RENTON – Asked to analyze the Seahawks’ Whitehurst/Hasselbeck issue at quarterback, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo surely intended to be tactful.
He has great respect for veteran Matt Hasselbeck, he stressed, “... but I think when Charlie Whitehurst gets in there, he’s every bit as effective as Matt.”
That could be interpreted as an inadvertent slam against them both, actually.
But that’s how the Seahawks go into Sunday’s playoff-qualifying game against the Rams: The ineffective and inexperienced Whitehurst likely starting unless Hasselbeck – with a hip/back/glute injury, a broken wrist and 17 interceptions – can make a miraculous return to health.
Great options, eh?
In 15 games, those two have combined for 13 touchdown passes in 508 attempts (their opponents have 31 TD passes). They have a combined 71.2 passer rating (their opponents’ collective 92.1 rating is higher than the performances that Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan needed to get Pro Bowl berths).
Whitehurst directed the No. 1 unit in practice Wednesday, but Hasselbeck was on the hoof, in sweats, and throwing the ball around a little bit.
Carroll keeps stressing that Whitehurst is the starter this week but continues to leave the door ajar for Hasselbeck, making it sound as if Carroll will have to drive a stake through Hasselbeck’s heart to keep him on the sideline.
“Matt is going to fight like crazy to get right,” Carroll said. “I am totally convinced that he’s waging a battle that is against odds, (but Hasselbeck thinks) he’s going to make a miracle comeback.”
Of course, they traded a third-round draft pick next spring, and moved down 20 spots in the second round last spring, for the rights to Whitehurst as a free agent. The belief had to be that the expense would be rewarded by seeing effective production when called upon to replace Hasselbeck – in just such a situation – rather than having fans fingering rosaries and lighting candles for the health of Hasselbeck’s hind end.
Carroll reminded all that Whitehurst has started only one game in the NFL and it takes time to get accustomed to the demands (even though he’s 28 years old and a 5-year veteran).
But this quote needs no interpretation: “He’s got a tremendous amount of improvement in front of him ... I think it’s just a matter of time before he’s a really good starting quarterback in the NFL.”
OK, uh, Charlie, can you accomplish all that by Sunday evening?
Instead of trying to take pressure off Whitehurst, Carroll’s approach was to lay it on him, as a challenge.
“It’s all on him,” Carroll said. “This is the big opportunity; this is the big challenge, the big spotlight. This is all of that for him, and it’s nothing that a player doesn’t dream of having.”
It’s obvious that there are problems plaguing the 6-9 Seahawks that go well beyond the quarterback – regardless which one is out there.
For instance, Carroll said that he still wants to try to maintain a good balance with the running game because “... it’s going to be a heartbeat of our program over time.” Well, get the paddles, coach, you’re flat-lining with the No. 32-rated run attack in the NFL.
In the past nine games, the Seahawks have gone 2-7 and were outscored by 123 points. For some historical perspective, let’s look at the very first nine games in franchise history, in 1976. In those nine games, the brand-new baby Seahawks were 2-7 and were outscored by only 108 points.
Yes, we were told that the Carroll/John Schneider regime would provide a new start. It’s just that nobody expected it to go all the way back to Square One.
Still, there’s much at stake. A win on Sunday would mean a divisional title that, even if devalued, would provide some absolution and feel like a somewhat valid cornerstone to a new foundation.
If Whitehurst gets the call on Sunday, as expected, his future is immediate. It’s his chance to make a statement to his teammates, the fans and the coaching staff about whether he can be a starter for this team.
A televangelist-quality healing by Hasselbeck also might factor into Hasselbeck’s future – here or elsewhere.
At the very least, for all he’s done for the Seahawks – as a player, leader and citizen – he deserves a better final image than limping into the end zone and then being unable to play because his butt really hurt.
Although, many fans have felt pains in that region while watching games this season.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com