Why Matt Hasselbeck is Still the Starter

Carroll is sticking with Matt. And Matt is sticking it to Carroll. (ha! ha!) (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

I flip-flopped quite a bit on the title of this article and finally settled on the positioning of ‘is’ after ‘Matt Hasselbeck’ and not before it. I’m in a declarative mood, I guess.

On Monday, Pete Carroll announced that Matt would remain the starting QB going into week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite a three-turnover third quarter against the Falcons. I was about as surprised as a KFC employee selling a bucket of fried chicken to a poorly-disguised Oprah Winfrey. Listen, this is easy. It’s not rocket science. If you step back, all the way back, Pete Carroll has two goals as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks: to win games and keep his job. And playing Matt Hasselbeck, regardless of outcome, will likely contribute to both. Let me explain with two very plausable scenarios:

1. Matt Hasselbeck plays the final two games of the season and the Seahawks miss the playoffs. An old adage states we begin our lives in diapers and we see the end of our days in diapers; I wonder if there’s an equivalent for the professional life of a NFL Quarterback. Some kind of inverted bell curve, perhaps. Because Matt Hasselbeck is doing a marvelous job playing like a rookie: he’s getting easily spooked, he’s making boneheaded throws and he doesn’t appear to be adept at reading defenses as he once was. He continues to cough up the ball at a terrifying pace (I have a theory about this: when preparing for Jeremy Bates’ offensive scheme, I think he mistakenly studied Jay Cutler’s 2009 game tape instead of 2008’s. Simple, yet critical mistake). Yet Seattle’s backup QB, Charlie Whitehurst, has only taken the field for one quarter this year due to Hasselbeck’s poor play. In the wise words of the Keenan’s famous character on SNL: “What’s up with that?”

After this theoretical week 17 loss and official elimination from a playoff berth, Pete Carroll will confidently look into the camera and say: “Matt Hasselbeck was our guy, we were confident in his abilities, and that I, along with the rest of the coaching staff, didn’t feel that Charlie Whitehurst was prepared to start and win games for the Seahawks.” It’s a simple, plausible and believable explanation. And completely defensible. No one knows Charlie Whitehurst’s abilities better than Carroll and the coaching staff. Who’s going to argue with him? The great unwashed (read: me, you, and every other fan) has seen Charlie play all but a few mostly meaningless quarters both in pre-season and the regular season. And his performances weren’t exactly cause for salivation. In this scenario, Carroll knew his quarterbacks best and sticks by his decision to to play the veteran over the rookie (close enough). It’s the defensible position.

Scenario 2: Charlie Whitehurst plays the final two games and the Seahawks miss the playoffs. Carroll is sitting on a comfy seat. In just the first year of his tenure as coach, he’s drafted or signed a high number of players that are (in theory) slotted as talented, effective starters for the coming few seasons. The team has already won more games than the previous two seasons and the Seahawks are in the thick of a playoff run. Fast forward to the theoretical now: Whitehurst blew it. Carroll’s gamble backfired and now that nice comfy seat is suddenly feeling hot. Here’s the question Carroll will undoubtedly receive during the post game-press conference:

“Coach Carroll, why did you decide to play Charlie Whitehurst, a young, inexperienced quarterback that hasn’t had much of any positive impact in his time in the NFL over the experienced veteran Matt Hasselbeck?”


Is the picture becoming clear now? It’s a calculated risk with the short term in mind. Has Matt throw away games this season? You bet. It’s arguable that he’s the primary reason the Seahawks lost to the Falcons, 49ers, Broncos and Chiefs. I rag on Matt. I do, because I’m a realist, and I’m not a fan that’s still clinging to the Matt we knew and loved back in 2005; he’s a VERY high paid athlete and by my count, and he’s performing quite poorly. I want him to succeed every game, but it’s difficult to support Matt Hasselbeck as the Seahawks starting QB seeing as he’s knee deep into his third downright terrible year in a row.

Would Charlie Whitehurst be any better if he were to start the two final games of the season? Maybe. Maybe not. But if he’s the reason the Seahawks lose games and miss the playoffs, Carroll will be in a position far less defensible than if he just stuck with Matt Hasselbeck.


About Nick

I'm a guy that loves the Seahawks far and away more than any other team in any other sport. I live in Seattle, I'm married to the perfect woman, I work in marketing and I'm nearly into my 30s. Scary. Find me on Twitter talking #seahawks @nandron.
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3 Responses to Why Matt Hasselbeck is Still the Starter

  1. Hawk Blogger says:

    Nice write-up, Nick. I was leaning toward Whitehurst starting this week as well, and I’m a Hasselbeck supporter. I respect that Carroll makes his own decisions, and is not influenced by public perception. Mora Jr. would have switched back and forth 10 times by now.

    Come one, though, you blame Matt for the Chiefs loss? Really? Did you see the yards the Chiefs piled up? They averaged six yards a carry. Crazy.

    You also leave out the games he was a huge factor in winning vs SF, both ARZ, and @CHI. You also appear to fall into the category of putting the majority of the team’s struggles on Matt’s shoulders. It’s been a team breakdown other than last week.

    • Nick says:

      Thanks for the compliment and commenting. I love comments =)

      I don’t feel that the team’s struggles lie squarely on Hasselbeck, the squads on both sides of the ball have struggled.

      But look at it this way: he’s got a franchise left tackle and an o-line that’s doing a pretty good job protecting him, he’s got three talented running backs to carry the ball, and possibly the most talented wide receiver he’s every thrown the football to. Yet he’s also having one of his worst statistical years of his career. I may have reached a little when it came to the KC game, but he DID turn the ball over 3 times. That many turnovers makes it nearly impossible for a team to win if the defense can’t prevent the opponent from scoring. Can we agree on that?

      And don’t get me wrong, I really, really like Matt Hasselbeck, and I want him to play his brains out. I just have watched him struggle so mightily in the past three years, and I just don’t see it magically getting any better unless sweeping changes are made to the roster and immediately. We both know that’s nearly impossible, so it’s time we look past Matt Hasselbeck and toward the future.

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