With the announcement today (July 26) that decade-veteran Matt Hasselbeck is leaving the Seahawks, the season for the Seattle franchise may seem to some to be ending before it even begins. Hasselbeck’s departure means the Hawks have just one quarterback coming to camp and if anything bad should happen to Charlie Whitehurst it’s difficult to imagine how the offense would even be able to practice plays.
Those in Hawk management hope to sign Minnesota Vikings free agent Tarvaris Jackson, who has ties to Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and Hasselbeck could land with one of several clubs, including two (Arizona and San Francisco) in the Seahawks’ division.
Many in and out of the National Football League may have deluded themselves into believing the four-month lockout of players would have little consequence as long as a labor dispute was settled in time to allow minimal preparation for a full season, which commences Sept. 11. For Seattle, the first consequence is monumental. An eternity is reserved for the debate about whether Captain Matt was the best-ever Hawk QB. Right now the only word that seems to matter is “was.”
Look at the Hasselbeck development a different way: Had N.F.L. owners in March not brought on the player lockout, there would’ve been plenty of opportunity to deal in an unhurried way with the reality that Number 8 is an unrestrictive free agent. The compression caused by a 136-day lockout (that in retrospect seems to have been inevitably headed for a settlement) means things now seem to be happening too fast for management (much less fans) to handle.
Players only this morning had returned to Hawk training facilities. Seattle management came to work faced with nearly two dozen unrestricted free agents but none, naturally, is as key as the guy who had been the nominal and actual team leader. Finding a quarterback who is at least competent as a starter is far more important than deciding the fates of any among 20 others who have reasonable claims on Hawk jobs.
The Hasselbeck development comes as something of a surprise if only because so many football fans and scribes had seemed either hopeful about or resigned to the return of the 35-year-old Super Bowl and Pro Bowl vet. The belief was that he’d get a two-year deal and linger in Seattle during a transition to a younger starter, identity unknown.
Names besides Jackson that have surfaced either as challengers to Whitehurst (he’s played in all of eight N.F.L. games, starting just twice) or as back-ups are certainly not guys at a competitive level impressive enough to have fans amassing at the Seahawk season-ticket window.
One name, Matt Leinart, is interesting if only because of his connections. The 28-year-old facial ringer for actor Christian Bale reached the apex of his career as the winner of the 2004 Heisman Trophy while leading current Hawk coach Pete Carroll’s USC team to the national championship. Since then he’s been, if not a total bust, at best a back-up for N.F.L. teams in Arizona and Houston, taking nary a snap for the Texans last season.
Hence, Tuesday dawned with the certainty that there would be a Seahawks season and will end with no one knowing for sure who will be taking snaps for Seattle seven weeks from now.