QB situation a mess, but blame lies in the past

July 27th, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

What you could have won: Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman

Before I get into this piece I want to set up two things. First of all, I had the opportunity to speak to Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) today. Regulars will know I’ve been promoting his talents for a while now as a guy who deserves a lot more attention in terms of the draft. Expect the feature on Davis to appears on the blog in the next couple of days. I can testify that he’s as impressive during interview as he is quarterbacking the Southern Miss offense.

Secondly, I wanted to recommend this piece by Brandon Adams at 17 Power offering a perfect and considered summary of Matt Hasselbeck’s departure and the current quarterback situation. Brandon is an exceptional writer so go and visit his blog.

Now onto the main topic of discussion…

The Seahawks quarterback situation lingered in the air like a bad smell throughout the lockout. At times the debate became quite heated as fans, the media and sometimes even the players chimed in to discuss the future at the position. Would Matt Hasselbeck return? Should Matt Hasselbeck return? Will the Seahawks make a trade for Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer? Is it time to see what Charlie Whitehurst has to offer? Endless debate that often went round in circles.

ESPN’s Trent Dilfer touted Tavaris Jackson around draft time, confirmed at a later stage by John Clayton that he was indeed on Seattle’s radar. We now know that Hasselbeck will be a Tennessee Titan and probable starter for the next two years health and form permitting. We also know that Jackson and Whitehurst will seemingly start training camp fighting to be the starter.

I suspect Jackson has the edge. After all, his former offensive coordinator is now in Seattle. The Seahawks have agreed a deal with Sidney Rice, pending a medical which seems a formality if terms have been agreed and anounced. If you check out Jackson’s own web page, he lists Sidney Rice as one of his closest friends in football. He has the experience – twenty NFL starts compared to Whitehurst’s two.

It appears Pete Carroll is handing a lot of responsibility to his coaches. Tom Cable had a lot of sway during the draft where Seattle spent their first two picks on offensive lineman. The Seahawks confirmed today that they’d signed Cable’s former protege Robert Gallery to play left guard. Bevell has clearly had some influence in the team’s decision to not only sign Jackson, but also target Rice.

So this is the situation at quarterback – Jackson or Whitehurst. Frankly, it’s a mess that should’ve been avoided.

Let me qualify that statement by making it clear that I see this ‘mess’ as one inherited by Pete Carroll and John Schneider. They were correct not to commit significant years and salary to a 36-year-old starting quarterback who in fairness does not fit the athletic and physical qualities they want to build their offense around. If the idea is that this team is rebuilding and won’t peak for a year or two (or three) then why not take a look at some other guys? It’s not losing for draft stock, it’s called moving on.

However, it should’ve been much easier to move on. They should’ve been able to avoid all this drama. Why? Because the previous regime should’ve drafted a quarterback. The current situation is systematic of the negligence of the past.

In 2009, the Seahawks should’ve drafted a quarterback in round one. Tim Ruskell and the front office viewed a 4-12 record and the fourth overall pick as almost a luxury. The poor season in 2008 was purely down to injuries - whether that was to Matt Hasselbeck, the offensive line or pretty much every single wide receiver on the roster. “We’re better than that” and “We’ll be healthy and return to form” were opinions taken. This was a team that had been perennial NFC West champions after all. This was a steal! The Seahawks, Super Bowl runners up just a couple of seasons removed, pinching a top-five talent.

What a rare and exciting opportunity to spend a top-five draft pick this was. Tim Ruskell and his scouts decided it was a chance to grab the top guy on their board who fit all of their criteria. Of course, that also meant the top guy that made it through the many layers that Ruskell insisted upon with his picks (four year starter, big school, good character etc).

The decision was made to draft Aaron Curry, a move much loved by the media and a large portion of the fan base. It’s not just with hindsight that we look back and almost collectively see that was a massive mistake. A few argued such at the time (ahem).

Essentially, it was a short term move. Curry was awarded the usual tags of ‘pro-ready’ and ‘safe pick’ with the assumption being his position (linebacker) was easy to learn. There were no character concerns and he performed brilliantly in work outs and during the combine, so Seattle drafted a $60m linebacker and hoped he would hit the ground running. Get everyone else healthy, fill holes with wasteful free agent cash (TJ Houshmandzadeh) and go for wins. They had to manufacture the positional need by trading Julian Peterson (who admittedly was reaching the end of his prime) but Curry was a can’t miss prospect! How could it go wrong?

Well for starters, Curry had no history in college of pass rushing ability. He wasn’t even asked to rush the passer, often standing deep behind the line of scrimmage and acting as a heat seaking missile to the ball. Curry recorded nine total sacks in four years at Wake Forest. Pass rush isn’t the be-all and end-all, but if you’re spending $60m on one defensive player, you generally want him pressuring the quarterback or shutting down one side of the secondary. Not many teams spend big at linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

Curry had all the athletic qualities, but not the instinct. He looks like a player who has worked to become a great physical specimen but ultimately plays like the third round grade he was given by the draft committee prior to his senior year.

What happened in 2009 after drafting him? The Seahawks weren’t quite as good as some thought. This was an ageing team with key players either already gone (Shaun Alexander, Steve Hutchinson) or getting close (Walter Jones, Patrick Kerney).

Matt Hasselbeck was also getting close to the end of the road.

When the 2009 season began, Hasselbeck was approaching his 34th birthday after an injury plagued previous season. He had two years left to run on his contract. That absolutely was the perfect opportunity to draft a guy, let him sit for two years and be the natural successor when Hasselbeck’s contracted ended after the 2010 season. A plan for tomorrow, some forward thinking at the most important position in football. It was the ideal moment to draft a quarterback.

If Ruskell and co. believed the team were better than their 2008 record suggested, then replace Julian Peterson with a younger and cheaper option (they found David Hawthorne as an UDFA) and let the quality of the team you believe in afford you the opportunity to bank a quarterback for the future.

Of course it’s easy to look now at Mark Sanchez (drafted 5th overall) and say that should’ve been the pick. He’s performed at least to a satisfactory level to get the Jets to successive playoff berths despite never having a chance to sit and learn. Josh Freeman is another. I never seriously considered Freeman to be an option for the Seahawks at #4 given his lack of polish as a passer - even despite the fact he worked out in Seattle prior to the draft. I graded him in the top ten of a few mocks but actually had him going to the Jets in the teens when all was said and done.

Two quarterbacks who have both had significant impacts for their team. Two quarterbacks who have started quickly. Two quarterbacks who are the future of their teams.

And yes, hindsight is great. But we can safely say the previous regime blew this one. Rather than awaiting the Sanchez or Freeman era in Seattle – with either having had two years research on living like a pro – it’s the Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst show. A major missed opportunity to take a chance on a quarterback for the long haul.

Carroll and Schneider can do nothing but make the most out of a bad situation. They may get an opportunity to get this right in the future. However, it’s actually very difficult (even with Jackson and Whitehurst) to ‘earn’ a top five pick. Seattle were just as poor in 2009 as 2008 and only managed the 6th overall pick after a 5-11 record. Playing in the NFC West makes it even harder to be so bad you finish with the 0-4 wins you might need to pick from the cream of the QB crop.

Would that be enough to get Andrew Luck in 2012? No. It may not be enough to get Matt Barkley either should he declare.

And this dire situation was all created by the absolute neglect of any forward thinking at such a key position. A cog to build around and continue Seattle’s NFC West dynasty lost. An expensive linebacker acquired instead. No obvious answer to who can be the next great Seahawks quarterback after Matt Hasselbeck.

A mess.

Let’s hope it can be solved soon. With the signing of Sidney Rice and major investment in the offensive line/running game, the Seahawks have created a good environment for a quarterback to thrive. Maybe that can be Jackson or Whitehurst? Or maybe it’ll be a different player not currently on the roster to be acquired or drafted later.

40 Responses to “QB situation a mess, but blame lies in the past”

  1. Will says:

    I would never want Sanchez. He hasn’t even been good in either two of his seasons so far. People credit him for “leading” the Jets to consecutive AFC title games but he didn’t lead them there, the Jets’ defense did. Not to mention that the Jets have had an elite WR in Holmes and an above average one in Braylon Edwards as well as one of the best OL in football. Sanchez is a game-manger at this point and, so far, hasn’t shown the ability to be much more than that.

    • Rob says:

      A lot of people want to take credit away from Sanchez, but I have to say Will he made big strides in year two as a passer and we have to remember he basically had one year starting experience at USC and went in at the deep end in the NFL immediately.

      I have to believe he will continue to grow in a team that is destined to continue to be a contender. In Seattle, he would’ve had a chance to sit and learn and the pressure to succeed immediately wouldn’t be as fierce. He and Freeman were missed opportunities in my opinion.

      • MattA says:

        I didn’t really see the big strides you reference for Sanchez. His completion percentage was still a pathetic 54.8 and a very average 75.3 rating. I don’t think he’s a bad QB, but I would hate to build a franchise around him.
        Freeman may be a good pick in hindsight, but on draft day I don’t think anyone believed he was worth the #4 pick.
        In any case I’d much rather wait for a franchise QB than be saddled to an average (at best) QB like Sanchez.

        • Rob says:

          He improved his turnover ratio by +10 which was a major stride in my view and he continues to learn ‘on the run’ considering he’s started every game possible since the draft. We’ll see how he grows, but Sanchez hasn’t held back that team and perhaps this year he’ll become a key factor in why they continue to succeed?

          • MattA says:

            Count me among his skeptics. He did improve his turnover ratio, but only compared to a season with 20 picks & 8 fumbles. This year he still had one more turnover than TD pass.
            I can’t rule out the possibility that he will develop into an elite player, but nothing I have seen so far gives me cause to expect it. Only time can reveal the truth.

  2. ba_edwards24 says:

    We had about 45 mil in free agency after releasing Andrews. 8 mil to Rice, probably about 5 to Gallery, probably about 5 to the rookies, 700 thousand to McCoy, 4 to T Jack (although the loser of the camp battle may be cut saving roughly 4 mil). That leaves about 22 mil left for other free agents, roughly 12 of which needs to be spent for the cap floor. Mebane can likely be had around the 7 mil mark as Cofield was had at 36 over 6 years. 15 left. What to do? Cromartie? Joseph? Not likely as we have invested heavily in the position through the draft. If they do spend heavy on one of these two big bodied studs, look for them to cut or renegotiate with Trufant shortly thereafter. I’ve read they have been interested in a veteran right tackle, specifically mentioned has been Wilie Colon and Tyson Clabo. I wouldn’t advise of the move, but its their money. They’ve also been mentioned as interested in linebackers such as Zac Diles of Houston and Kevin Burnett of SD. I hope we don’t use more resources on the position, as we currently have a solid to good crop of linebackers plus 4th round pick KJ Wright. Like. Like the cornerback position, cuts or renegotiations should be expected if Burnett is signed. Regardless, its a very exciting time to be a Hawks fan after the gloom and doom of an unenviable QB situation was unearthed yesterday.

    • Rob says:

      Expect an offer to Vonta Leach, they have interest there and he’s name checked the Seahawks. They have to sign some defensive lineman at some point… and not just starters, depth too. If there’s room for an elite cornerback, that’s good too.

      • ba_edwards24 says:

        Ya good point forgot we only have what 4 under contract? Clemons, Cole, Bryant, Levingston? Gotta resign Siavii, Amon Gordon, Jay Richardson, Bowen could be depth Wilkerson (visit scheduled for Friday) is depth. Vonta could be worth about 2 a year. So after he and Bane (hypothetically on both) we got about 13 left to sign 3-5 d linemen. Sounds about right. A couple vet minimums and a premium backup in the 2 mil range ends up at 5 mil total with 8 mil left. Polumbus and MikeRob get brought back and our cap is about done! Cutting Tru seems like our only option if we think we can use his salary on a better and younger corner like Joseph. Suposively Cromartie is down to Oakland and Houston.

        Cliff, haven’t heard anything about us regarding Edwards and I’ve been on Twitter all day. Have read about us being very interested in Osi Umeyiora on the trade front though. Pretty interesting because he’d replace Clemons, who had a monster year for us last year and came on the cheap. Clemons and Osi are 16 days apart age-wise. Doesn’t seem smart to me but we’ll see.

    • Cliff says:

      I think Zac Diles is an MLB and could be insurance to Tatupu. I think we drafted Wright to learn this year and eventually replace Curry. We have OLB depth with Smith but not much at the MLB besides Hathorne.

      I think we could also sign Mebane to a deal and then sign Leech if we wanted him. If we want to sign another player just restructure Trufant/Tatupu? I would looooove former Giants player Mathias Kiwanuka but he’s sketchy with his neck injury last year and he’s older at 28. I heard we were going after Ray Edwards but i dont know if thats still the case.

      I would love to get a CB such as J Joseph/Cromartie but i wouldn’t hate Trufant and Thurmond starting with rookies learning in the fast lane in nickle packages this year. No matter what CB we sign we wont have a huge pass rush this year so it’ll be tough for them. Us drafting a couple DBs and signing a few more UDFA DBs makes me think they’ll just play who we have?

      • Cliff says:

        maybe Ryan Longwell too? we need a new Kicker

        • Rob says:

          I think they’ll have a look at the kicker market after FA dies down. It’s pretty easy to install a new kicker, so we might have to wait there. I doubt they just hand the UDFA from Auburn they acquired the job.

          Keep an eye on Osi Umenyiora. Clayton reported mutual interest and my Twitter buddy Scott Enyeart reiterated interest does exist there. They could sign a DT, DE and CB with the cap room.

          • Derek says:

            Osi would fill in at the Leo spot correct? Any word on Vernon Gholston? Would love to give him a try on the cheap too.

          • Cliff says:

            I would love to give Vernon G. a league min salary and test him during the preseason. If it worked out our Leo spot would be filled!

          • Derek says:

            Is Osi a FA or would we have to trade for him?

  3. Derek says:

    Rob-

    How do you think the rookie wage scale will alter the draft, if at all? Will there be more chances taken early on since less money is at stake? Or more trades in the top four or five picks?

    • Rob says:

      Perhaps a combination of both, Derek. Teams will not be as concerned to spend their top picks, but teams are going to be more willing to offer attractive packages to move down. So I suspect we will see more Atlanta-type trades for Julio Jones but also teams refusing big offers for guys they really like because top picks are now more affordable.

  4. woofu says:

    They went after some kicker from Auburn today. Byrnum or something, clutch guy long fg are iffy.

    I too was in the Freeman camp, but not at #4. If I recall I wanted a trade down and an OL plus Freeman. Sanchez was also on my radar. Mack and Unger were also something I thought they should have done but I can’t recall which year I was shouted down on that one. I believe Mack was a good choice, Unger has yet to prove so.

    I must admit the Offensive thrust in this FA is a little supprising outside of Qb which is suspect at best. Clearly the game mgr. reputation of Petes is rearing it’s boring head. In reality Sanchez was Petes style at USC and we should expect nothing more than someone like him now or down the road. The big franchise Qb grab will probably not occur.

  5. Cliff says:

    Dont mean to keep posting but we also need to sign Hathorne to an extension. I think we gave him a 1yr/1mil contract before the lockout as good faith that we’d like to sign you once the new CBA is signed. He’s still young and has good value so i think it makes sense.

  6. Darnell says:

    They did inherit a mess at QB, and it is an issue. But I give PC and JS credit for not giving in to the pressure to re-sign Hass ( would have made sense as a bridge had we drafted a young QB) and investing in a QB that they don’t love but had a chance to get like Dalton, Clausen, Kolb or Mallett.

    It seems they are building everything they can so when the opportunity arises to get the QB of the future that they want, that QB will be stepping into a sound offense with continuity @Oline,WR,RB,TE, OC and Oline coach.

    We could be bad enough to be drafting top 10, top 5. We could win the division and be in the 20s. Or somewhere in between. I’m not normally in favor of it – but we may have enough decent young players now were we could afford to package a lot of next years draft to move up a few spots for that QB if need be. Luck is only going #1, but you might be able to jump someone for Barkley.

  7. Rob says:

    FAO Derek – Osi would be a Leo, fits that position very well. He’d also have to be traded, he’s still a NY Giant.

  8. Erik says:

    I think you should be more critical of Ruskell. He had one goal during the 2009 season. To win enough games to keep his job. Not to build a SB contender but to win the lackluster nfc-west. He had no strategy for building a team. PC and JS seem to have one. Ruskell lurched from tactic to tactic to keep the team competitive without any overarcing purpose.

    I agree with your assessment of how hard it will be to get a top 5 pick and believe Luck is out of reach. I do think we will be around 6-10 this year due to the relatively hard schedule and five 10am games. If Barkely comes out we should be positioned to trade up for him or another top QB. Which would be the culminating move of the Hawks three year rebuild strategy.

    • Rob says:

      Ruskell paid the price for wasting first round picks that could’ve re-stock the team at key areas – possibly maintaining Seattle’s competitive run rather than seeing it lurch to a hault. He was too risk averse. You could accept investing in QB’s, WR’s, LT’s etc if they struggled to hit the ground running. Avoiding them compeletely is unacceptable.

      His drafting of Curry, the failure to replace or keep the team’s stars and the appointment of Jim Mora will define Ruskell’s time in Seattle. It was far from all bad – he made some good moves too and helped the team significantly in 2005. But the positives are far fewer than the negatives.

      • Meat says:

        Good read rob. I agree with everything you have written on this topic. Ruskell destroyed the growth of the hawks, and Curry was a poor choice instead of a qb. Every year the past few I expected a go for the next franchise qb to only see it passed by. Pete and company inherited a mess and it is good to see them so active in trying to fix what will take years. I see the hawks getting maybe 5 wins this year with the tough schedule, and I see about three or four other teams that will probably have a worse record. TJ was not the qb I wanted to see on the team but I am glad they didn’t pull the trigger for kolb. I really was hoping Palmer would have been traded to the hawks, that would have been exciting. Well, go hawks

  9. Kyle says:

    Rob,
    Have you heard if we are interested in Vince Young at all? I would think Pete would give him a chance because he fits our system.

    • Rob says:

      He fits from a physical and athletic point of view, but mentally not so much. Pete Carroll is all about competing and buying in and I’m not sure that equates to VY arriving in Seattle to fight with two others quarterbacks. I’m not against giving him the chance if he’s mentally right to fight for his career. But he’s one of those guys whose reputation and name is much greater than his ability to play quarterback in the NFL. He’s won some games, but he’s not a polished passer and Kerry Collins also won games in Tennessee (he went 13-3, to be precise, and led the AFC).

      I suspect Young will end up in Philly, backing up Mike Vick and replacing Kevin Kolb.

  10. Ed says:

    While Hass is the man, this is exactly the offseason I wanted. Get our line set, and give whitehurst/jackson (both cheap) the chance to be our qb of the future. If they stink, we pick top 10 again and get qb. If they don’t, they are both still somewhat young and we continue to pound the ball and use playaction or just throw slants to our big wr’s (BMW and Rice)

  11. Mike says:

    Seahawk drafting has been abysmal for some time now and the result is poor, as you’ve pointed out. One question I have is, what is it that the Pittsburgh Steelers do that works so well? They have a long history of sound drafting, they grow their own, along with consistent winning. They hardly ever get involved in over-investing in Free Agents. Is it their front office personnel? Is it their system? What is the secret? Why is it so hard for others to be smart and efficient like this? Heck, I’d be happy to be 75% as good at finding, teaching & drafting talent as Pittsburgh. It seems some franchises, like the Bengals, just get locked into bad decisions and get stuck there.

  12. Norm M says:

    Rob-

    Are you planning on doing a run down of the UDFA we picked up. I would be curious to get your thoughts on the type of players we signed. I was hoping to get a fullback in those signing but it looks like we will have to sign a FA for that. I did see that we picked up Robins again today but I see him more as a ST player and short yardage guy more then a road clearing FB that we obviously need. Glad to see some activity on you blog. One more bennifit of the lockout ennding.

    • Rob says:

      Hi Norm,

      I’ll write up the guys I know about, but often the csse is we know very little about UDFA’s especially from smaller schools. The tape access isn’t there or we just don’t focus on guys without a draft grade. Josh Portis, for example, I have nothing on but a two minute highlight tape which includes about five positive plays. Guys like Michael Huey though there is some info, so we’ll get on it eventually. Priority for rest of this week is to publish my interview with Austin Davis.

  13. Your Mom says:

    Moves so far make tons of sense but how good would you feel if Palmer was the trigger man? I know you can’t force a trade but man that is frustrating.

    Beyond QB – hoping for Mebane, Cromartie and Okoye. A pash rushing DE would be nice too but don’t think they have enough room.

  14. LouieLouie says:

    Hey Rob:
    Sanchez would have been a good pick at number 4 for the Seahawks. He is leagues ahead of where Hassellbeck was at two seasons into his career. He came out of college as after his junior year, which means he was younger than most rookie QB’s, then he started right away. Also, he WAS the leader of that offense; he always seemed to have command in the huddle and the team responded to him even when he was the youngest guy on the team.

    Sanchez may not be a perennial all-pro, but he’ll be solid. If he was playing in Seattle, the Hawks would be a better team.

    • Rob says:

      I think you make a good point LouieLouie. Sanchez is never going to be Peyton Manning in that you can rely on his presence alone to win. He needs surrounding talent, playmakers. But as he grows he won’t hold back those playmakers or the offense. He can be an above average game manager, and sometimes that’s enough. The Seahawks are investing big on the offensive line, they’ve spent on a RB and a young potential stud at WR. A good game manager would thrive in that enviroment.

      And having him in Seattle now, having had two years learning from the sidelines… that would set the team up at QB. Instead the search goes on.

  15. Don says:

    WORSE CASE SCENERIO:

    Whitehurst and Jackson are playing for their football lives and over acheive by winning too many games. Seahawks end up 8-8, pick 17th in the draft. Not good enough for the playoffs, not bad enough for a franchise QB. Next year we are right back where we are now with no franchise QB.

    I would bench them once they win 4 games, and designate the water boy as QB for the remander of the season.

    • Rob says:

      I would say though Don – that would be progress. 8-8 with this schedule would be a major achievement on last season. Picking 17th would’ve still been good enough for Josh Freeman. I don’t think it has to be boom or bust next year.

  16. Finnian says:

    Why would anyone want to lose so their team can get a good draft pick? That’s just crazy, to me that shows you aren’t a true fan. After all these years of mediocrity, you want more? No draft pick is a sure thing.

    If we do overachieve, and we most likely will, I could defintely see us trading up into the top 5 to get a QB ala NYJs in 2009. Carroll is building the team before the QB to put him in the perfect position to succeed. We will probably be out of Lucks range but Matt Barkley and Landry Jones have great potential to be franchise QBs too.

    • Rob says:

      I’ve also believed it’s a case of being pro-active in the draft. You don’t have to be 2-14 to get your guy, you might have to do what Atlanta did this year to get Julio Jones. There are also guys who will be around later in round one. The Seahawks are not going to be bad enough to pick first overall next year, so there’s no point even considering it. They would need to be 0-2 wins bad, which isn’t happening in the NFC West. St. Louis managed a 1-15 season and it took a special kind of bad to get there.