The entire NFC West is shopping for quarterbacks, at least in some capacity, and the future of the division likely rests simply on who shops best.
Criticism and praise have, at least in some cases, nearly surpassed hyperbole, to a point where it seems like Seahawks fans fall into one of three categories: The fans who think Matt Hasselbeck was, and remains a god, the fans who claim to have never liked Hasselbeck, and those in between. I fall in the latter.
Truth is, at 35 years old, Hasselbeck is in a strange West Coast Offense (WCO) middle ground.
In the past two seasons, the NFL has begun to transform from a two-wide-receiver league to a league where the slot receiver plays more snaps than both the fullback and tight end on many teams. Even some of the more traditional WCOs have begun to emphasize the three receiver sets.
The new benchmark for a successful quarterback is a 65 percent completion percentage, a mark Hasselbeck has only matched once in his career, in 2005.
Supporters give him something of a pass, as he’s been injured amid the evolution, and the Seahawks have suffered injuries and turnover at the receiver position among the worst in the league.
Detractors will point out that he was far from careful with the football in 2009 (17/17 TD/INT, another measure of success in today’s NFL), and that his 22/27 TD/INT ratio since 2008 indicate that while health may have played a role, at some point, even when healthy, Hasselbeck just simply played poorly.
Then there is the issue of health. The WCO has allowed several good quarterbacks to play late into their 30s (Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Jon Elway). However, in the case of Montana, his play fell off considerably after injury, and Favre and Elway both suffered injuries through their late 30s that they could play through (obviously, Favre is healthy, still streaking in his 40s).
But those are elite quarterbacks. Other quarterbacks have looked “very good” while functioning in a WCO, and have had success very similar to Hasselbeck’s as they approached their mid-30s (Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Randall Cunningham).
None of those guys had far to fall to get to “average,” a plateau at which Hasselbeck has looked up to in the past two seasons.
And then there is the “Mike Holmgren Dynamic.” The 14 games Hasselbeck started last season were the first he’d ever started in his career away from the legendary coach. Holmgren has been known as a “quarterback guru” for some time, and while having Favre on his resume certainly fuels that, it also has to fuel skepticism toward Hasselbeck.
While Favre has had some success away from Holmgren, he’s also had periods of significant struggles.
Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, and Doug Pederson all show that backing up Favre, and having moderate (albeit much more limited) success under Holmgren, doesn’t always end in the long, successful tenure and fanfare that Hasselbeck has experienced in Seattle.
But Aaron Rodgers sure made the transition from Favre to present a lot easier.
Also worthy of consideration is that while Holmgren is now in Cleveland, where the quarterback situation is far from certain, and while Holmgren likely covets Hasselbeck, the Browns' signal-caller is far from the only position under center across the league that may be in question.
As though Favre hadn’t completely invaded this article already, if he does retire (for real this time), Minnesota has been rumored as interested in Donovan McNabb, but Hasselbeck could also fit there.
The Broncos, Bills, Raiders, and Redskins all have young quarterbacks who appear to be, at least eventually, headed out the door after several years of ineffective play. Even if any of those teams draft a quarterback for the future, if the Seahawks are willing to part ways with Hasselbeck for a relatively low price tag, each team may be willing to trade for the veteran to keep their future behind a clipboard.
The 49’ers haven’t had a good quarterback since Jeff Garcia, and the Cardinals just lost Kurt Warner. The Rams, Warner’s former team, appears ready to give up on Marc Bulger. They’re all division rivals, which may make a trade with the Seahawks near-impossible, but for the right price the team may be willing to part ways with the present to build for the future.
But the proximity of that future, at least in the eyes of the new personnel team, is what predicates who, when, and from where the Seahawks take at quarterback.
For example, John David Booty and Matt Leinart both played under Carroll at USC, and at least according to past reports, or simply relative logic, are available in some capacity.
Trent Edwards (for whom I’m an eternal apologist), who was recruited by Carroll at USC, may be available as he’s lost favor in Buffalo.
In the first round alone, Jimmy Claussen and Sam Bradford represent a philosophical divide. While opinions on Bradford vary greatly, many pundits believe that he has more long-term potential than Claussen.
But Claussen’s experience, and success in a pro-style offense, paired with a relatively clean bill of health (apart from a turf toe, and freshman-year elbow injury) lead many to believe he’s a safer pick.
For my money (none of which will count towards any of the Seahawks draft picks signing bonus), drafting the “safe guy” is a lot easier to do when that guy also possesses the physical tools that Claussen does (better than similarly accomplished Eli Manning, in my opinion).
And when top-10 quarterbacks are likely to receive upwards of $30 million more in guarantees, shoving those chips across the table is a lot easier to stomach with a made hand than a draw.
After those two, it’s really anyone’s guess.
I’m personally partial to Jevan Snead. He struggled this year at Ole Miss (alma mater of the aforementioned Eli Manning) without Michael Oher protecting his blind side. And while the rest of the world is waiting to see how fast C.J. Spiller runs his 40-yard-dash, or is retching at the thought of Terrence Cody repeating this performance, I’ll be watching for one number: Snead’s Wonderlic score.
Without an absolute implosion in workouts, a decent Wonderlic score, and good interviews, I think Snead may find himself drafted in the second round.
After Snead and Claussen there is a variety of spread-offense stars. I have a hard time determining which will be able to translate his game to the pros.
Because for every Drew Brees there seems to be a dozen Alex Smiths or Vince Youngs (who “just wins,” except for when he loses of course).
Colt McCoy, Jarrett Brown, and Zac Robinson all present an interesting athletic dynamic. However, each comes out of a real gimmicky offense.
Tony Pike, who also comes from a gimmicky offense, is far less athletic, though he’s more prototypically sized.
Also, despite being relegated to third-string duty under Carroll last year, Mitch Mustain may be an interesting free agent if the Seahawks are looking for a third-stringer in the pros.
And then there’s Tim Tebow. Color me unenthused to spend the next two years measuring the heartbeat of a guy who should probably be playing fullback, new delivery or not.
There are a ton of options, but my own personal ideal, heavily-biased Seattle Seahawks quarterback depth chart next year would go: Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Edwards, and Jevan Snead, respectively.