Position Analysis: Quarterback

As we all know, Matt Hasselbeck was not re-signed by the Seahawks and instead signed a 3-year deal with the Titans.  Many Seahawks fans, myself included, were upset by this move.  Hasselbeck was a three time pro bowler, a leader on and off the field, and he took Seattle to its only Super Bowl.  He’s been the face of the franchise for the last decade.

However, I also don’t think that Hasselbeck was ever a truly elite quarterback.  He was put in an offense run by Gil Haskell and Mike Holmgren that happened to suit his skill set.  In 2007, he had his best year as a pro, throwing for 3,966 yards, 28 touchdowns, and a season passer rating of 91.4.   However, once it became clear that his benefactors were on their way out of Seattle, Hasselbeck fell off the map.  He hasn’t played a full season since 2007 and has failed to post a season passer rating higher than 75.1.

Of course, you can’t place the blame for that on Hasselbeck alone.  Injuries caused by poor offensive line play also played a big part in derailing his last three seasons in Seattle.  Good things don’t happen when you’re being protected by a different combination of o-line starters every single week; the offense faltered, and the defense was not good enough to bail them out.  Hasselbeck did great things in Seattle and he will be missed, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider knew it was time to move on.

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Enter Tarvaris Jackson.  Jackson has yet to show he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback, and posted only average numbers for the Vikings.  He did lead them to the playoffs one year, but once there he struggled, connecting on just 15 of his 35 passes and throwing a game-clinching pick-six to Asante Samuel.

That said, Jackson’s signing was a good move for several reasons.  Firstly, because of the restrictions placed on teams during and immediately after the lockout, teams like Seattle who were installing new offenses this year are at a severe disadvantage, and bringing in a guy like Jackson who already knows the terminology and play calls helps mitigate that problem.  Secondly, Jackson already has a history with the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, which makes it that much easier for the team to tailor a game plan to suit the QB’s strengths. 

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, I don’t think Sidney Rice would have become a Seahawk had it not been for the presence of both Bevell and Jackson.  The two share some on-field chemistry, and Rice seems convinced that Jackson was never fully unleashed in Minnesota and that a change of scenery will do him good.  But whatever the reason, it’s clear that signing Jackson was directly responsible for helping the Seahawks finally land a true number one receiver to play opposite BMW.  I expect good things from Rice this year, and if Jackson remains the starter, well, he can’t do much worse than Hasselbeck did over the last three seasons.

Don’t forget about Charlie Whitehurst, who after a 14 for 20, 115 yard performance on Thursday looks to be doing a decent job this preseason.  Once he learns the terminology he could quite possibly take over as the starting QB by mid-season, depending on how Jackson performs.  Whitehurst’s first season with the team was marred by up-and-down play and inaccuracy, but he’s showing signs of improvement and with some more reps and playing time could become a quality starter.  Remember how badly Hasselbeck struggled before taking over the team for good partway through the 2002 season?  I can’t help but see a little of that young Hasselbeck in Whitehurst every time he steps on to the field.  Yes, his accuracy and decision making need work, but he has the heart and desire to play, and you can tell he wants this to work out.  Whitehurst deserves more of a chance than he’s been given so far.

Which brings us to Josh Portis — where did this guy come from?  For an undrafted rookie from a Division II school (where, admittedly, he set school records with 3,421 passing yards, 3,870 total offensive yards, and 36 touchdowns), he really stepped up in his first preseason game, showing good pocket awareness and accuracy as he lead the team to a come-from-behind victory. He showed great mobility, but unlike most young QBs who can run he used his athleticism to extend plays and make completions down the field instead of taking off the with ball.  Portis looks like a good prospect.

The Seahawks had other opportunities to add other quarterbacks this offseason, but they had other plans in mind.  In the draft, they decided to concentrate on upgrading the offensive line, ignoring QB prospects like Andy Dalton (who many regarded as the most pro-ready QB in the draft) to take OT James Carpenter.  Another high-profile option would have been to trade for Kevin Kolb, who ended up with the Cardinals instead.  Kolb was a big upgrade for Arizona, who struggled through a season of poor QB play last year, but they gave up way too much to acquire him.  I give Pete Carroll and John Schneider credit for not forcing a deal for Kolb that wasn’t equitable.  It’s good to see a front office that understands the importance of using the team’s draft capital to build a strong foundation through the draft instead of using it up on flashy trades.