There is no doubt that Matt Hasselbeck has played a valuable role this offseason organizing and leading unofficial workouts, yet the sentiment that Hasselbeck is leaving Seattle appears to be growing amongst the national media.
Hence the question; has his offseason leadership made enough of an impact to look past his struggles in 2008 and 2009? Not to mention 15 total touchdowns and 22 total turnovers during the 2010 regular season—not the numbers of a franchise quarterback.
We’ll take the discussion one step further. We recently explored why Seattle must move on from Hasselbeck, but what are the potential effects on the team and organization with someone else holding the reins to the offense?
Revisiting prior discussions to gain orientation for the current conversation
In finishing the Hasselbeck discussion, I’d like to mesh the perspectives of recent articles. A quick rundown:
In May we reviewed Seattle’s neglecting to take a quarterback in the draft and the potential for a Whitehurst/Hasselbeck showdown in 2011. Simply put, the quarterback competition proved to gain strength at season’s end, and there is no reason to replace the main parts of that competition with questionable fits.
In early June the focus moved to the Seahawks’ unofficial workouts and the leadership shown by Hasselbeck; we learned that Hasselbeck is willing to prepare his teammates and lead through ambiguity, with no promises that he will be a Seahawk in 2011.
As discussed in part one of this article in late June, Hasselbeck has earned the public praise of his teammates and potentially private trust, due to his efforts organizing team workouts.
The term Baraka was introduced to identify the stroke of fortune placed upon the team by his actions. For better or worse, the organization will have to live with the consequences of his offseason leadership and the locker room dynamic created by those activities.
We will re-visit these ideas later in the article.
More recently, we shifted gears in the discussion and explored why the Seahawks do need to move on. Hasselbeck hasn’t earned an extension, and re-signing him will hinder cap space and roster flexibility.
The Seahawks need to start the future now, regardless of the results, the consolation prize being a high draft pick.
But, as mentioned when exploring why Seattle must move on, the “always compete” and “buy in” mantras aren’t conducive to producing poor results over a period of time; the very nature of those ideas breed competition.
And as we saw in year one of the new regime, after the team struggled with the Seahawks football “formula” during their mid season slide, they can produce winning results when it matters most.
Here we start with the question, how important is the right leadership during this time, through the thick and thin of rebuilding?
The thoughts of a team leader, on leadership
Throughout the offseason, a multitude of players have spoken publicly about the leadership Matt Hasselbeck has displayed, and therefore his resulting importance to the team as they implement a new offensive scheme—one Matt Hasselbeck is familiar with due to his coaching under Mike Holmgren.
In part one I highlighted some comments of four offensive skill position players, those players suggesting that Hasselbeck—Mike Williams adding the quantifier of if Hasselbeck’s physically able—is a valuable leader during the transition to a new offense, on and off the field.
But one could say that comments of only offensive teammates gives a fragmented view of the team’s whole opinion. The commitment of the defenders to Hasselbeck matters as well, simply for creating a locker room dynamic that can handle the detriments of rebuilding.
Special Teams captain and cornerback Roy Lewis spoke about Hasselbeck’s potential return on 950 KJR in late June and had the following to say when asked to play the GM role in regards to re-signing Hasselbeck:
Oh, because Matt is a leader. That is the first thing. You have got to have leadership. You got to have somebody who has been there and done it, and that's exactly what you get in Matt.
Matt is a quality quarterback, we're going to need him to help lead guys like Charlie Whitehurst, just to groom him…it could be really rushed, and you don't want to come in with guys that don't really understand every single in-and-out of the offense.
And that's why Matt is going to be a prime candidate. He's a veteran, he's a savvy quarterback. He has playoff experience, he has big-game experience, and we need that right now.
I’m not here to tell you how to interpret those comments, but look at the first and last six words of that paragraph. "Oh, because Matt is a leader and we need that right now."
I’m not going to make the assumption that Lewis speaks for the entire defense or special teams unit, but he is an important locker room presence speaking about the vitality of another leader.
Here I believe it’s important to again acknowledge that both the team and Hasselbeck have said they ran out of time, but there was mutual interest, when a one year, seven million dollar offer was put on the table and rejected.
Hasselbeck has largely remained in Seattle for the offseason. Darrell Bevell called Hasselbeck on the one day of lockout lifted business during the draft, to express the organizations interest in Hasselbeck’s return.
Hasselbeck has lead knowing he may not be in Seattle next season, even if it is his first choice. He's stepped up to the plate, thus far.
Here I believe it is crucial to again recognize; Hasselbeck turned back the clock to 2005 in the playoffs, but the greater picture sees a regular season with 15 touchdowns, 22 turnovers, compounded with the injuries and struggles of prior seasons.
What hasn’t been praised is his play. What has been praised is his leadership and ability to command the transition on offense, and as Lewis mentioned, the evolution at quarterback with Charlie Whitehurst.
Here, I’d like to directly pick up where I left off in part one of this two part article.
Matt Hasselbeck’s Role as Charismatic Leader and the affect on order
…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?
Earlier we explored the possibility that Hasselbeck is a possessor of Baraka, an uncontrollable effect of good and bad within society, a power that is created by others placing an individual in a role above the rest.
One must be treated as a possessor of Baraka to actually have Baraka.
However, Baraka is abstract and volatile in nature, hard to identify within a social structure. Its role in this discussion is to add an uncommon perspective to Weber’s theory.
As noted in part one, Douglas and Weber do not come from the same background, and their differences may help bring a more balanced view of transition.
Like Baraka, Weber’s idea of “charismatic authority” describes a free flowing power that runs within a rigid social structure, in Weber’s case the study of modern bureaucracies.
This concept is more cut and dry, unlike the external force of Baraka; “…Charismatic authority knows nothing of form of order, procedure of appointment, or dismissal…charisma knows only inner determination and inner restraint.”
While Baraka is a power that comes from external forces—the elevation of one person into the leadership role—the origins of charismatic authority come from within the individual, external results a byproduct of inner determination.
In fact, Weber argues the most pure form of charismatic authority is the opposite of “institutionally permanent.” Instead, it’s “a determination that is constantly being proven by the individual.” It separates the average from the champion.
Weber’s ideas further, “He does not derive his right from their will, by election. Rather, the reverse: it is the duty of those to whom he addresses his mission to recognize him as their charismatically qualified leader.”
While Hasselbeck may not be treating himself as the "leader" of their workouts and offseason program—he equated his role to a “secretary” when talking to the media, during the workouts in early June--many Seahawks have been looking his direction for guidance and answers.
If judging by Lewis’ comments presented here and the players’ comments highlighted previously, the players appear to believe in Hasselbeck. His mission has appeared to be purely out of his determination to play football in 2011, and his actions show that he hopes it will be for the Seahawks.
Command is crucial
Now, we must connect the transition at quarterback to the team’s mission; as noted earlier, Hasselbeck has stepped up to the plate thus far. And it appears his goal is competing to win, regardless of where he plays in 2011.
We do not know how he is performing on the practice field. Presumably, he is refining his knowledge of the new offense and understands Pete Carroll's emphasis on taking care of the football.
The command Hasselbeck took in orchestrating the offseason program will have en affect on this team in 2011, with or without him.
I’ll be clear. There is reason to go on without him. His play in the past three seasons, combined with the injuries, is alarming. If he didn’t channel 2005 against the Saints and play the role of player-coach during the lockout, this discussion may not be taking place.
Sportspress northwests’ Doug Faraar entitled his early June workout review Free Agent Hasselbeck Still in Command and provided the following one liner early in his analysis.
“Hasselbeck ran Friday’s workout with a sense of order and command that exhibited his value beyond stats and plays to his team.”
I’ve touched on Carroll’s use of the word command; used in relation to how important it is for a quarterback to possess command of the field, personnel and offensive system.
If the Seahawks are to move on from Matt Hasselbeck, they potentially sacrifice the command structure that has been in place during this unsure offseason and potentially open the door for the dangers associated with the ambiguity of transition to creep into the team dynamic.
Hasselbeck may be considered by some as a stop-gap on the field, but he appears to be a key cog off the field.
Optimistically we would hope that 2011 couldn’t be worse than 2010, or before, for Hasselbeck; and it’s not as though his services aren’t rumored to be coveted elsewhere. With the poor play, he’s still a commodity.
But equally as important, the new quarterback will have to step in and adequately take over the commanding role, on short notice due to the lockout; no guarantee that any replacement can fulfill those duties.
Taking into account the greater good of the team
As the Seahawks are in “re-building” mode, it’s appropriate to ask; how important is it for the Seahawks to re-capture the momentum of last season and hit the ground running, especially considering the losing connotation associated with re-building.
For starters, they set the expectation of owning the NFC West via the postseason presser and Pete Carroll’s letter to the fans—the majority of pundits would say this is an unrealistic expectation.
But in watching the interview with ESPN’s Shelley Smith where Carroll reflects on 2010, he reveals “there is no question” his players care about the offseason work, adding “…we accomplished some things (to end 2010) that gave us momentum into the offseason, and we’ll pick up where we left off…that’s the plan.”
Carroll has a history with big plays creating large scale momentum. He believes an interception at Arizona in 2001 by Kris Richard—now Seahawks secondary coach—turned around the USC program in his first season as head coach.
If the team is indeed intent on owning the NFC West “for years to come,” they theoretically must capitalize on the success from 2010, regardless of the re-building tag.
Furthermore, picking up where they left off would entail having a quarterback to command the team in a similar fashion to how Hasselbeck “commanded” to end the year and during the lockout.
Unless the Seahawks are quietly, extremely confident Whitehurst is ready to start in 2011, there are very few options left.
Given the investment in Whitehurst they would be foolish not to give him the reins if he earns the shot. Ideally, he won't start until he has the command Carroll desires from the position.
Thus, Whitehurst can prove he has the command to start if he out competes someone who has proven capable of starting. If this is not the way Whitehurst is elevated to starter, then the Seahawks risk rushing him.
As Roy Lewis mentioned, less than ideal.
If Seattle does trade for another starting quarterback instead of re-signing Hasselbeck, can they find a replacement that brings at least as much to the table, on and off the field; a player capable of harnessing the momentum of last season and aiding the transition; someone who knows every "in-and-out" of the offense?
Seattle needs to decide if the goal is to defend the division or put themselves in position to succeed in the long term; or is the best path to long term success paved by maintaining the momentum in the present?
No matter which avenue they choose, the task will be more difficult and painful without a quarterback that proves capable of commanding the huddle and holding the trust of the locker room.
A player that wants the responsibility of competing and leading like a franchise quarterback.