Only a Fool Would Replace Matt Hasselbeck With a First-Round Pick

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIDecember 12, 2009

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 6:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to make a pass play during their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers on December 6, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 20-17. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The three biggest football questions in Seattle over the past week have been: (1) Who is going to replace Tim Ruskell as the Seahawks’ general manager, (2) is UW junior quarterback Jake Locker going to turn pro, and (3) will the Seahawks’ new GM draft Locker in the first round if he does turn pro?

Of course, all of the Seattle SeaDawgs (those hybrid Seahawk/Husky fans) want the Hawks to draft Locker. Others want them to pick Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford or Notre Dame junior Jimmy Clausen.

Then there’s Texas senior Colt McCoy and everyone’s Florida dreamboat, Tim Tebow.

There is much debate about which quarterback is the best, but it doesn’t really matter: The Seahawks shouldn’t be looking for a QB in the first round.

More than a few fools want to replace Hasselbeck, which makes no sense at all. Why in the world would the Seahawks get rid of their franchise quarterback and kill any chance at all of making the playoffs for at least the next two or three years? How asinine would that be?

Seriously, it’s hard to fathom just how football stupid someone has to be to suggest that the Hawks would be better off with some unproven rookie punk instead of a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who arguably was the MVP of the NFL in 2005 and still has plenty of football left.

Those shortsighted fans actually think it’s Hasselbeck’s fault that the offense has struggled this season, and they argue that he gets hurt too much and should be replaced with a younger quarterback.

The reality is: The offense stinks because the offensive line is horrible and because new coordinator Greg Knapp has not dialed up the right plays consistently enough.

Hasselbeck has almost no time to throw most of the time, and the lack of a running game makes his job even harder.

As for the injury question, the reality is: Hasselbeck is a remarkably tough quarterback who has always played through all manner of pain. In 2001, he hobbled his way through a bad first season in Seattle with a pulled groin and separated shoulder, among other ailments.

In 2005 and 2006, he played with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. In 2006, he missed four games with a sprained knee after a borderline cheap shot.

Over the years, he also has played with bruised thighs and ribs, broken fingers, a sore arm, a banged-up elbow and a strained oblique, among other injuries.

Last year, a herniated disk in his back forced him to miss nine games, and there was admittedly some concern about whether he could come back this year, simply because it was a mysterious and potentially serious problem.

But he has proven his back is fine, and he has played most of this season with broken ribs and a sore throwing shoulder (caused, of course, by the incredibly poor blocking).

Hasselbeck is a tough SOB, and the Seahawks have done him a disservice by not protecting him properly the past couple of years. (That, more than anything, is the main reason Ruskell was fired, because it is the main reason Seattle has not won.)

Put a decent line in front of him again, and you’ll see the Hasselbeck who went to three Pro Bowls from 2003 to 2007 (and would have gone to a fourth in 2004 if his receivers hadn’t dropped a zillion passes).

Hasselbeck is signed through next year, when he will be 35. He should be good for 3-4 years beyond that, and the Hawks should sign him to an extension after this season and not worry about finding a replacement. (If they want a new quarterback, they can find a backup who can actually win a game when called upon. Seneca Wallace obviously is not that guy.)

As for that silly first-round QB idea, Seahawks fans should know that drafting a quarterback in the first round is a crapshoot. Just look back at the franchise's three first-round busts from the Ken Behring years (Kelly Stouffer in 1988, Dan McGwire in 1991, Rick Mirer in 1993).

Hawks fans also should know that it is quite possible to find a quarterback without spending a first-round pick.

The three best passers in franchise history came out of nowhere: Jim Zorn was picked up off waivers in the franchise’s inaugural year, Dave Krieg was an undrafted free agent who led the team to the playoffs four times in the 1980s and Hasselbeck was a former sixth-round pick acquired in a trade with Green Bay in 2001.

If that isn’t argument enough against picking a quarterback in the first round, remember this: Half of all first-round quarterbacks fail. And this year’s class is overrated across the board.

Locker might have the best potential of them all, but he’s just learning how to throw the ball accurately. He needs to either play a senior year of college or sit for a couple of years in the NFL.

To throw him in right away, especially behind a bad line, would be asking for him to get hurt and/or fail so badly that he would lose confidence and be destroyed the way Tim Couch and David Carr were.

As for the others, Clausen is probably the best passing quarterback, but his leadership ability is questionable. Can you trust him to run an NFL team? Bradford has a bad shoulder, which will hurt his draft position and make him a question mark until he proves otherwise.

Tebow still doesn’t know how to throw; he is a running college quarterback who appears destined to fail in the NFL (or else become an erratic, poor-passing QB on the order of Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper and Vince Young). The jury is out on McCoy, who is incredibly inconsistent and might fail in a pro system, too.

None of those quarterbacks should be drafted in the top half of the first round, and you could argue that not one of them is first-round worthy at all. Of course, that won’t stop multiple teams from taking them in the first round.

Just don’t expect the Seahawks to do it. They already have a quarterback.