The Hawks went in to the 2011 season committed to making major changes at quarterback. We all know what a giant figure Matt Hasselbeck will be in Seahawks history. He was Holmgren's guy, the team's franchise quarterback for the better part of a decade. He took the Hawks places they hadn't been before. Along with Holmgren, he was the dominant personality of the Seattle Seahawks. Football fans all over the country knew Hasselbeck. He was the guy who uttered those immortal words, "We want the ball and we're going to score."
However, his reign in Seattle was at an end and Pete Carroll and John Schneider knew it. In fact, they did Hasselbeck a favor by allowing him to move on. How long would he have been able to stand the pounding that Tarvaris Jackson has already taken behind this young o-line? Not very long -- he'd probably already be in traction by now. The move gave Hasselbeck an opportunity to enjoy success in Tennessee, along with a better chance of retiring as a functioning quarterback rather than as a surgery patient. Also, he will be a mentor to a kid from Seattle, Jake Locker. Hasselbeck is appreciated in Tennessee, but would have been booed in Seattle.
Matt's departure does leave one unanswered question: what the bleep do we do now at quarterback?
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Carroll and Schneider began addressing that issue last year when the Hawks traded a third round draft pick for Charlie Whitehurst. They probably figured at least he may turn into a decent backup, which is not a terrible use for a third round pick. Who knows, maybe the guy could develop into a solid quarterback? When Hasselbeck went down in 2010, Whitehurst did an adequate job of filling in for him, especially in the final game of the season against the Rams.
Next, the Hawks signed Tarvaris Jackson for the 2011 season and declared him to be the starter. He was a veteran who was familiar with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and his system. "T-Jack" was younger and more mobile than Hasselbeck, and more experienced than Whitehurst.
Also during this past offseason, the Hawks picked up a diamond in the rough: undrafted free agent rookie Josh Portis. When given the opportunity during the preseason, Portis knocked everyone's socks off. He showed arm strength, athleticism, mobility, coolness under pressure, and an ability to read defenses and make the right throws. With a little polish, he could be the future.
Trying to put myself into Carroll and Schneider's shoes, here is what I see:
They brought in a couple of guys to compete for the starting position, Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson. Both of these guys, in different ways, have credibility. Apparently John Schneider scouted Whitehurst in college and liked what he saw. He had good size, could make all the throws, and was successful in college. Since entering the NFL, he's also studied under Norv Turner and Phillip Rivers.
T-Jack is an experienced veteran who has worked, with mixed results, in Bevell's system. He has a good arm, can scramble around, and has a certain amount of savvy. He was also stuck in the middle of the Brett Favre circus in Minnesota and came out with his delicate little psyche intact, so he's tough, too.
Going into the 2011 season, it seemed that one of these two guys would likely show enough to be the starter for 2012. Neither one is a great quarterback, but one of them should prove to be an adequate game manager while the o-line gels and the offense begins to click. Meanwhile, the team has time to find or develop the quarterback of the future (QBOTF).
With limited expectations, one of these two guys could get the Hawks through the next couple of years until that QBOTF is in place and ready to step up and play. It is now becoming clear which of the two guys that will be, but that was an enormous question at the beginning of the season, one that Carroll and Schneider answered by acquiring a couple of decent prospects to compete for that job.
Now comes the exciting part, the QBOTF. If you were looking for a couple of prospects to compete for that title, Josh Portis would absolutely have to be one of those guys. He needs development, but his upside is tremendous. He may be ready to back up T-Jack next season, or he could simply take over the position.
But who will compete with him for that QBOTF spot? It looks like the Seahawks will be in a position to take one in the draft next year. They aren't likely to have a shot at Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley, but there will be other guys available in rounds one and two. Look how deep the 2011 draft was at quarterback. The advantage of doing it this way is that the team won't be putting all of its eggs in one basket. If the draftee pans out, wonderful! If he's the next manifestation of Rick Mirer and Dan McGwire, then he can just hit the road. There will be a couple of other guys already on hand to get the job done.
Another scenario would be for the Hawks to stand pat at quarterback. In this case, T-Jack would prove this year that he's a legitimate starter in the NFL, allowing the team to stick with Whitehurst as the backup and Portis as the neophyte in training. Without the need to draft a quarterback , other needs could be addressed, freeing up the Seahawks to go after a stud pass rusher or other best player available in the first round. The d-line could use an infusion of top tier youngsters.
As far as the quarterback is concerned, the Seahawks are in pretty good shape for both the near term and the long term. The same can be said for most of the other units on the team, perhaps with the exception of a hole here or there. Carroll and Schneider seem to have the franchise headed in a good direction. In my humble opinion, they have a better eye for talent than any other administration in the franchise's history.