Matt Hasselbeck was unexceptional. Charlie Whitehurst looked like, well, Hasselbeck in his prime.
The best outcome of the opening game of National Football League practice season is that key personnel emerge unscathed. That was the case for the latest incarnation of the Seattle Seahawks Saturday (Aug. 14), with one possible exception: Matt Hasselbeck.
The exception was that Captain Matt wasn’t exceptional, kind of like the quarterback we remember from 2009. Charlie Whitehurst, the presumed backup, was exceptional to a point at which new head coach Pete Carroll may have brought a quarterback controversy into camp when practice resumes after the 20-18 home win against Tennessee.
If so, it will be the first time in a decade for a lot of local fans to demand a change at the top of the offense. Only Dave Krieg started more games over the ball than Hasselbeck has. Krieg also was the major name of the Hawks’ first QB controversy. During the '83 season, new Hawk mentor Chuck Knox made “Mudbone” the starter over under-performing Jim Zorn, who had scrambled his way into the collective heart of the fan base at the dawn of the franchise in 1976.
Hasselbeck’s main backup the past decade was the head coach. Number 8 was going to be Number 1 for Mike Holmgren from the day Hasselbeck arrived in March of ’91. Last season, the frequently injured QB was a Jekyll-Hyde guy for head coach Jim Mora. Hass threw a pair of picks during the early going of game one of the league opener against St. Louis. Then he settled into his one-time all-pro form, finishing with 279 yards and three TDs on 25-of-36 passing. The Hawks won 28-0 but the next week lost at San Francisco after Hasselbeck left with injured ribs.
Whitehurst’s numbers may have reminded fans of Hasselbeck in his prime. The former San Diego Charger from Clemson was 14 of 22 for 214 yards, with two touchdown throws and one interception. The 28-year-old third-round draft pick (Hasselbeck will be 35 in September) repeatedly put crisp passes where his receivers didn’t have to fight for them.
After Hasselbeck completed four of 10 he was pulled in favor of the presumed backup. Carroll then left Whitehurst in the game for so long that two matters became apparent: One, the former USC coach genuinely wanted to beat Tennessee, even if it was only an exhibition. Two, Carroll may have been displaying Whitehurst’s success as a prelude to justifying benching Hasselbeck when the real games commence Sept. 12 at Qwest Field.
Aside from Whitehurst, positive signs included two Olindo Mare field goals (45 and 48 yards) and a defense that seemed much more active than what fans remember from last year’s sluggish 4-12 season. Then again, the Seattle “dee” only had to face Titans starter Vince Young for two possessions.
In any case, the emergence of Whitehurst ought to have fans yapping between now and next Saturday, when the locals host Green Bay for the second exhibition game. The question to be answered: Will Matt Hasselbeck be exceptional next time or will he again be the exception?