Renton – In our series of incremental autopsies of the Seattle Seahawks, it’s time to extract and examine the quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck.
The Seahawks have played themselves onto our slab with a hat-trick of futility – losing their past three games by an historic 82 cumulative points.
It’s an unprecedented string of ineptitude for the franchise, which never lost three this badly in 1976, the expansion year, nor in the 2-14 season in 1992. No Seahawks team has been this bad for three games.
That Hasselbeck may be viewed as one of the more lethal reasons is alarming. He has been to three Pro Bowls, led the team to a Super Bowl, and has been so consistent and reliable as a player and leader over the years, he’s become almost sacrosanct.
But in the past few games he’s been dreadful.
Four interceptions against Tampa Bay helped the 1-12 Bucs deliver a 24-7 upset at Qwest Field. Four more interceptions at Lambeau Field on Sunday added to the 48-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Is he done? He’s 34, it’s his 11th season and he’s making mistakes that make him look like the struggling kid he was in 2001.
But don’t bury him yet.
He may be an example of a couple facts: You can’t play quarterback in the NFL with a sense of desperation. And you can’t be successful as a quarterback if there are no playmakers to help.
With protection, a diversionary rushing attack and a corps of reliable receivers, Matt Hasselbeck could be effective for a long time.
But leave him out there with what he’s got now, and the guy will continue aging in dog years.
What’s gone wrong? I wonder if Hasselbeck was mishandled from the start this season.
Having a top-quality quarterback in full mastery of his scheme is a rare and valuable thing in the NFL. But what did the new staff do? Installed a new offense. Maybe they’d have been better off sticking with what Hasselbeck knew.
Over the years, the Seahawks have had success with Hasselbeck making his reads on the drop, planting his back foot and delivering the ball to a predetermined spot knowing that the receiver was going to be there.
Two parts of that plan are on the fritz.
Through much of this season, Hasselbeck hasn’t even had time to get his back foot planted and step into the throw. Because of shoddy protection, he’s been on the run, with no windows through which to find receivers.
And, at times, when he throws the ball, it’s clear that he and the receiver are not of the same mind about the intended route.
Coach Jim Mora said again Monday that effort is not a problem with the team. You know, it sure looks like some of the receivers are quitting on routes, and they’re surely not always going up strong in traffic to pull down the catch.
No question, it’s been a very inconsistent season for Hasselbeck. But as recently as Dec. 6, he put together a 107.2 passer rating in a win over San Francisco. Did he get this bad this quickly, or are there contributing factors?
He’s had eight interceptions in the past two games. But that’s the same number he had in the previous 11 he played. Did he suddenly forget how to throw the ball? Not likely.
Here’s an interesting stat on Hasselbeck. He’s tied for second in the NFL in fumble recoveries (five). Mostly, that’s because of botched exchanges and shotgun snaps. Don’t think those don’t throw off a quarterback’s rhythm.
One theory is that he’s trying to do too much. That seems indisputable.
When he got through his first year or so with the Seahawks and really learned to be a quarterback, that was when he learned the wisdom of taking what the defense allowed, operating within the scheme.
Lately, it doesn’t look like he’s really sure what the scheme is.
Mora was asked about the doing-too-much theory.
“The guy’s a competitor, a great competitor,” Mora said. “It kills him when this football team is not winning. Knowing Matt and how serious he is about his craft, he’s going to try to do everything he can to win, and sometimes that means forcing the ball in there.”
Is Matt Hasselbeck what’s wrong with this team? Recently, he’s been a very clear part of the problem. But I definitely think this level of play is the result of circumstances, and the remedial roster. And, truly, of trying to do too much.
Although, when a season has gone this badly, there are far bigger sins for players than trying to do too much.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440