side of Andy Reid. The offense values mobility (not scrambling ability), as it allows the quarterback to buy back some of the time that a sub-par offensive line will sell and make a quick throw.
Last year it was tough to distinguish ability between Wallace and Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck was dinged up and had the worst season of his career, barely completing half of his passes (52.2 percent), throwing two interceptions for every touchdown (10 INTs./5 TDs.), and averaging a sub-pedestrian 5.8 yards per pass attempt.
In his absence, Wallace improved on Hasselbeck’s numbers. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns compared to three interceptions, and averaged 6.3 yards per pass attempt. Wallace’s higher completion percentage is very much responsible for numbers that looked a lot better, as the diminutive quarterback averaged only 10.9 yards per completion, compared to 11.2 yards per completion from Hasselbeck.
Reality is a harsh pill to swallow. Holmgren swore by Wallace as his backup, but Holmgren’s playing golf right now (or so I assume, a golf course seems like the best place for the legendary coach to keep his yelling voice and red face intact).
I’m tired of phrases like “quarterback of the future,” or “project quarterback.” Wallace is almost 30 years old, he’s losing athleticism, and he’s still the same under-6'0", weak-armed signal caller he was when he came out of college.
Most of all, I hate the word grooming.
Wallace isn’t the past, present, or future of the Seahawks quarterback position. At least not a good Seahawks team, as we’ve seen the past two seasons.
The Seahawks have teased fans with the occasional snap where Wallace lines up wide. His versatility is almost unmatched, and at the very least he keeps defenses honest.
However, the sixth week of the season is a really bad time to realize that a backup quarterback isn’t up to par.
Enter Jeff Garcia.
Garcia would make a ton of sense in any other season, but Garcia made two Pro Bowls under Knapp when the two were in San Francisco.
And now, if he were to find the field at some point, he’d be doing so without the destructive presence of Terrell Owens in the huddle.
Matt Hasselbeck has struggled to stay healthy, and while rib and knee injuries are concerning, they’re also reparable. However injuries to his back mean that his future could be defined by its brevity if he takes another big hit, and with Walter Jones on the sidelines, and the team shuffling lineman around for the second straight season, the team needs a backup plan.
The NFC West is within reach, as per usual. But the team will not win it with Wallace under center, and it would be unwise to count on Hasselbeck, who is still sporting a broken rib underneath extra padding, to play the rest of the schedule.
It’s not often that a team can add a quarterback who is highly familiar with their offense, with postseason experience, and remaining productivity this late in the season.
Garcia would likely come cheap, after being cut twice in a matter of months. The Seahawks would be fools to move forward without Garcia.