Matt Hasselbeck: Is He the Seattle Seahawks' Best Option at QB?
When the Seahawks decided not to draft a quarterback in 2011, in addition to trading a 2011 third-rounder for Charlie Whitehurst last offseason, the statement made by Seattle was not largely expected; more fuel was simultaneously injected into the will/should Matt Hasselbeck return to Seattle fire.
Nearly a month later, as the collective “we” wait in limbo as the NFL and players stay at odds in their negotiation towards a new collective bargaining agreement, Hasselbeck remains a popular topic for discussion—a discussion that’s “fun to talk about,” as GM John Schneider put it during draft-week pressers, but the Seahawks have remained outside the circles of conversation.
The 2011 draft dust has settled, now awaiting the 2011 free agency storm, one that could be like no other. Seattle has multiple plans to address the position via free agency once free agency opens; that’s all we truly know.
Hasselbeck may be a large part of those plans, possibly the focus of plan A, but should he be? How much of his value hinges on the availability of other quarterbacks? Has anything really changed between the two sides since the lockout began? Is he Seattle’s best remaining option for 2011?
The Not So Friendly Quarterback Market in 2011
Before we get to Hasselbeck, let’s briefly explore who is available to Seattle on the “open” market, within reason in regards to the compensation Seattle would have to give to acquire these players.
Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb are all under contract with their 2010 teams; I believe Seattle would be wise to steer clear of interfering in those arrangements.
A few mildly intriguing candidates exist via free agency, but nothing that will excite Seattle fans equal to a 2011 early-round-pick-type level. A few options:
Trent Edwards was linked to Seattle after being cut by Buffalo and signed by Jacksonville early in the 2010 season. Edwards brings experience as a starter and a strong head on his shoulders; the Stanford graduate did lose his starting job to a Harvard alum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but showed potential at times during his first three seasons in Buffalo.
Not necessarily the answer for 2011, he could be a solid third-string option for Seattle that provides veteran depth with starter potential.
Tarvaris Jackson has been linked to Seattle due to his relationship with Darrell Bevell, while the same goes for Matt Leinart due to his relationship with Carroll and new quarterback coach Carl Smith, both in the same capacity during Leinart’s time at USC.
All could be developmental options for Seattle but don’t fit the rookie-developmental profile.
The undrafted free agency pool contains prospects such as Adam Froman from Louisville, Scott Tolzien from Wisconsin and Pat Devlin from Delaware; none of those prospects show potential as anything more than a third quarterback/developmental player for 2011.
Of course, Seattle could again trade to invest in a quarterback, using its investment in Whitehurst as a barometer. It traded a future-third rounder for a player that is “50-50” to head into camp as the starter just a year later.
Matt Flynn of the Packers, Brian Hoyer of the Patriots and Joe Webb of the Vikings are three names that Seattle could pursue, but I’m not sure Seattle will opt to use the same strategy when it isn't sure if the first attempt at trading for a quarterback has worked.
Given Seattle’s propensity for draft day creativity via trade and the fact that Schneider admitted to not liking the absence of a third-round pick in 2011, Seattle may choose to err on the side of caution if given the chance to make a similar move.
Many avenues explored, but are any of the above really better options for 2011 than Matt Hasselbeck?
The Hasselbeck Saga Line Through Mid April
When Pete Carroll called Hasselbeck the No. 1 offseason priority for Seattle during his post-season presser, the speculation snowball began to build within the media and is yet to stop rolling.
Nearly four months later, a lot has been reported about their dialogue and what comes next; it’s been hard to follow the back-and-forth and subsequent rumors.
While tracing the opinions of the media is no error-free method in figuring out this puzzle, it can at least provide context for where the situation may currently stand.
On March 2nd, the two sides were reportedly far apart. They had been working to come to a new deal, but ultimately it looked as though they wouldn’t come to an agreement.
Just a day later, Tim Hasselbeck provided an interesting insight into his brother’s mindset. Tim said Matt wanted Kerry Collins-type money, $15-17 million over two years.
On March 22nd at the owners meetings, Carroll explained, “we made a run at Hasselbeck,” but financially they couldn’t get it done. Nothing is for sure, but the offer presumably was less than the “Kerry Collins” dollars above.
On April 11th, John Clayton reported Hasselbeck was likely not coming back.
But then this: On April 17th, a Boston Globe article highlighted Hasselbeck and his offseason activities. Hasselbeck made it known he wants to return to Seattle; he even welcomed the idea of tutoring a younger quarterback, but that ultimately it was a matter of how badly Seattle wanted him.
The mutual feeling of return had now become clear, quoted first person in the media.
Hasselbeck and His Standing into the 2011 Draft
I published an article highlighting my take on the Hasselbeck situation on April 18th in an attempt to digest everything that had come out about Hasselbeck and the situation to that point. More importantly, though, the Globe article was likely Hasselbeck’s last public statement before the draft.
Hasselbeck talked about the adversity the team overcame in 2010, managing to stick together through a whirlwind of nearly 300 roster moves and a bevy of key injuries and somehow emerge as a unified team after a divisional playoff road loss.
One side of the coin says Seattle gained major momentum into 2011, the perks of “buying in” to Carroll’s system realized, with an aging, former super bowl quarterback that looked 100 percent rejuvenated for one more contract. With competition from Whitehurst for the starting spot, on we go into 2011.
The other side says a concussion, broken wrist and resulting buttocks injury that needed aggressive care and draining show his wear; combined with a dastardly 13 turnovers in a four-game, late-season stretch that almost cost Seattle the division and his spotty production the past three seasons, it's time to move on. Plus, Hasselbeck didn’t even technically win the division for Seattle in 2010.
Going into the draft, it was Seattle’s move. Would it take a quarterback early or find a late-round prospect that could benefit from the tutelage of Hasselbeck or whoever manned the position in 2011?
Either way, Seattle had already named public priority No. 1; would he remain in that position through the draft?
No New Quarterback, but New Opinions Emerge After the 2011 Draft
The Seahawks passed on Andy Dalton in the first round, a quarterback GM John Schneider felt was ready to start immediately, as the organization made it clear through two days of the draft the main objective was to retool the right side of the offensive line.
They drafted two hard workers that bring complementary skill sets: John Moffitt a “road paver” in the running game, James Carpenter a big, strong lineman that can protect the edge.
Hasselbeck or not, I think the Seahawks proved they are staunchly focused on protecting their quarterback assets that are in place for 2011. Day three was aimed at putting the pieces in place to support the offensive line and quarterback position, the bevy of third-day picks focused on defense, a possibility I highlighted in the “getting it right” section of this article heading into day three. Not the sexiest strategy, but sound and potentially effective.
However, on day three of the draft, Trent Dilfer went on a televised rant bashing the Seahawks, their decision to pass on Andy Dalton at No. 25 and their general propensity to “reach” for players in the 2011 draft.
The fact that Dilfer is very close with Matt Hasselbeck—Dilfer started 12 games in Seattle, with Hasselbeck as his teammate, from 2001-2004—and works with Matt’s brother Tim makes Dilfer, theoretically, a very credible source.
This is in no way an analysis of his comments, but the one thing that struck me was why was Dilfer so strong in his opinion. Yes, Dilfer is passionate about his job, was extremely high on Andy Dalton and believed Seattle needed a quarterback, and the team's decision not to select one may have fueled the fire.
But why so adamantly oppose the public comments from Hasselbeck from less than two weeks prior? Maybe he knew something we didn’t, and still don’t.
Well, less than a week later, news broke that Darrell Bevell had spoken with Hasselbeck during the one day of NFL business during day two of the draft. On top of that, Hasselbeck responded to a Tweet from Aaron Curry, who was reading his own playbook—Hasselbeck wondering if his playbook was in the mail.
At this point, I felt the Seahawks and Hasselbeck reuniting was inevitable—Hasselbeck coming back to pick up where the 2010 season left off the goal.
On May 18, news broke that Hasselbeck was disappointed he didn’t have a playbook, but “all of my teammates gave me theirs.” He added his name is fun to toss into the speculation ring, but nothing had changed on the contract front and the story is actually boring in that regard.
To bring it full circle, John Clayton finally changed sides on May 21, now highlighting Hasselbeck to Seattle as a good deal waiting to happen.
Funny how things can change when both parties involved have given no indication that their feelings ever changed; in the end, it comes back to where we started.
Hasselbeck likely remains the No. 1 priority for the Seahawks.
Whitehurst and Hasselbeck in the Same Quarterback Field?
This is what many hoped for last year, Whitehurst getting a chance to compete for the starting job, except now Hasselbeck comes off a whirlwind two games in the playoffs, not the stale finish under the Mike Holmgren-Jim Mora/Tim Ruskell regime.
Consider this scenario: Hasselbeck and Seattle come to a two-year agreement, or one year with nearly the same guaranteed money, with a team option for another year. With Whitehurst’s contract running out after 2011, the Seahawks aren’t bound to two quarterbacks.
They will know after 2011 the direction of both main quarterbacks; if Hasselbeck steps up, the team looks for the heir or re-signs Whitehurst.
If Whitehurst steps up, the team may have the immediate starter of the future and many options for filling that third role in 2012.
They have a variety of options for filling that role in 2011. They can take a run at one, or two, of the options listed previously; the offensive line and the defensive back seven received short- and long-term attention on draft day.
The Seahawks won’t be able to get to the long term at quarterback without creating a stable bridge through the short term.
Look at Hasselbeck’s body of work this offseason: He obtained the playbook through multiple teammates—likely a small part of that “coaching up” Carroll referred to during the draft weekend presser, regarding the presence of contracted players in the building for one day—and has been a main proponent in organizing unofficial Seahawks team activities.
It cannot be confirmed that Hasselbeck knows the Seahawks’ terms, but my guess is he has a bead on those parameters. His offseason actions don’t look like a guy who is shying away from the offer put on the table.
As Hasselbeck said on May 18, nothing has really changed. The uncertainty around the labor situation could have been part of the general uncertainty surrounding signing a new contract; neither side has appeared to have ever relinquished plans of reuniting for the short term, the long term that dangerous area of gray that will reside in the unknown until after the 2011 season.
With or without Hasselbeck, I don’t think Seahawks fans want to see him successful in a different uniform and still within the division in 2011—likely the worst-case scenario.
After all, he is widely believed to be among the top free agent quarterbacks in not the strongest of classes, but at a time when many teams are in need of veteran leadership at the position.
Seeing that leadership twice a year, but on the other side, could be a huge blow to the 12th man; outside confidence in this new regime would suffer if Hasselbeck brings the division title to a new home.
Building the Bridge to the Long Term
For the Seahawks to successfully build a championship organization they must continue to take into account the importance of building a championship atmosphere in Seattle; the 12th man is a society with a hunger for success, unfinished business residing in the guts of most after the 2006 Super Bowl loss.
After the draft, I highlighted the growing presence of Emile Durkheim’s sociological idea of the Totem within the Seahawks organization—the extent to which the relationship between the organization and 12th man breeds a collective will and passion to represent the Seattle Seahawks, and ultimately a stronger force aimed at success.
The most recent example of this idea realized is the 2011 home victory against New Orleans, a representation of seismic proportion.
What matters is if the short-term visions of Matt Hasselbeck, Pete Carroll and John Schneider align in their first conversations post-lockout; we already know Darrell Bevell has laid the foundation for the organization's sentiments.
The organization has maintained it will remain disciplined in addressing the quarterback position; there is no reason to get uppity in creating the short-term solution.
The Seahawks' success in the long run, say the 2013-2015 seasons, will ultimately only be as strong as the potential vision that was implemented in the 2011 offseason.
The Seahawks may have to wait one more year to find the next franchise quarterback, but who's to say whoever is brought into the third position in 2011, rookie or veteran, can’t compete to be starter in 2012 or 2013?
We aren’t even sure if there will be a season in 2011; short-term goals lead to long-term gains. Seattle needs to find its third quarterback for 2011.
Once the 2011 season is finished, the short-term vision of Hasselbeck—if he remains in Seattle—and the long-term vision of Whitehurst will be much clearer.
Seattle could have a chance at a top 2012 quarterback with Hasselbeck as a mentor for a year as a player; they could see a fierce competition between the two already in place during 2011 and be in a prime position to add that third quarterback to groom under that sort of competition going forward; Whitehurst could actually emerge as the answer, or Hasselbeck may have something left in the tank, either way leaving the short term answered and placing the focus on the long term.
The 2010-2011, 2-1 stretch of win-or-go-home football showed Seattle potentially has two quarterbacks that can win under playoff conditions, and with two very different game plans.
When it mattered most, the quarterback position proved it wasn’t quite as broken as most assumed.
If the Seahawks quarterback position isn’t broken, they shouldn't try to fix it with parts that are a questionable fit—parts that are no guarantee to do a better job than what was in place to end the 2010-2011 playoff run.