BROCK AND SALK

Hasselbeck clear No. 1; Hawks harder to define

Nov 14, 2010, 5:44 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

HasselbeckCards

By Mike Salk

Matt Hasselbeck is currently the Seahawks’ best quarterback. Let’s stop debating. He may or may not be the best choice for the future; but he is definitely the best quarterback right now.

We all figured that was the case last week when Charlie Whitehurst made his first career start and was ineffective at best. But the problem with seeing a player one time, in one situation against one team is that you can always wonder how someone else would have fared on that day.

Watching Whitehurst enter the game on Sunday while Hasselbeck dealt with a left wrist issue revealed the truth of the situation. Whereas Hasselbeck was in the midst of a nearly flawless effort, Whitehurst threw a terrible interception.

According to Brock, that play is called a “200 Jet X Sluggo Seam Z Hitch.” The quarterback is supposed to look back to the hitch ONLY if that cornerback falls off and goes with the seam route. That obviously didn’t happen and Whitehurst made a terrible decision – the kind of decision that simply can’t be made by a starting quarterback.

In a game in which Hasselbeck threw for 333 yards (and should have had more were it not for a couple of key drops), Whitehurst threw just six passes with one interception. But the real indication of the difference came from the coaching staff. With Whitehurst in the game and the Seahawks looking at a third and nine from the Arizona 18 yard line, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called for a draw to set up a field goal. Up seven points, the coaching staff decided they couldn’t risk another potential turnover, so they opted to essentially give away their third down opportunity in favor of a field goal. Not exactly a vote of confidence for their quarterback. In fact, it lends some credence to the report on NFL.com on Friday which read: “This much the Seahawks know: Whitehurst is not the long-term answer, which is a blow for the team considering it gave up a 2011 third-round pick and 20 spots in the second round last year to get him.”

With nearly a dozen teams potentially looking for a quarterback this offseason, a weak draft class at that position, and only a few potential free agents, we will continue to monitor the Seahawks’ view of Hasselbeck. Certainly, they had to be impressed with what they saw from him in Arizona. Coming back from a concussion and dealing with a wrist injury, he made good, quick decisions. He protected the football well with zero turnovers. And Hasselbeck even threw a quality deep ball, completing four passes of over 30 yards. In a game in which he had time to throw the ball, he stepped up and showed why he is still legitimate NFL starter in the right situation.

* * *

– I still have no idea how to define the Seahawks. They are not an elite team. I think I’m sure of that. Elite teams don’t get blown out as often as they have this year. I know they aren’t a bad team – they have beaten too many teams to be a bad team. Say what you want about their strength of schedule, they have beaten four teams five times, including two on the road. Bad teams don’t do that.

That places them somewhere in the NFL’s burgeoning middle class. Based on their division, that gives them a legitimate chance to make the playoffs where they could conceivably play a home game against another member of that middle class. I wouldn’t expect them to beat too many elite teams, but they should have a puncher’s chance against a wildcard team at Qwest Field.

– Beating the Cardinals on Sunday gave the Hawks a little wiggle room for next week. It’s hard to imagine them beating the reigning Super Bowl champs in New Orleans, but at 5-4 and a game up in the division, they can afford to lose that game. At 5-5, they would then have a pair of home games against beatable opponents (KC and Carolina) before going to San Francisco. The weird thing about the Seahawks is that they are just unpredictable enough for me to say 7-5 isn’t a guarantee. That said, it’s hard to imagine them losing three straight, especially with Russell Okung likely to return.

– Mike Williams had by far his best game as a professional on Sunday, catching 11 passes for 145 yards. I have said before that he could be a valuable possession receiver but not a quality number one option on a god team. This game does not make him a legit ace (it takes time for that), but if he can play at that level consistently (or often), the sky is the limit for him. That one-handed, backhand catch he made late in the game was one of the coolest grabs I’ve ever seen. It showed his unique combination of size and dexterity. I’m still not sure he’s fast enough to be a true top option every week, but kudos to the Seahawks for putting him in the best position to succeed. The 17 times he was targeted by Hasselbeck shows how much trust he has from the veteran quarterback.

– Brandon Mebane returned to action and his effect on the defense was obvious. His presence helped them limit the Cardinals to just 41 yards rushing. Once the running game was safely eliminated, Aaron Curry and Chris Clemons were free to come flying off the edge. They combined for four sacks and a forced fumble. Curry was active all day, even moving inside on occasion. It was probably his best game as a pro and should provide a blueprint for the coaching staff to find new ways to take advantage of his skills.

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