You’ll notice I didn’t say “Greatest Seahawk Ever”. That distinction will forever go to Steve Largent, at least in my eyes. If I was going to say “Most Physically Gifted Seahawk Ever”, I’d have to say Walter Jones. My Favorite Seahawk Ever? I might venture to say Cortez Kennedy.
But, without question, Matt Hasselbeck was the greatest quarterback ever. And he will be sorely missed.
There are some curious similarities between Matt Hasselbeck and the 2nd greatest Seahawks quarterback ever, Dave Krieg. I feel like both were underappreciated by the fans in this area. Both saw their final seasons marred by injury and inconsistent play, both saw their best days long in the rearview mirror, but both still have/had more left in the tank to give to other teams. Dave Krieg played the better part of another five seasons after he left the Seahawks! I don’t think Matt’s going to go so long, but if he managed to stay reasonably healthy (as Krieg was, for the most part, in his post-Seahawks career), he certainly has the ability to play another five.
That all having been said, though, I still don’t feel the connection to Krieg as I have with Matt. Maybe I was too young to fully appreciate all that Krieg did for us. I was pretty much an infant when we went to the AFC Title Game against the Raiders; I was still only a little kid the last time he led us to the playoffs in the late 80s. Certainly not the superfan you see before you! I wouldn’t become this twisted, tortured creature until 1989 or 1990.
But, let’s face it, for all the good Krieg brought this team, he also brought a lot of crap. He led the NFL in fumbles for a career (until another Seahawk, Warren Moon, topped him later). Even in his best season (which I’m going to say was 1984 when he led us to 12 wins and that aforementioned title game), he had a whopping 24 interceptions! I didn’t get to witness a whole lot of his glory; but I certainly witnessed a lot of his failure.
Matt Hasselbeck, though, he was different. He was something special. Sure, Mike Holmgren had a big hand in his success, but it’s not like just anybody can come into Mike Holmgren’s offense and succeed. Matt brought the tools, the smarts, and the drive and ran away with the West Coast Offense.
Really, all I need to say is this: Matt Hasselbeck took us to our first and only Super Bowl.
But, he was so much more. I always felt like he got better as the pressure increased. Matt would always try to put the team on his back and carry us over the threshold. Granted, in later seasons, when we didn’t have the talent around him, Matt often tried to do too much and got burned accordingly. But, when we were balanced, when we were good and in the playoffs – I’m not going to say I would pick Matt Hasselbeck over any other quarterback because that would be ridiculous – but I will say that: I Liked Our Guy.
He did more with mediocre talent than I’ve seen out of any other quarterback since probably John Elway. Look at our wide receivers over the years! Look at our tight ends! They’ve all been pathetic! I think Shaun Alexander gets a lot of crap dumped on him, but you could even throw him in that liability mix. I mean, it’s not like he was catching many balls out in the flat. It’s not like he was a first-rate blitz pick up guy. We had a great offensive line for a while there, and that’s pretty much all that Matt needed.
I never felt that we were overmatched in the playoffs when we had Matt under center. Even though, by all accounts, we were playing teams that were clearly better than us. We took Green Bay to overtime (in the infamous “We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score” game) and were a blown route, or a terrible play-call (seriously, five wides? Because we ran that play EVER during the game or the season?) from advancing. That Green Bay team was pretty stacked, AND it was in Lambeau Field. We should’ve been blown out of the water; instead it was as close as it can get.
The next year was pretty flukey, because we got beat by the Rams three times (thanks mostly to our inept secondary), but that was all prelude to our greatest season in Seahawks history. 13-3, Super Bowl, Shaun Alexander got all the awards for his record-breaking 27 touchdowns, but Matt Hasselbeck was the conductor that kept the train a rollin’. I won’t rehash Super Bowl XL for all you disgusted fans out there, but suffice it to say, you can’t blame Matt for tossing perfectly thrown balls that were dropped by Jerramy Stevens. Although, I guess you could blame Matt for that “illegal block” when he tackled a guy after an interception … lousy cunts.
I think what I’ll always remember about Matt is the NEXT year. When things weren’t so rosy. Without Steve Hutchinson, with Shaun Alexander plagued by injury, Matt was forced to step up as all the talent around him was falling apart. After somehow managing to escape against the Cowboys thanks to that botched extra point, we went into Soldier Field to take on the Bears, the best team in the NFL (and eventual Super Bowl losers).
Again, this was another game where we had no business even being competitive. But, somehow Matt led the way, taking us into overtime, making us believe that maybe a miracle could strike twice. We even won the coin toss … but it was not to be. Another crushing, heartbreaking loss; a proper bookend to that Green Bay game three years prior.
The next year, we got trounced in the second round by the Packers again; a nasty, bitter defeat that left us all more than a little irritated. After that, we faced two seasons in the wilderness of futility before bouncing back (somewhat) with that 7-9 season last year.
Not the greatest send-off in the world, but we did send Hasselbeck out a division winner. And he DID help provide one of the most epic playoff victories of all time against the Saints (272 yards on 22 of 35 with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception for a 113 rating). That game is only going to get bigger and bigger as time goes by. Mostly for the Beast Mode run, but also as Matt’s last game in Seattle. And for the simple fact that it was so unexpected.
Once again, an overmatched team was somehow led to victory by the greatest Seahawks quarterback of all time. I might bemoan the fact that Seattle doesn’t have a Lombardi Trophy, but I’ll never put that onus on Matt Hasselbeck. He did more with less than I’ve ever seen. Without Matt, we never would’ve even been in the POSITION to lose a Super Bowl.
Matt, you will certainly be missed. I eagerly await your final 1-day contract so you can come back and ceremoniously retire as a Seahawk.