So this is how it ends—so unceremoniously?
After 10 years as a Seahawk, Matt Hasselbeck—the best quarterback in team history and the only one to take the team to the Super Bowl—is gone. The Seattle Times reported today that he will not return to the Seahawks.
Most Hawks fans seem to be happy about that—many have been calling for his replacement for three years now. Too bad. They’ll miss him when he’s gone.
Hasselbeck has taken a lot of heat over the last three years from no-knowledge chuckleheads who apparently think a quarterback should be able to block for himself and catch his own passes.
Despite being pounded again last year, Hasselbeck finished with two of his best games ever with great playoff performances against both the Saints and the Bears. If everyone had played as well as he did in Chicago, the Hawks would have hosted the Packers in the NFC title game.
It’s unfortunate Hasselbeck was so underappreciated during his time in Seattle. In his first season (2001), fans chanted "DIL-FER" almost from the start, wanting former Super Bowl QB Trent Dilfer to replace the struggling Hasselbeck. It was a horrible idea, and I laughed derisively at all of the fans who chanted for Dilfer at every game (just like I was laughing during the playoffs at all of the people who thought Hasselbeck was washed-up).
Hasselbeck was Mike Holmgren’s handpicked QB, a guy who had shown a lot in preseason action in Green Bay and knew Holmgren’s offense; he seemed like a great choice. The Hawks were not a good team, and Holmgren was smart to stay with Hasselbeck as much as he could in 2001 to let him learn on a rebuilding offense.
The problem was that Hasselbeck thought he knew everything, and he admittedly bucked Holmgren’s coaching, all while getting the tar beat out of him in his first season as a starter.
Dilfer, meanwhile, went 4-0 as a fill-in starter, further fooling many fans into thinking he was the guy for the long term.
Holmgren was no fool, though.
Even though he decided to bring Dilfer back as the starter in 2002, he did it to take the pressure off Hasselbeck. When Dilfer tore his Achilles, Hasselbeck stepped in and played like we thought he would. He lit it up in the second half of 2002 and never looked back.
Holmgren and Hasselbeck took the Seahawks to the playoffs for five straight years from 2003 to 2007, making them one of the most consistently winning teams in the NFL at that point. Hasselbeck almost always played well; he was certainly a lot more consistent than the franchise’s previous best QB, the overachieving but erratic Dave Krieg.
Hasselbeck went to the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2005 and 2007, and he would have gone in 2004 if Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson and Jerramy Stevens (among others) hadn’t dropped so many of his passes (including at least half a dozen touchdowns).
It was certainly not Hasselbeck’s fault the Hawks lost the Super Bowl—he outplayed Ben Roethlisberger by miles in that game—or in the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, when the Hawks had no running game or pass defense.
A quarterback can’t do a lot without a line in front of him, and the Hawks line deteriorated quickly after 2005 when Steve Hutchinson left. So for the past three years, Hasselbeck has been pounded while working in three different offenses under three different coaches.
Of course, just as the Hawks seem to finally be committed to fixing their line, and as they bring back the offense Hasselbeck ran so well under Holmgren, they decide not to re-sign their 35-year-old franchise QB.
It’s hard to blame them for wanting to rebuild with a younger quarterback, but unless they trade for Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton, Seattle is destined to be worse than if it had brought back Hasselbeck, who showed in January that he is absolutely capable of starting and playing well for two or three more years.
This situation is very reminiscent of Krieg’s departure in 1992. Krieg was 33 then and went on to play seven more seasons, three or four as a starter. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Hasselbeck play for another four years.
When the Behring Seahawks let Krieg go in 1992, they had two young first-round quarterbacks (Kelly Stouffer and Dan McGwire) they wanted to let battle it out. The result: The Seahawks set NFL records for offensive futility in 1992, and Stouffer and McGwire were both gone the next year as the Hawks invested yet another first-round pick in a QB by drafting Rick Mirer second overall. That didn’t turn out either.
Barring a deal for Kolb, these Hawks seem poised to go with Charlie Whitehurst and former Viking Tarvaris Jackson.
While there are some "fans" who are giddy over that prospect, hoping the Hawks tank this season as badly as the 1992 club did so they have a shot at Stanford stud Andrew Luck in 2012, we can only hope the 2011 Seahawks aren’t as bad as that bunch was.
Meanwhile, I will be rooting for Hasselbeck wherever he plays, just like I rooted for Krieg after he left.
When Hasselbeck is done, it will be great to see him join Krieg, Steve Largent, Walter Jones and the rest of Seattle’s very best in the team’s Ring of Honor. That ceremony will be much more what Hasselbeck deserves than what he got from the Seahawks today.