Seattle Seahawks Already Have Their Franchise QB: Matt Hasselbeck

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIFebruary 20, 2010

SEATTLE - JANUARY 03:  Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks for a receiver during the game against the Tennessee Titans on January 3, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

This offseason, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are all expected to receive lucrative contract extensions.

The deals of all three franchise quarterbacks expire in the next year or two, so it makes perfect sense for their teams to lock them up with new deals.

There has been no chatter, however, about an extension for Matt Hasselbeck. Of course, that’s not surprising, considering the poor performance of the Seahawks over the last two years and the fact that the team is under new management.

But make no mistake: Hasselbeck is every bit as important to the Seahawks as Manning is to the Colts, Brees is to the Saints, and Brady is to the Patriots.

No one would argue that Hasselbeck is as good as those three. But he is Seattle’s franchise quarterback and still one of the top 10 or 12 passers in the NFL.

And it's time to give him a contract extension, too.

Critics say Hasselbeck is washed up: too old, too injury-prone, too weak-armed, and too mistake-prone.

Too old? Hasselbeck (born Sept. 25, 1975) is only six months older than Manning (March 24, 1976).

Too injury-prone? Hasselbeck has played more games than Brady over the last two years (21-17).

Too weak-armed? Broken ribs and a sprained throwing shoulder tend to have that effect. Hasselbeck missed only two games after breaking two ribs in San Francisco in Week 2, and then he played with the bad ribs for the rest of the season. He also played with an injured shoulder for the final two months.

Too mistake-prone? Hasselbeck played on a team with a steadily deteriorating offensive line and an offensive system that regressed so badly that the players were rarely running the same plays at the end of the season.

He seldom had time to throw the ball. And when he did, his receivers often were not where they were supposed to be. It’s pretty obvious why Hasselbeck threw nine interceptions in the final three games; he was forcing the issue, and his shoulder and receivers weren’t helping him.

It’s amazing what a good offensive line can do for a quarterback. Given the same protection Manning, Brees, and Brady receive, Hasselbeck could easily play like the Pro Bowl passer he was in 2003, 2005, and 2007 once again.

Hasselbeck is far from done, especially in a league where quarterbacks routinely play into their late 30s with success. Witness Brett Favre (40) and Kurt Warner (38) in 2009. And those two plus Kerry Collins (36), Todd Collins (37) and Jeff Garcia (38) in 2008.

When you find a franchise quarterback, you keep him for as long as you can. And the Seahawks need to keep Hasselbeck. Like Manning and Brady, he is entering the final year of his contract. And like Manning and Brady, he deserves an extension.

Not for the same cash, but he should get a reasonable four-year deal that pays him similarly to the six-year, $48 million deal he signed in 2005, the year he led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

The Hawks haven’t said they plan to give Hasselbeck a new contract, but new coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates both spoke glowingly of the Hawks’ franchise passer.

“I know we have a quarterback who has played really good football in his career,” Carroll told reporters last month. “… That is one of the key elements of putting together a team that has a chance to win right away. You’ve got to have a quarterback. I know that we have a first-class guy in Matt and I can’t wait to get working with him.

“The NFL is a quarterback-driven process,” Carroll added, “and so the fact that we have Matt Hasselbeck here is a big factor. He’s played the game, he has been a champion, he knows how to get the thing done. We’ve got to get his support group and his play to the level that gives us a chance to win.”

Bates recently echoed those thoughts, telling reporters: “We’re very fortunate to walk into an organization with Matt Hasselbeck being the leader. He’s been to the Super Bowl. He’s been in every situation.”

There are many fans who think the Hawks need to replace Hasselbeck this year or next. And with Seattle owning two first-round draft picks this year, some of those people think the Hawks need to draft a quarterback now.

Some will even argue that the Hawks should have drafted Mark Sanchez last year rather than Aaron Curry. Given the success of the Jets and the struggles of Curry, some are trying to say, “I told you so” or “Why didn’t we draft Sanchez?”

But the simple fact is: Sanchez had a typically poor rookie year, with a passer rating of 63, a completion percentage under 54 and 20 interceptions. He was lucky to take over a team that had all of the things that help a young quarterback: an excellent offensive line, a strong running game, and a dominant defense. Give those things to Hasselbeck and he wins the Super Bowl.

As for this year’s draft, all of the quarterbacks have major flaws, from injury concerns (Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen) to talent issues (Tim Tebow) to character qualms (Clausen) to questions about how long it will take them to learn the pro game after playing in mostly shotgun and spread offenses in college.

Seahawk fans should know better than anyone that the future does not always lie in a first-round quarterback. Those guys are 50-50 propositions and always have been.

Only 17 of the league’s 32 teams currently employ former first-rounders as their starting quarterbacks. And the jury’s still out on half of those passers.

Why dump a skilled veteran for a first-round gamble? Especially when it didn’t work for the Seahawks before?

Back in 1992, the Hawks released a 33-year-old veteran quarterback because they wanted to try out a couple of former first-round picks.

And they regretted it for years as Kelly Stouffer and Dan McGwire quickly washed out while Dave Krieg, that vet they released, went on to outlast both of the young busts.

Stouffer started seven games in 1992 and was out of the league by 1993. McGwire started four games from 1992 to 1994, spent the 1995 season in Miami and was done.

The Seahawks also used the No. 2 overall pick in 1993 on quarterback Rick Mirer, who was traded away after a failed four-year trial.

Meanwhile, Krieg started 56 more games after he left Seattle and didn’t retire until after the 1998 season, when he was 40. He was a starter through age 38.

The moral: Don’t ditch a perfectly good quarterback for a first-round roll of the dice. That’s exactly what any of this year’s top-rated quarterbacks would be.

Some have speculated that Mike Holmgren might try to bring Hasselbeck to Cleveland via trade. But, in an interview with KJR radio, Holmgren made it clear that he thinks Hasselbeck should remain in Seattle.

“He’s the Seahawks’ quarterback,” Holmgren said. “There are certain guys with certain teams that should probably always be with that team. They’re associated with a team, and that’s who they should be associated with. I think Matt kind of falls into that category.”

Hasselbeck doesn’t want to leave, either.

Asked in a separate KJR interview whether he would welcome a trade to a contending team, Hasselbeck said he preferred to make the Seahawks contenders again.

“I’m more committed to trying to get the Seahawks in the Super Bowl,” he said. “Partly because of how close we came in ’05. We didn’t finish it; we weren’t able to win the game.

"I remember how awesome that was, how excited the city was, how excited Seahawks fans everywhere were to almost have a Lombardi Trophy.”

Then Hasselbeck explained why he prefers to remain a Seahawk.

“There’s something special about being with a team that didn’t start until 1976,” he said. “When you talk about the history and tradition of some of these teams, it goes way, way back.

"But with the Seahawks, you get an opportunity to really be part of the foundation. Jim Zorn was the first Seahawks quarterback ever, and he’s like a buddy of mine. It’s a small fraternity of people who have played for the Seahawks.”

As for whether these Hawks can turn it around, Hasselbeck said, “I think we can get it fixed. Hopefully we can do it in one year. Maybe it takes two.

“That’s what I’d be more committed to try to get done.”

And the Hawks should be just as committed to Hasselbeck.


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