Player Preview: Matt Hasselbeck

{{In an ongoing series throughout the preseason, I’ll be going over specific players looking to make some impact on the Seahawks this year.}}

So, where better to start than with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck?

The Sexy Beast On The Left

The Sexy Beast On The Left

First and foremost, it should probably be mentioned that our starting quarterback has officially had his name changed for him to, “Matt Hasselbeck, if he stays healthy …”  Which I think is unfair, because you could make that claim about pretty much every team.  Let’s look at it logically, it’s HARD to stay healthy in the NFL for a full 16.  Luck plays a factor for sure, just look at all the fluke injuries out there.  Linemen roll into the legs of quarterbacks all the time; why is it that only certain times they end up costing players their seasons while others are able to limp it off?  Who’s to say the next time you plant your foot in the turf won’t be the time you tear a tendon?  Or, you know, who’s to say the next time you dive towards the endzone and get seriously thumped by Patrick Willis will mean a broken rib or two?  Patrick Willis isn’t out there breaking EVERYONE’S ribs!  Yet, I’m sure he still hits people with the same ferocity.

I’m probably biased though.  I generally like Matt Hasselbeck, and not just because he’s charming as a motherfucker in radio interviews.  He’s also been a quality player for us when they’ve been pretty few and far between (even in a brief history as is ours).  Certainly, he’s the best quarterback in team history; without question he’ll be in the Ring of Honor as soon as he hangs ’em up.  The man just might pass 30,000 yards if he plays his cards right this year.  He’s got a 60% career completion percentage.  He’s led us to our only Super Bowl appearance!

And he’s only 34.  Now, I know that sounds like a lot, but a good quarterback who keeps himself in shape can and generally does play until he’s 40.  In fact, you could say Matt Hasselbeck is in his prime.  I mean, shit, look at all the crapshoots out there getting drafted by all these teams!  What percentage will go on to do even what Hasselbeck has done?  I’m not even calling Matt a hall of famer; I think he’s in that range just below the HOF.  To do what Hasselbeck has done in his career takes a kind of talent and focus and intelligence that most quarterbacks just don’t have.  He might play 6 more seasons; in the NFL 6 years is pretty much forever.

All that having been said, he can’t do it alone.  I don’t know if I see Hasselbeck as the kind of guy who makes a team particularly better.  He’s not a simple game manager; he’s definitely more than that.  But, he’s not exactly one of the elites who takes no-name wide receivers and turns them into multi-millionaire stars.  I think a lot of the wideouts we’ve had over the years (Jackson, Engram, Burleson, etc.) have been totally underrated and have fit the Holmgren scheme perfectly.  I’d say, more than anything, the mounting evidence that a lot of people are touting – that Hasselbeck is a product of the West Coast Offense and can’t necessarily be plugged into any ol’ offensive scheme – is more accurate than most Seahawks fans wish to believe.  I hope that’s not the case.

We can’t necessarily take 2009’s season into account though.  After all, we were playing behind one of the worst offensive line units the team has ever seen.  It was a miracle that Hasselbeck played in as many games as he did!  When you’re harassed as much as he was, as quickly as he was (generally well under 5 seconds), you’ve got no choice but to rush your passes because the last thing you want to do is take a sack.  And, maybe there were too many turnovers due to that fact, and maybe not all of those turnovers were a result of a particularly quick rush, but the fear will ultimately take over.  As the season went on, he probably just assumed that there’d be a rush, because so very often a rush was there anyway.

One knock I’ve had against Hasselbeck that may or may not be fair is that it takes him more time than it should to get used to new receivers.  He seems to develop a trust with people, slowly.  And it doesn’t help when guys get hurt all the time Deion Branch.  Well, this is his second season with T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  And he’s had some time with Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu as well.  John Carlson appears to be a healthy target that Matt likes throwing to.  I expect better in this department in 2010.

Ultimately, his success will depend on the new offensive line (with a rookie and a veteran manning his blind side) and how well they gel and hold up.  If the rookie is as good as is hoped, if the veteran can gut it out, I think we’ll be okay.  But, if that left side goes to pieces, we certainly don’t have the depth for that side to be anywhere near effective.

The line will dictate how the running game does as well.  Matt has almost always enjoyed a supurb running game in his time as a starter.  With Big Walt’s departure, so has that safety net.  In recent seasons, we’ve asked for more of a load to be carried by the quarterback as a byproduct of an ineffective running game.  I’m not saying Matt isn’t game for this challenge; I’m saying that any quarterback would prefer having his load lightened by a workhorse behind him.

So, how will he do in 2010?  Well, Matt Hasselbeck, If He Stays Healthy … should do just fine.  Actually, he’s kinda the least of my worries.  If he gets hurt, then we get to see what this Whitehurst guy is made of.  Of course, no quarterback is a champion overnight (unless your name is Tom Brady).  But, I’m not willing to give up on Hasselbeck just yet.

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