How can the Seahawks build a bridge to the future at quarterback? That's a question for anyone who spends even the slightest bit of brain power thinking about the Seahawks. After all, Charlie Whitehurst is the one quarterback on the roster, a 1-1 career record as a starter.
Matt Hasselbeck has been a face of the franchise for the past decade, now an aging free agent; Whitehurst is an unproven veteran—technically the Seahawks' 2011 third round pick, traded to San Diego in 2010—and has a “50-50” chance at going into training camp as the starter.
Outside of the uncertainty at quarterback, the Seahawks are intent on defending their division title; there is a prominent fan presence in the 12th man and the Seahawks care about maintaining that relationship, but are intent on not letting the opinions of pundits affect their decision making; how big is the affect of the prolonged work stoppage on the dynamic in the locker-room and on the field, and how will that stoppage affect personnel decisions.
A handful of questions attached to an indefinitely ticking time bomb that will hopefully be defused soon, aka the NFL lockout.
The second piece in the series of sociological analysis on individual players and positions will focus on the questions that surround the transition at the quarterback position.
Note: click here for the first piece in the series, highlighting Mike Williams, Justin Forsett and Raheem Brock.
The relationship between uncertainty and transition
Does the sociological perspective offer any value towards identifying potential dangers and downfalls that could occur with a certain approach towards finding the next quarterback; on the contrary, can we identify ways to fortify the bridge to the future?
Transition can be defined as movement or change from one position, state, stage, subject or concept to another. It can be a difficult task in almost any life situation. It’s fair to say the Seahawks are facing this difficult task of transition now at the quarterback spot, and also as a team.
Before diving into the discussion, it could help to introduce where this discussion will go; part one of this series focused on the potential transition within the locker room, independent of Matt Hasselbeck’s possible departure.
While his discipline is in line with the “program mentality” off the field, presumably he still needs to work on a main facet of the Pete Carroll football “formula;” taking care of the ball on the field. Hasselbeck has played some of his worst football the past three seasons, yet chose the right time to remind us all what he can do, when healthy.
Healthier now, Hasselbeck is currently involved in aiding the transition in the offensive scheme to his preferred system; without the help of the coaching staff.
Simply put, we don’t know how valuable Hasselbeck truly is to the transition of this offense and as a leader in the locker room; there is no definitive way to weigh his intangible value versus physical performance as the team transitions into 2011.
The theories that will be used to explore uncertainty and transition
Let me briefly introduce the concepts I’ll use to explore the quarterback transition, which will be further explained later.
I’ll use Mary Douglas’ ideas concerning the structure of transition within cultures and Max Weber’s thoughts on charismatic power and its affect within structured, “bureaucratic” institutions; government’s, schools and companies, the current application being a sports organization.
I have chosen these two theorists because they offer perspectives from different backgrounds; Douglas’ ideas originated in her studies on cleanliness, purity and order in society, attaching these ideas to behavior and rituals; Weber’s studies focused on the concrete world of religion, institutions and economy. I believe their differences may combine for more dynamic insight.
To the present; we start our discussion with Hasselbeck’s involvement in the Seahawks “offseason program,” in an attempt to define both where Hasselbeck fits into the ideas outlined above and how he affects those around him.
Hasselbeck’s offseason involvement with the Seahawks
As outsiders we have heard Matt Hasselbeck’s continued hope to remain a Seahawk, but he recently admitted he is ready for anything.
Amidst the uncertainty of his situation, we know this; Hasselbeck has been in Seattle most of the offseason—He was invited to work at Larry Fitzgerald’s workouts in Arizona, —mostly with “teammates;”he had direct participation in orchestrating a major “public” workout at the University of Washington.
As shown by Peter King’s tweets and Jason La Canfora’s comments, there appears to be a growing group of national media recently revealing their belief Hasselbeck could be moving on from Seattle. However, national/Seattle media pundit John Clayton recently maintained Hasselbeck should be back next season.
Additionally, Clayton revealed that Hasselbeck turned down a one-year, $7 million dollar contract offer before the lockout—we’ll get to that later.
The point here is not to decipher media buzz, but to point out the fact that speculation is split, has been split and is continually changing as the lockout progresses.
In an effort to gauge where the players who are actually working with Hasselbeck feel about the situation, I’d like to turn the attention to the comments of those he has been coaching, some “teammates.”
The not-so-split opinion of the Seahawks skill position players
After seeing Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion towards participating in the workouts from the outside, following months of informal workouts with players, I developed the opinion his words through the media were in fact legitimate; in regards to his hopes of returning to Seattle.
At the same time, it appeared some key skill position players shared his hopes for a return:
Mike Williams praised Hasselbeck’s offseason workouts, offering “you can tell the work has been put in,” and that Hasselbeck was making throws he couldn’t make last season; Williams addressed Hasselbeck's leadership, later saying “he definitely looks like a coach, or the blue dude from Watchmen.”
Given Williams’ prior comments –he addressed the fact that Hasselbeck can be built around as a leader if he is physically able to lead—it sounded like Williams was happy with the progress he saw in Hasselbeck’s explosiveness.
Justin Forsett called Hasselbeck a “crucial piece” to the workouts because of both his help in gathering players before hand and his experience with the new offensive system on the field.
Forsett added Hasselbeck “can be anywhere… He decided to come out and lead the drills,” stress the potential methods and terminology of the new system—the same terminology as under Mike Holmgren. In my opinion, Forsett made it clear he respects Hasselbeck’s leadership, especially under the circumstances.
John Carlson has been Hasselbeck’s throwing buddy all offseason—and Twitpic guest—, revealing after the workouts he hopes Hasselbeck is back next season, especially because of his knowledge of the new system.
Golden Tate offered “I'm hoping he comes back, because there's nothing like having a veteran quarterback to teach me the right things to do and help me grow as a receiver. That's a very important part of my success, having a great quarterback, and I think he's definitely one of those guys.”
Nearly a handful of Seahawks offensive players, all of whom catch the ball from Hasselbeck, praised his leadership and acknowledged his importance through the transition into Darrell Bevell/Tom Cable’s scheme—let’s not forget Hasselbeck and Bevell worked together in Green Bay.
While the media may be ready to write off Hasselbeck, it sure doesn’t sound as though his former pass catching recipients want him anywhere but Seattle.
The effect of Matt Hasselbeck on the transition into 2011
Now that we have been able to identify where his peers, and not Hasselbeck himself, hold Hasselbeck on the hierarchy, let’s shift the discussion back to Douglas and Weber to give Hasselbeck’s role within this “Seahawks system” some meaning.
Douglas explores abstract ideas such as powers of witchcraft and societal disorder; while Weber explores concrete ideas like legitimacy, law and empirical evidence and their place in every day political and social life. So how are both of their ideas applicable?
Both theorists explore the presence of free flowing, uncontrollable power within social and economic structure; they believe these powers exist for better or worse and the presence of these powers can be molded by certain individuals.
Culture needs ritual and order
First we will explore Douglas’ application; Hasselbeck has shown this offseason that he has put himself in position to impart his interpretation of the Seahawks' principles in the form of practice and workouts; the rituals of a football player.
But at the same time, he is a player himself in transition; his rituals changed this offseason in hopes of being better prepared for 2011, better equipped to carry out the Pete Carroll “formula.”
Douglas believes the danger of transition lies in its undefined nature; transition is a state of “formlessness” and negativity can creep into the “formless” structure.
In a time where Hasselbeck could use his efforts and energy anywhere, he has chosen to work with his Seattle teammates; he has chosen to stay within his culture to embark upon his own transition as a player and help aid the transition as a team.
Simply put, Douglas makes the assertion that structure in culture brings the sense that everything has its place; order is created by a set of rules and rituals that embody everyday social relations.
Hasselbeck’s ambiguity as a free agent naturally brings ambiguity to those around him—his actions will have an effect on the rest of the Seahawks culture.
The rituals of practice he puts the Seahawks through, as he willingly takes command in the absence of coaches, puts him in the important role of leader; but also attaches the danger of his individual transition to the transition of the team.
His experience and leadership gives the sense that things are in order, when in fact the players really have no other choice but to trust his knowledge, or workout elsewhere—nearly 40 “Seahawks” did attend day one, the number a little lower on day two.
For better or worse, Hasselbeck’s representation of the Seahawks' principles is the best the players have during the lockout; Hasselbeck has been treated as a person in a main position of power, regardless of if that was the true intention of the workouts. His leadership of the workouts puts him in the role to possess what Douglas refers to as Baraka.
In simplest terms Douglas explains Baraka as a stroke of good fortune that flows freely within a social structure, exuding from official positions, regardless of intentions; Baraka sometimes works as a free-floating benign power, its distribution and effects not concretely tied to social structure.
Baraka can create both negative and positive consequences. The direct involvement of Hasselbeck in the Seahawks unofficial workouts could, in the end, have a negative or positive effect. The resulting “good fortune” attached to his actions, as the perceived leader of the group, is an inescapable force upon the players.
If he plays in Seattle, he has been with the team all along and the rest will happen as it does; if he leaves the players will be forced to transition their faith into a new leader at quarterback.
I’ll be frank; tracing Baraka’s origins in a particular system can be difficult, let alone figuring whether or not it’s actually present. I acknowledge Baraka to be an abstract idea as we can not be sure if Hasselbeck is indeed a possessor of it; but I will not be ending here with my discussion.
Rather, consider the concept of Baraka as an introduction to Weber’s thoughts on the power of charismatic authority, the next concept of discussion.
Concluding part one, looking ahead to part two
To this point, the purpose has been to merely identify where the situation currently lies and apply one idea to it, Weber’s ideas to come soon.
We are yet to explore the actual future of 2011 and beyond, meaning who could or should be the quarterback in 2011. We have not come to the conclusion that Seattle needs Matt Hasselbeck, nor can I say we will find that answer in this exploration.
On Wednesday we will look at a group of potential candidates to start for Seattle in 2011, whether they be acquired as free agents or via trade—this will be done from a purely football perspective, not an article within the sociological series.
Soon-there-after we will come back to this discussion by picking up with Weber; to explore the connection between charismatic authority, Baraka and transition at the quarterback position; is there any way to control the dangers associated with transition and Baraka by applying Weber’s ideas to the situation?
Where do these ideas place Hasselbeck as the past starter, his role unknown in the future; Whitehurst is the backup who is in the unique position as the only quarterback signed, yet still appears to be playing the role of backup; where do we place other players within the transition at quarterback, if Seattle does in fact move on from Hasselbeck?