RENTON – Is there any chance that Matt Hasselbeck will not be the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2010 season?
Well, the odds of that happening seem to fall somewhere between slim and none.
Nonetheless, as the Seahawks were cleaning out their lockers Monday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center to prepare for the offseason, Hasselbeck was asked if he expected to be back with the team next season.
“I do, definitely,” he said, before pausing. “I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball.”
The simple fact that Hasselbeck was asked that question says something about where the Seahawks are as a franchise and Hasselbeck is in his career. In years past, that question would have never been asked, simply because it was implausible to think someone else would be calling the signals for the Seahawks. Hasselbeck was that entrenched into the spot.
But he will be 35 next season, and his contract is up after the 2010 season. There is also a new head of football operations coming in who will evaluate the current personnel and could, and probably will, make healthy changes to the roster.
Hasselbeck is well aware of the fickle world of the NFL with its lack of guaranteed contracts, and he knows even he could be cut.
“I know an NFL contract can be for 12 years, but if you don’t play well one year or they don’t want you, they can get rid of you,” he said.
It seems unlikely that the Seahawks don’t want Hasselbeck or want to get to rid of him. But the changes to the front office, could lead to changes in the coaching staff and roster.
“I think this year, more than other years, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “There has been uncertainty here before. I think back to 2004 and there were like 20 unrestricted free agents and no one in place to sign those people.”
But in 2004, it was pretty much a given that Hasselbeck would be the team’s quarterback for years to come. That might not be the case now, as the Seahawks will have to start looking for an eventual replacement for Hasselbeck, if not for 2011, then sometime down the road.
He’s starting to show the wear and tear of playing in 156 NFL games.
And for the first time since his first year with the team, Seahawks fans have openly questioned if he still has the physical ability to lead the team, something that was unthinkable after in the years after Hasselbeck helped lead Seattle to Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season.
By his own admission, he’s had a year to forget. He threw for a respectable 3,029 yards despite missing two games with fractured ribs. But he threw for 17 touchdowns and also tossed 17 interceptions, including back-to-back games with four interceptions.
Hasselbeck’s 17th and final interception of the season stopped a potential game-winning drive in the final seconds of Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
“It’s been really, really frustrating,” Hasselbeck said after the game. “But there’ve been some good things about it. Even though it’s been a bad season and a tough season, I feel like I’ve learned a lot through it.”
One thing he learned is that he could take a physical beating. Besides the fractured ribs – suffered in the second game of the season – Hasselbeck also battled injuries to his throwing shoulder and myriad other dings and pains that were associated with a constant pummeling that was delivered by opposing defenses which were taking advantage of a porous Seahawks offensive line.
Hasselbeck admitted that he simply hasn’t physically felt like himself since the 2007 season. He’s hoping to find a way to get back that feeling and is anxious to get healthy in the offseason so he can begin workouts.
“Really what I’m looking forward to is getting away, getting healthy and then getting strong,” he said. “I really feel like getting back in the weight room, having a good offseason to build strength.
“Getting some explosiveness and power back will be one of the keys to success for me next year.”
Another aspect of those offseason workouts will be almost daily throwing sessions with receivers.
Hasselbeck believes they are vital for the Seahawks offense to return to some level of cohesiveness and consistency.
“My offseason is going to be filled with hopefully throwing a lot of balls to John Carlson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the guys I have to complete passes to,” he said. “We just have to put in extra time to become automatic. I think we all know each other a lot better now. We know the results of what we did in the past gets us, so we know we have to improve.”
But it isn’t just as simple as throwing passes in the offseason. Seattle struggled under the new system brought in by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Hasselbeck admitted there will need to be tweaks to that system to make it work.
“I think one thing we can do is now that we know the scheme a lot better, and we know some of our players because we’ve been with them a year, maybe we can find ways to put people and their skill sets in position to flourish,” Hasselbeck said, using Houshmandzadeh, Carlson and running back Justin Forsett as examples.
Beyond the changes to the strategy, Hasselbeck admitted that there will also have to be changes to the team’s attitude.
Two dismal and disappointing seasons will leave some emotional and mental scarring.
“Its just something you have ask yourself,” he said. “Did you trust the play? Did you trust the guy next to you? Did you trust the guy coaching you? I don’t know if it’s a question that you answer out loud. I think it’s a question that each guy needs to answer for himself.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483