Friday, July 1, 2011

The Hasselbeck Conundrum

Everyone knows that the Matt Hasselbeck question continues to hang over the franchise. The poll on the sidebar makes it very clear that fans prefer to sign Hasselbeck to a two year contract. I’ve made it pretty clear in the past that I do not favor keeping Hasselbeck, even if it means riding with Charlie Whitehurst for a season (which I think is the least likely outcome of this whole foofarah, for what its worth). Can I convince you? Probably not, but let’s give it a go before the holiday weekend…

Thesis: Matthew Hasselbeck is not a starting caliber NFL quarterback at this point in his career.
Supporting Arguments:
  • Football Outsiders ranked every quarterback with at least 100 passes thrown in 2010 by DYAR – Defense-adjusted Yards Above a Replacement level player. FO sums the stat up simply as higher DYAR means higher value. Matt Hasselbeck’s DYAR? 32. Hey, not bad! Tom Brady’s DYAR: 2,137 (1st). Hotly discussed QB trade prospect Carson Palmer: 1,009 (10th). Kyle Orton was 12th with 869. Hasselbeck was sandwiched between two NFC West quarterbacks – Sam Bradford, ranked 34th with 72, and Troy Smith 36th with –18 DYAR.
  • To reiterate that last point: Hasselbeck was #35 despite there being only 32 teams. He was below Kevin Kolb, Seneca Wallace, Drew Stanton, and Colt McCoy. To be fair, he was above Charlie Whitehurst, who was ranked 39th with –95 points. For those now hating on me, keep in mind that Hasselbeck was as much better than Whitehurst, as Alex *expletive here* Smith was than Hasselbeck.
  • Let’s continue with the stats, eh? Taking a look at DVOA – Defense-adjusted Yards Over Average – means, essentially, the value of that quarterback on a given play over an average quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck’s DVOA for 2010 was –10.1%, again ranking him #35. DVOA is not as valuable in looking at QB play and when you look through the rankings you see that – Vince Young had the 5th highest DVOA despite being 20th in DYAR, for example.
  • Still, according to the well-trusted Football Outsiders, Hasselbeck performs on any given play approximately 10% poorer than an average NFL quarterback. That is to say, he is a below average quarterback. His stat line supports that: 6-8 record as a starter, 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions (3.8% interception percentage), 5 fumbles lost, 73.2 QB rating.
  • Not only was 2010 a poor year, but Hasselbeck has been “off” for three years. His per season averages from 2008 to 2010:
668 1141 7246 34 44
Per Season
223 380 2415 11.3 15
Per Game
19.1 32.6 207 0.97 1.26

Okay, so I think I’ve made my point. Statistically Matt Hasselbeck is no longer up to par with an average NFL quarterback, which is what I content the Seahawks require to compete in Pete Carroll & Darrell Bevell’s system.

Point / Counterpoint:
    • Point: No one could have succeeded with the Seahawks’ offensive line over the last three years.
      Counterpoint: The Seahawks actually had an average pass pro line last year (14th in the league). Quarterbacks in 2010 who had poorer pass protection included: Kyle Orton (16th), Phil Rivers (19th), Aaron Rodgers (21st), Joe Flacco (25th), Pittsburgh (30th), and Chicago (32nd). In 2009, we were worse – 21st in the league – but still better than the OL’s blocking for Sanchez (23rd), Roethlisberger (29th) and Rodgers (30th). In 2008, we were 22nd, better than Brady’s Patriots (26), Palmer’s Bengals (27th), or… Roethlisberger’s Steelers (29th). Flacco, Rivers, and Rodgers are also all QBs who have dealt with bottom-half OL’s their entire career.
    • Point: No one could have succeeded with the Seahawks’ wide receivers over the last three years.
      Counterpoint: It’s hard to argue that the Seahawks have had anything but sub-par WR play. They have. But every quarterback deals with that at times (ask Peyton Manning last year, or Tom Brady… any year other than 2007). Injuries, age, and inexperience catch up to pass catchers on every team. Not much of a counterpoint, arguably, but the best quarterbacks elevate those around them, like Hasselbeck did earlier in his career (Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius, etc).
    • Point: He’s been injured, when healthy, he’s one of the best in the game.
      Counterpoint: He hasn’t been healthy, and it’s impossible to look forward and anticipate he will stay healthy for a full season. Even when he’s playing, there is always something nagging (which is probably true of all football players). Hasselbeck has not aged gracefully through three years of losses – which, for the record, are not entirely or even principally his fault.
    • Point: You just hate Hasselbeck.
      Counterpoint: No I don’t. Hasselbeck is easily one of my favorite Seahawks of all time, probably number three behind Tez and Big Walt. I love him, and if he’s our quarterback in 2011 as I expect him to be, I will root for him and live and die by him. When I’m allowed to think objectively prior to the season, I deeply feel that he lacks the in-game skills at this point in his career to lead my team to sustained success.
My concern is with the team and making this team the best it can be. I don't believe that Hasselbeck is the optimal quarterback for this team moving forward -- neither is Whitehurst. As @ScottEnyeart pointed out the other day, Carroll would love to get an established QB, draft a young guy, and develop the young one for two years under the established guy. Whitehurst is under contract for one year, Hasselbeck likely two more at most... it just doesn't seem like an ideal timeline, especially if you can grab Orton or Palmer for a reasonable price.

So, how right or wrong do I have this situation?


  1. If Matt is better than CW...I say bring him back to nurture a young kid and the fact he has an upper hand with the Bevel system,he would serve us well for 1 to 2 more years. While I would have liked to see us already address the QB situation,I trust they have a good plan in place for the team.

  2. First of all Chris, I really love where you're going with the Thirty Acre Fortress. So far it's been good thoughtful posting about what is, bar none, my favorite spots team! Since you're putting out such good product, I feel compelled to participate in your endeavor and hope to be a regular commenter here.

    The next thing I have to say is that I've had a major man crush on Matty H ever since, "we want the ball and we're going to score!" Regardless of how that game turned out I knew at that moment that here was a man who would have the ability to lead a team and I think that is something that is so important and so overlooked in quarterbacks. From the outside looking in, you can tell that Matt has that intangible quality that lets him get in a huddle and extract that extra bit of performance from the players there with him that can push the team over the top.

    There is so much focus on the "measurables" but they only get you so far. This is the same reason I know that CW is not, and never will be, the guy. He just gives off this impression that makes me think that in the huddle there will be a silent, maybe even subconscious, reaction of "yeah, whatever" from the other players.

    That being said, no matter how much leadership ability you have, a certain level of physical skill is necessary for success and if Matt isn't already on the wrong side of that level (my man crush forces me to resist the logic of the numbers you lay out) he's getting there. Man crush or no, Matt just can't be the foundation for any kind of long term success for the Hawks. I believe the spirit is more than willing but the flesh just won't keep up even if at the moment, the flesh can get by.

    But where i really find myself on the horns of a dilemma is on how to approach the solution to that problem. Since this comment has probably gone on long enough, and since my thoughts on that issue tie well into your next post, I will continue my comment there ...

  3. Great post. Look forward to reading more.

    I understand why fans would want to stick with Hasselbeck. It's easier to stick with a known quantity, even one in severe decline, as opposed to taking a chance. But Hass just cannot physically do the job anymore. If he wants to sign on for 2 more years knowing that he's a bench player/mentor while we give CW an actual shot, fine by me. Draft a QB next year, let him develop under CW & Matt. Thing about it is though, you're drafting a QB based on physical abilities, which CW already has. So you can draft and let a kid sit for 2 years, but what's the guarantee he's anything more than Charlie by the time you're ready to give him a shot. Norv Turner seemed to think that CW was worth keeping around, good enough for me.

    I would love to see us go into the year with CW as the starter and actually have a consistent string of game plans put together for him. Everyone assumes Bevell is going to run a dink & dunk WCO, but he seems more willing to break from that and curtail a game plan according to the strengths & weaknesses of his players.

    We're going to be starting 2 rookies, 1 2nd year player, and probably Max Unger on the line. It would benefit us to have a QB that can scramble and hold up to some physical punishment. Not someone who breaks a hip jogging 7 yards, untouched, into the endzone.

    Give CW a shot. Look at the 2nd Rams game. He obviously didn't light it up, but made the plays he had to. Didn't take sacks (unlike another QB during the first Rams game), was able to scramble to keep plays alive, and didn't turn the ball over.

  4. Ok, all my cards on the table, I freaking LOVE Matty H. He is easily my favorite Hawk, and I can't wait to see his name go into the ring of honor. But (I'm pretty sure you could feel that but coming) the longer the lockout has gone on, the more it feels like its the right time to part ways, if (sort of like the above but) the right fit is out there.
    So if we are deciding between, Palmer, Kolb, Orton, and Whitehurst as the leader for the 2011 season, Palmer excites me the most, but probably because I'm having flashbacks of the pre-dirty play knee injury that seemed to have knocked the elite out of him. Kolb is exciting, but if the cost was a 2012 1rst and 3rd I'd be holding my breath all year that it it doesnt end up being a top 10 pick. Orton? Really? I know he's better than I'm giving him credit for, BUT is there any part of you that thinks Kyle Orton is the key to the promise land?
    So that leaves Whitehurst, the unproven QB, that JS and PC gave up a lot for, he doesn't appear to be the second coming of Tom Brady, but maybe he gets his shot and becomes better than we think, and if not the hawks are holding a nice 1rst round pick, and maybe if he's absolutely horrible, the Hawks are sitting there with Luck on their draft board.
    Listen I'm not advocating a 1-15 season, I'm just rambling into the keyboard on my iPhone. All in all I think the best thing for the hawks is to get a stop gap QB and look to draft one next year. If that's Matty H or Whitehurst great. If it's Carson Palmer I'm going to bust out Madden 05, and let myself get carried away in the thoughts of CP finding his grove in Seattle.

  5. Stats are fun.. they can be used to defend whatever side of the aisle you are on. The thing about the offensive line is true in Matt's case in a way. The line has been pretty good the last couple of years, but the time before that, he was wrecked. The issue with Matt is that he did not trust his line which led to either a bad decision to force the ball or to cover the ball and go down. He looked very skittish behind the O-line. I do believe that at the end of the year he was getting that trust back. The other fault with Matt H. is what I call the 'Brett Favre' syndrome. Matt learned from the wrong guy to learn from. When he 1st got here, he was benched, I believe is that he had to much Brett Favre in him. He never had the tools that Favre did, but he would make the poor decisions that Favre would (except in Favre case, he could get away with it). When the team struggles, Matt tries to win the game on 1 throw a lot, and that is where he gets into trouble. Matt can still be a very good QB, problem is that he has to be in a system where he is comfortable, and trust his team mates. That was when he was at his best with the Seahawks. I would love to see what he could do in Bevell's system. I believe he will gain confidence in his O-line and players. I still believe in him, at least for 1 more season.. Plus I would LOVE to have Matt mentor the next Seahawk QB..