After the Seattle Seahawks featured Charlie Whitehurst in his first NFL start last weekend and lost to the New York Giants 41-7, fans are calling for Whitehurst's head. The Hasselbeck naysayers have been silenced. Whitehurst promoters have gone into hiding.
Really, though, all this is a little harsh. It was a rough game for all those involved (at least on the Seahawks' side of things) and Whitehurst is not totally to blame.
He should be given another chance to prove himself.
The Giants defense is ranked first in the league, allowing only 250 yards per game (170 passing) this season. Every play, the Seahawks were swarmed with opposition. The Giants stuffed the run and covered receivers flawlessly.
Any quarterback, veteran or otherwise, would have had trouble.
In fact, throughout October, every quarterback who met the Giants’ defense struggled. Just ask Jay Cutler and Tony Romo. Whitehurst should thank his lucky stars that he finished the game unscathed.
Part of the reason Whitehurst was still standing at the end of the game was offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’s decision to use tight ends Chris Baker and John Carlson to protect the pocket and give Whitehurst plenty of time to throw.
Throw to who?
Without the tight ends running routes and pulling coverage, receivers had more overwhelming opposition. And, once a catch had been made, there was no one for screen plays.
Deon Butler’s catch for negative-three yards in the first quarter is a perfect example.
Butler was Whitehurst’s favored target early Sunday afternoon and he came away with three of Whitehurst’s 12 successful passes.
Normally, Butler averages nine yards per reception, but against the Giants he was often forced back and earned only five positive yards for the entire game.
Having to depend on a receiver who’s performing like that will cause any quarterback’s numbers to plummet.
Deon Butler wasn’t the only subpar receiver at Qwest on Sunday.
Comeback-Player-of-the-Year nominee Mike Williams made another fatal mistake in the first play of the second quarter, dropping a pass in the end zone and putting the ball in the hands of the Giants’ Terrell Thomas.
The pass proved that Whitehurst is capable of doing what everyone said he couldn’t: threading passes between coverage. The two defenders covering Williams had little to do with Williams’ butterfingers.
The bobble came at a time when the Seahawks could have benefited from a touchdown and put themselves in position for a comeback. Leon Washington had just made a 57-yard return, amping up fans and the team, and the Seahawks were down just 21 points with time to recover.
Truly, we didn’t get much of a chance to see what Whitehurst was capable of. Whitehurst never got much of a chance to settle into his comfort zone because the Seahawks’ offense was on the field for just 17 minutes.
The Giants’ defense shut down drive after drive and the Giants’ offense monopolized the field, benefiting from the Seahawks’ penalties (pass interference on Marcus Trufant, illegal contact on Earl Thomas, false start on Marshawn Lynch, etc.).
Since Whitehurst’s first start was hardly a start at all (he still has just about 20 total minutes of NFL playing time) another try against a less formidable foe would be wise to see his true potential.
Seattle has plenty of lesser competition than the New York Giants throughout the rest of the season, games in which Whitehurst may fare better.
The Seahawks travel to Arizona next week, where two other rookie or rookie-esque quarterbacks are splitting time and the pass defense is ranked nearly last in the league.
Three weeks later, the Seahawks host the hapless Carolina Panthers, a team that has only one win this season and that is one of the league's most popular punching bags.
The following week, Seattle travels to San Francisco to meet the 49ers. They have managed to lose to the aforementioned Panthers and their only wins are over Oakland and Denver.
Any of those three games could pad Whitehurst’s stats and give him the credibility to be worth his price tag.
The Seahawks’ final possession started to show the spark the Seahawks occasionally muster and showed Whitehurst immediately learning from his mistakes.
He opened with a pass to Mike Williams, on the outside this time, keeping it out of the hands of the Giants’ Corey Webster.
Then a hand-off to Lynch for the Seahawks’ first significant run of the game (26 yards).
That was followed by a smooth, easy, well-timed touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu over the heads of two closing defenders.
Could this have been a glimpse of Whitehurst’s real ability?
An early play call by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates could be the reason it took Whitehurst awhile to get his feet under him.
Whitehurst handed off to Leon Washington, who made a lateral pass back to Whitehurst, who overthrew to Chris Baker.
It was an interesting play. Probably an effective play. But, did he really think it was a good play for a quarterback who was working on his third NFL possession?
After spending five seasons on the sidelines, Whitehurst’s confidence must already be limping without setting him up in strange plays that have myriad possibilities for failure.
Charlie Whitehurst’s QB rating is just 44.3 after his NFL debut. He completed just 52.2 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions (one wasn’t his fault). But he isn’t the only QB to struggle in his first opportunity.
Joe Montana’s first start against the Denver Broncos in 1979 showed a completion percentage barely better, at just 60.
People love Mark Sanchez, but in his NFL debut he actually fared worse than Whitehurst, garnering zero touchdowns and completing only 47 percent of his passes.
Seattle’s own Matt Hasselbeck also had low numbers, with a 58-percent completion percentage, two interceptions and a QB rating of 48.4.
Brett Favre’s first-game completion percentage was just 56.4 and now he holds the record for most NFL starts.
Troy Aikman’s debut stats show zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage of just 48.6. His QB rating after his first start was 40.2. He ended his career with a respectable QB rating of 81.6.
First starts are not necessarily indicative of a players’ future in the NFL.
Finally, let’s not forget that Charlie Whitehurst is the son of David Whitehurst, who played for the Green Bay Packers for seven years.
The list of NFL quarterbacks who are sons of the NFL quarterbacks of yesteryear is very short, putting Whitehurst (who was compared to Phillip Rivers throughout college) in the same class as Peyton and Eli Manning. He is one of the few, the elite, and he has some intangibles that can make him successful as an NFL quarterback.