Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Quarterback Situation

There's a lot to process today. There are a lot of emotional reactions today. The average Seahawks fan feels angry, confused, and maybe a bit betrayed. This is totally natural. This is a rebuild. This is going to suck at times.

I am calm. I wanted to write this article earlier, but I failed at that personal goal. I have to live with that fact, and knowing that it wouldn't have made a difference helps me be okay with it. But here it is, my take on the Quarterback situation. My rationale for why today is not a disaster, why Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, and possibly Matt Leinart do not cumulatively or individually signal that the end is nigh for Seahawks success. Let's start from the beginning.
An all-time great Seahawk, all-time
great Seahawk moment...

Matthew Hasselbeck
I love Matt Hasselbeck. People don't believe me, because I've advocated for his departure, but I do. I admire him as a man, I find him hilarious, and I think for ten years he's been a leader of men on an often dysfunctional football team. I've given the reasons why I thought it was time to move on, and I will not rehash those, especially not on an emotional day like today. The fact of the matter is, the Seahawks needed to move on eventually in order to rebuild.

But entering this situation, Matt Hasselbeck was the default. The status quo. On a scale of 1-10, let's call his performance the last three years a 4. There are dozens of reasons why it was a four: offensive line, no run game, terrible offensive coordinators, multiple systems, bunions, gas, low carb diets. It doesn't matter why, what matters is that he wasn't 2007 Hasselbeck anymore. Or 2005, or 2003... He wasn't, and I don't suspect he will be again. That's not a knock on him(!), it's just how football works. Hasselbeck never had a large margin for error, and when things started falling apart, it hurt him.

The Trade Bait
There have been a lot of these floating around all offseason. Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Tarvaris Jackson, Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, Pat Devlin, Matt Flynn (and of course, Charlie Whitehurst)... it's a long list. On the face of things, not one of those guys is a great option for the Seahawks.

"I look older than I am!"
Let's look at the trade bait: Kevin Kolb is expensive, unproven, and as Hawk Blogger has pointed out countless times, flagged up and down in red due to the fact that his team is trading him. Franchise QBs don't get traded. Carson Palmer is not being traded, but he would have been the top choice I am told (as are others). Palmer has been injury plagued, he has the second worst QB Rating of all QBs with a minimum of 25 starts in the last 3 seasons (second only to Matthew Hasselbeck), and never felt like a real long-term fix, more of a long-term bridge. That presents awkward moments down the line, and gets costly. Kyle Orton is a fan favorite, but he doesn't really fit the West Coast Offense that Bevell and Cable are installing. Beyond that, he also would be merely a bandaid, like Palmer, to get us awkwardly to the next QB. Donovan McNabb has not been discussed much, but he was another option. He was inept last year in Shanahan's WCO and never appeared to fully buy-in. Probably a red flag to Pete Carroll, plus the cost probably outweighed the productivity. He's also old. Matt Flynn doesn't appear to be on the market, and is less proven than Kolb.

The Free Agents 
There are a lot of free agents. None of them are stars... that's, uh, not a big surprise, is it? Here's the list, in case you don't believe me: Rex Grossman, Jim Sorgi, Todd Collins, Drew Stanton, Patrick Ramsey, Brian St. Pierre, Matt Moore, Tyler Thigpen, Kellen Clemens, Brodie Croyle, J.T. O'Sullivan, Bruce Gradkowski, Billy Volek, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards, Matt Leinart, Tarvaris Jackson.

That is gross.

From that list, there are five names -- and only five names -- that even moderately interest me. Matt Moore, Bruce Gradkowski, Trent Edwards, Matt Leinart, and Tarvaris Jackson. We've signed two of them. We also signed Josh Portis, an undrafted free agent, who we'll discuss some other day. He doesn't stand a high chance of starting, so bugger off for now. Let's take a closer look at who we did sign...
T-A-R-V-A-R-I-S
Tarvaris Jackson
The name doesn't inspire confidence, as Jackson has long been considered "the problem" with the Vikings. He was clearly overdrafted, and he was put into NFL action a little too early. Here are a few of my thoughts on why Jackson doesn't terrify me as a Seahawk.
  1. He was not in a good situation. Let's be honest here, Brad Childress was a bit of a disaster in Minnesota. A young quarterback is going to struggle, always and everywhere, but Childress could not afford to lose games, as championship pressures have been high for years in Minnesota. Soon, fans adopted the belief that Jackson was the reason they were losing -- not entirely untrue, but not entirely his fault, either.
  2. Darrell Bevell worked closely with Jackson, and clearly believes he has what it takes to run this system.
  3. No one denies the raw talent that Jackson has. He has a great arm, decent accuracy, and excellent mobility. 
  4. No one denies the problems that Jackson has. He lacks patience in the pocket and too often his accuracy struggles due to throwing on the run. He locks onto receivers and makes poor decisions when reading defenses. Those are coachable issues, but has Bevell already failed in coaching him? Hard to know how much that fell on Bevell vs. QB coach and Childress. 
Couldn't resist...
Matt Leinart
I have more sympathy for Leinart than I do for Jackson. Matt Leinart was drafted to a terrible organization that had never had a lick of success at Quarterback. He lost his starting job to Kurt Warner, a likely hall of fame QB that put the team on his back and just scorched defenses. There are few quarterbacks in the league who could have beaten out Warner those years, and the fact that Whisenhunt did nothing to try to develop Leinart (except bellyache publicly about what a louse he was) poisoned that relationship long before it was terminated. The fact that Whisenhunt picked Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton over Leinart says more about what a fool Whisenhunt is when it comes to understanding QB play than it says about Leinart. Whisenhunt, recall, wanted Leinart to start over Warner... repeatedly.

Is Matt Leinart kind of a D-Bag? Well, arguably, yeah. At least, he has been. But he was also a very effective college quarterback. That doesn't mean much in the pros, but it is a fact. I think that Matt Leinart has some upside remaining, in fact, quite a bit. Doesn't mean he'll ever get there, but I do know that Houston wanted to keep him quite a bit. They hit the nail on the head with Schaub, so there's always that... Also, worth noting, he's not a member of this team yet, and is also talking to Washington, reportedly...

So, What's It All Mean?
This is, I suppose, the big question.

The easy answer is: "I 'unno." I think my answer is a little more complex than that. What this means is that we are right about Pete Carroll. Competition is the central theme of his system in Seattle. By bringing in relatively young talent (27 to 28 years old), Carroll flirts with finding some legitimate talent. By putting three talents who are on relatively even par with similar sized chips on their shoulder, he sincerely increases the odds of raising all their games, or at least one of them.

Thought exercise: if you'd never thrown an NFL pass and were going up against a multiple pro bowler in an "open competition," would you sincerely feel it was open? I wouldn't. Especially not when you know that the fanbase doesn't trust you and reveres him. Charlie Whitehurst, for all his flaws, had the cards stacked against him last year. That is -- and don't hear me wrong -- his fault. No one else's. A star doesn't care how high the deck is stacked, they fight for everything they can. That's what Hasselbeck did when he was young.

How will Charlie react to Jackson and Leinart? How will they react? This is now a wide open competition. Who is going to seize the opportunity? Charlie has familiarity with his personnel. Jackson has familiarity with the offensive playbook. Leinart has familiarity with the system and the demands put on players by Pete Carroll. Let's call this Schneider vs. Bevell vs. Carroll. Who wins?

That excites me. Pete Carroll isn't here to please fans in March, April, or in this case July. He's here to please fans in the first motherflippin' week of February.

The Bottom Line
There is very little chance that any of the quarterbacks on this squad will be the "future" of the franchise. But that's okay. That doesn't mean this is a wasted year. The quarterback is important -- very important! -- but it's not the center of this offense. Look at the Raiders last year -- they went 8-8 against similar competition that we will face in 2011. They did that with makeshift quarterbacks -- Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski, with a little Charlie Frye and Kyle Boller thrown in for good measure.

Today feels like a bad day, and I understand that. But I also sincerely believe that there was no one worth drafting at #25, no one worth trading for with next year's pick(s), and no one better on the free agent market. Some will want Hasselbeck back, and I understand that. I am not going to try to convince anyone otherwise at this point. Nevertheless, I sincerely believe that this is emphatically not a lost season. This is not the Seahawks jockeying for Andrew Luck. This is an attempt to make the best out of a pretty crappy quarterback situation, and the risk is minimal: you gave up nothing to get these new players and they will likely cost less combined than re-signing Hasselbeck would have. We can get legitimately better elsewhere with our money, while preparing to draft one of the 4-6 first round QB talents of 2012.

The future is brighter than it feels today, my friend. 12th Man til' I die!

9 comments:

  1. I agree with absolutely everything you wrote. Perfectly stated.

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  2. I was wondering why Vince Young wasn't listed in any of the lists you included. I know he's been problematic or a headcase for Tennessee but his stats even being less of a pass first QB are far superior to anyone we currently have signed. Why not bring him in if were all about "Competition". Plus would be funny to see the trash talking about the rose bowl he beat USC in with Pete and Leinart.

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  3. Charles -- just forgot about him! My bad.

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  4. Fantastic....the last paragraph is how I've been feeling for the last 2 hours...this does not position us for Luck, and at the end of the day we may have 2nd best QB situation in division and a boat load of cash to spend elsewhere...

    Well done Chris.

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  5. I agree with you 100%! I had come to terms Matt was gone. With such a young line, who WILL make mistakes, mobility will be key. Which is why I was hoping to have VY in the mix. A fair competition will bring out the best in competitors. Hopefully one of them will step up. If not, we suffer through a LONG season and we have a better selection for our "actual" QB of the future. Either way, "I'm in" for what PC and J Schnide are doing. Go Hawks!!

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  6. I must say I agree with all of you guys. I was wondering about Vince Young as well but as you mentioned you forgot. With Signing these cheaper guys, we are now ready to spend and get some great upgrades. Currently Sidney Rice is the rumor and I think he would be great but we need to upgrade on the DL, CB, OL, so hopefully we don't spend a boat road to sign him (Which I think we would have to to get and also to keep Mebane) Also with the new CBA and the draft, we will also not spend as much on first round picks which means we can get a QB of the future for less money then in pass drafts. In all this could be one the smartest moves for the future of the Seahawks.

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  7. Accepting all the points made about Jackson's tenure at Minnesota, he just looked flaky in an offense that seemed far more ready to succeed all round than our work in progress. Worrying, but perhaps he will work harder to succeed than Leinart... But Young would have been a disaster waiting to happen.

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  8. Thanks for pulling me back from the ledge...

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  9. Love it...great article! I am sad to see Matt go. Mostly as a man than as a player. I think we will miss his personality and quotes more than his play on the field. And I'm curious who will step in to pick up the extra face time that is now available without him. And I'm curious to see what leaders will step up, hopefully in a positive, reinforcing way.

    BUT, you made some great points and have pulled me back into the fold. I had written off Carroll and co as soon as I saw the Matt non-deal go down. But you made compelling arguments to give this experiment a shot. And adding S. Rice helps the equation a whole lot!

    So...all hail Coach Carroll. Make us Hawk fans proud!

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