Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NFL News and Notes

- Yes, the Steelers are back in the Super Bowl. The most surprising part of this game? How easily Pittsburgh was able to run on the Jets defense. Rashard Mendenhall did not have a great day against the Ravens the week before, but in the first half he had over 100 yards against Rex and his boys.

The least surprising part? Watching Phil Simms embarass himself during the Heath Miller non-catch challenge. There was no question that was getting overturned. Perhaps this is why so many coaches are terrible at challenging: they have guys like Phil Simms in the booth advising them when to throw the flag. To be fair to Phil, he did redeem himself on the Sanchez fumble review. Jim Nantz played the sap on that one.

Finally, no one will talk about this because Ben converted the 3rd down, but if the Steelers had run the ball on 3rd down and gotten stopped, Rex would have cost himself about 30 seconds with the time out strategy he used. When Pittsburgh got their first first down of the drive, the clock read about 2:45 and the Jets still had 2 timeouts. Rex called timeout after this play (before 1st down) and the next one (before second down) and in between second and third down, the clock ran down to the 2:00 warning. All this meant that after a 3rd down play that didn't stop the clock, Pittsburgh would have punted around the 1:17 mark and the Jets would have gotten the ball back with about 1:10 to play.

What Rex should have done was let the clock run after the first down (since there was more than 2:40 left Pittsburgh had to run a play), which takes the clock down to the 2:00 warning. Then call timeout after second down and after thrid down. This scenario has Pittsburgh punting with about 1:51 left and the Jets getting the ball back with about 1:40 to play, worst case. Again, in the end this didn't matter as Ben came up with a big play yet again, but if I could see this at the time, someone on the Jets' staff should have too.

- Cutler WAS actually hurt, with an MCL strain (which means partial tear). After even a torn ACL a person can walk on it afterwards. The problem is there's no support in the knee. A strained MCL isn't as bad, but also lessens the support in the knee, possibly putting the ACL, among other things, in jeopardy. Could he have played? We've seen players play on broken legs and ankles, and who knows everything Brett Favre's actualy played with, but if Jay Cutler couldn't plant on his leg a) who knows how effective he could actually be and b) he'd be a sitting duck for the Packers defense to tee off on.

So why did so many current and former players jump at the chance to question Cutler's heart? It's one thing when loudmouths like Deion Sanders or Darnell Dockett call you out, but when leaders like Maurice Jones-Drew or Derrick Brooks do it, it does make one wonder if there actually is something there. Maybe this doesn't point to Cutler's heart, but instead merely the perception of him around the league. Much has been made of Cutler's behavior by his defenders that, he simply doesn't care about the press so of course they all rip on him. But if players around the league are saying this too (players who have to deal with the media as well and likely know not to treat their words as gospel), then its unlikely the media is making all of this up on some sort of witch-hunt. Is that important for a player? Arguable. It is important for a quarterback, someone who is supposed to lead a team? Probably.

- Wes Welker knuckles under to Bill Belichick, Patriots. Welker apologized for his clever press conference where he never directly called out anyone on the Jets, but instead indireactly needled Rex with constant references to feet. It wasn't good enough for Belichick to bench him for a series, wasn't good enough for the Ft. Knox-like with information Patriots to broadcast his benching and why, now they make him apologize for it? (Note: Welker didn't say he was told to apologize during the apology, but come on.) It's one thing to not want your team spouting off uncontrolled (like the Jets), but isn't going too far the other way something to be ridiculed as well? Especially when you come out flat and terrible against the team that's been verbally punking you all week? Is it realistic to take all of the emotion out of your team who you want, well, need, to run through brick walls for you? Belichick is deservedly looked at as a (if not the) top coach in the game, but he misfired on this issue badly.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Green Bay 21 Chicago 14

Green Bay's A game is much better than Chicago's. But Green Bay has thrown quite a few C games (and a D game or two) this season. That was Chicago's chance in this game, especially as Chicago's defense had forced a couple of sub-par efforts from the Green Bay offense during the season. Chicago's defense gave up a couple of early scores, but if you look at Rodgers' final line, they did their job. Green Bay could have put this game away multiple times, but every time, the Bears defense held, or made a play, to keep themselves in it.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Jay Cutler brought his F game. The sloppy field and cold, tough conditions that ended 51 of the 53 Seahawks players' will to live before kickoff the week before did the same thing to Jay Cutler today. Yes, Chicago couldn't run, but that had to be expected coming in. Cutler had to know that it was riding on his arm, and he came up small.

Then Cutler assumed the role of LaDanian Tomlinson circa January, 2008. That postseason the Chargers took on the Patriots in the AFC championship game, and Tomlinson, who had been injured the week prior, played 2 or 3 plays at the beginning of the game, then was confined to the bench for the rest of the game. The constant sideline shots of LDT with his helmet on (fully equipped with his usual tinted visor), looking sulky. Compare that performance to that of Phillip Rivers, who played the whole game on a torn ACL and MCL (also suffered the week prior), and people were climbing all over themselves to call out Tomlinson and question his heart. Players and coaches rushed to Tomlinson's defense, but I'm not sure everyone was ever fully convinced.

Cutler is about to face the same cavalcade of questions, fair or not. He will be compared with Tomlinson and against Rivers' performance in that 2008 game. Lovie Smith stated that the Bears' medical staff kept Cutler out, but I think this story is just beginning.

Perhaps a bigger indictment of Cutler, though, was his performance against a defense that allowed Caleb Hanie to drive down the field 3 times against them. Two of those drives ended in touchdowns, and the third ended in an interception on 4th and 5 with less than a minute remaining. If not for his pick-6 to the fattest man on the field (BJ Raji), Dom Capers and his defense might be facing a withering barrage of questions as to how Caleb Hanie was able to pick them apart so. As it is, I think those questions will turn back to Cutler as to why he couldn't lead even one scoring drive against the same defense in 2+ quarters.

I fully expect Green Bay's offense to get back to dominating in the warmer climate of Dallas in 2 weeks, the question is which Green Bay defense will show up.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Rest of the Weekend

Packers throttle Falcons: Going in, I was pretty sure of 2 things. 1) The Packers' A game was better than anyone else's A-game in the NFL with the possible exception of the Patriots, certainly better than the Falcons'. 2) While the Packers can throw out anything from an A game to a C- game, the Falcons aren't going to deliver much less than a B game. I was half-right. The Packers hit their stride and were absolutely unstoppable. The Falcons wilted under the consistency of the Pack's offense and essentially lost the game by the end of the first drive of the second half.

Bears outmuscle Seahawks: As a Seahawks fan, I shouldn't be upset with a poor effort from a 7-9 team that already won their Super Bowl over the Saints the week prior. But as a fan I was incredibly disappointed that my team got psyched out by the bad weather and the cold. The Bears were efficient, and Seattle couldn't stop them, nor could they put 3 plays of offense together without (literally) dropping the ball. I have to believe the number of dropped passes reached double digits, as only 2 Seahawks bothered to show up before the end of the 3rd quarter: Matthew Hasselbeck and Brandon Stokely.

It reminded me of the 2004 Seahawks' wild card playoff loss at home to the Rams. In that game, Hasselbeck and DE Chike Okeafor were the only 2 players who showed up (even steady as a rock Bobby Engram dropped the game-tying TD pass from Hass on 4th down), capping off the most frustrating season in Seahawks fan history. I was not impressed with either the fight of the players or the preparedness of the coaching staff, but for year 1 of a desperately needed rebuild, it did exceed expectations.

Jets back up their talk I could not imagine a scenario where the Patriots wouldn't not only win, but cover the spread. The Jets were clearly talking up a storm to distract the pundits from the fact that they could not go toe-to-toe with the Patriots. And for one drive, that was the game playing out in front of us. Then Tom Brady threw that interception. After that the Patriots were a different team. A team lacking confidence. A team unsure of itself, and unsure of how to attack a Jets defense that featured 11 defensive backs on its 45-man roster. Time after time Brady would drop back, look at his first option, then his second, then his third, then his fourth, and maybe even a fifth before finally the rush got to him or he had to throw it away to avoid a sack.

It was also a very unBelichickian* performance by the coaching staff. BenJarvis Green-Ellis was gaining 5-7 yards a pop. But Danny Woodhead was logging the snaps. I have seen coaches who have their way of running a game and will not change it for anything or anyone (Mike Martz, Mike Holmgren). Belichick isn't like that. The Belichick I know would have kept pounding Green-Ellis against the occasional blitzes or usually nickel and dime defenses the Jets were putting out there to frustrate Brady. This Belichick kept throwing into them, or running the 6-inch Woodhead, who's smaller than most of the defensive backs anyway. Add in a fake punt just before halftime, and yikes. Yes Belichick will be aggressive, but it's usually when facing an offense he doesn't feel he can stop. Like a Peyton Manning-led one in his heyday. Not a Mark Sanchez-led one. And Belichick isn't Andy Reid. That almost-8-minute drive in the 4th quarter that got no points was mind-boggling in its lack of urgency.

And the defense...well, it just shows you the difference between the dynasty Pats teams and the more recent, title-less ones. When Brady was a little off, those teams got the stops they needed (with just one exception: the Carolina Super Bowl). It wasn't Tom Brady and the Patriot 52, it was the New England Patriots. The defense shut down Peyton Manning year after year until the Colts cried uncle and forced the league to adopt the illegal contact rules. Now, the young defense has lost its leaders and is still finding its way. But in its current state, they're not getting the stops they have to have. There is no way the 2001-2004 Pats would have allowed Sanchez to lead the Jets down the field for a touchdown after the offense finally got the lead down to 14-11. No way.

It was a lot like the Giants Super Bowl upset. Team from New York with an active defense smacks the favored Patriots in the mouth, and keeps the offense off-balance for the most of the game without doing much blitzing. The New York team keeps a small lead for the better part of the game, and the Pats defense can't get the stop they need after the offense begins to show signs of life. The Holmes catch wasn't as crazy as the Tyree helmet grab, but the parallels are there too.

So, was this season a disappointment for the Pats? Yes and no. No because this is such a young team that will keep getting better with a year under their belts. But that 8-game run to close out the regular season at 14-2 raised the expectations. No one came into the playoffs hotter than these Pats. The 2007 16-0 Pats didn't come into the playoffs as hot as the 2010 Pats. But their margin for error wasn't as large as it seemed, and when a team hit them in the mouth, they didn't react well, owing in large part I think to their youth.

*As an aside that I found funny, unBelichickian was flagged by spellchecker. The suggested replacement? chickenhearted

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Steelers 31 Ravens 24

Maybe the most disgusting half of football one team has put forth whose quarterback was not named Jake Delhomme. I'd say it was unbelieveable, but this is exactly how the Ravens have operated under John Harbaugh: put themselves in position to make a run at the title, but not do enough things to actually make that run.

This started in the regular season. They were a very solid team, but when offered the chance to skip the wild card round they couldn't make the plays to do it. In the first half Pittsburgh gave them 2 turnovers, the Ravens converted them into 14 points, and had a 21-7 halftime lead.

Then the second half started. In this half, the Ravens proceded to...

Turn the ball over 3 times in 4 drives in the 3rd quarter. They accumulated -4 yards for the quarter.

After going down 24-21, returned a punt for a touchdown...only to have it called back from holding.

On the ensuing drive, prized WR acquisition Anquan Boldin dropped a touchdown pass, forcing the Ravens to settle for a field goal.

On the Steelers ensuing possession, on 3rd and 19, allowed a Steelers receiver to get behind everyone for a 58 yard pass play, giving the Steelers 1st and Goal. They would score a touchdown 4 plays later.

On 4th and 19, receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh dropped a 21 yard pass which would have kept the Ravens' hopes alive.

2 or 3 of those would have been considered a meltdown. This was Chernobyl. Add in Joe Flacco generally turtling when the Steelers started to come back (see the Heap INT, a couple of sacks taken because he held onto the ball too long facing a blitz, and running out of bounds for a loss of 9 when he could have tossed an easy INT), and this was a classic Raven performance in a big game.

Now the beat up Steelers hope like heck that the Jets upset the Pats. And the Ravens again try to put band-aids on their true problem: not being mentally tough enough to do enough of the little things (or big things on the big stage) to actually be the team they have the potential to be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Because this will never get old (for me)

Marshawn Lynch embodying his nickname: Beast Mode.

I think my favorite part of that play was shortly after Lynch broke through the line, he wrapped both his arms around the ball to make sure there wouldn't be any fumbling, and then still bounced off a tackler.

Okay, that's a lie. That stiff-arm was too sweet*. It basically destroyed Tracy Porter's willingness to play football anymore that game. But the wrapping the ball up thing was my second favorite part of the play.

Proud to say I always liked this guy. Wait, what?

Well played, twitter archive. You win this round.

*Incidentally, my 3rd favorite part of that play? Listening to NBC color commentator Mike Mayock describe Lynch's stiff arm as "GET OFF ME!"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ravens, Packers win

I had to make a choice this weekend. I had to be out of the house for a couple hours during one of the wild card games. The Seahawks Saints game wasn't an option for me, and I pretty quickly settled on Ravens-Chiefs. I chose wisely.

I didn't expect Kansas City to implode, however. 5 turnovers? In a game where they had 5.7 yards per rush? Not impressive.

Even though I expected the Ravens to win this one rather easily, I have very little faith in their ability to knock off the Steelers next weekend. The Ravens are a good team, and they will bend flawed teams to their will (except for the Bengals, for some reason). But, when they go up against a team that takes care of business (like the Patriots or Steelers), they will keep it close but not make enough plays to actually pull out a win. Whether it's turtling on offense with a late lead (see Patriots game this year), some questionable play calling and execution down the stretch (see 2nd Steelers game this season), or taking too many penalties (last couple of playoff seasons), something always comes up that makes the mountain too high for the Ravens to climb.

Packers-Eagles was less of a shootout than I expected. Philly's flaws ultimately proved too damaging.
1) Poor red zone defense: Green Bay was 3/3 in turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns
2) Over-reliance on the big play: Especially with DeSean Jackson hurting, these were in too short a supply.
3) Vick's not on the same level as the top QBs in terms of reading a defense: He has made great strides in his maturation as a quarterback, but he's still very reliant on his athleticism. To truly leap into the upper echelon of signal-callers, he needs to put the same amount of work into reading defenses as he has to improving his mechanics and accuracy.

The Packers have a running game? Maybe not trading for Marshawn Lynch wasn't the criminal negligence I thought it was.

First thought on each game next weekend:
Ravens-Steelers: Close game, Baltimore won't do enough to get over the hump.
Packers-Falcons: Green Bay needs to be much crisper, Michael Turner and their pass rush need to lead the Falcons.
Seahawks-Bears: Seahawks haven't won a road playoff game since 1983. Can Carroll do what Holmgren couldn't?
Jets-Patriots: Sanchez vs a Belichick defense. Hard to bet on Sanchez.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jets 17 Colts 16

There was a LOT of fail in this game. Offensive ineptitude for the Jets throughout the entire 1st half. One good offensive play total in the first half. Complete inability to tackle by the Colts defense. Lack of urgency by the Colts in the last 6 minutes of the game. Running into the punter rather than give Peyton Manning 3+ minutes and 3 time outs to get down the field.

Biggest fail: Inability to cover a kickoff return with 54 seconds left. There is no way Mark Sanchez can take his team down the field to set up a 95%+ field goal if he has to start inside his own 30. So play conservative on the coverage and make sure you stop Cromartie (not the usual kick returner) by then. Even the 35 wouldn't be terrible for your defense.

And then, calling timeout with 29 seconds left? What are you expecting? The Jets to spike the ball twice and you can get the ball back with 12-15 seconds left after a successful field goal? That throw to Edwards does not happen without that time out call. That turned a 50 yard field goal into a 32 yard field goal.

I can't see Jim Caldwell's job being in jeopardy, but someone should light a fire under him. Yes, the Colts were decimated by injuries. Yes, Peyton Manning is incredible and Caldwell does a good job staying out of his way. But taking that time out could be a fireable offense on its own. And I expect whoever their special teams coach is to be holding some other job at the start of next season.

Everyone made a big deal out of both of last year's Super Bowl teams making the playoffs (and rightfully so). But 1 day later, they're both out.

Whoooo! Seahawks 41 Saints 36

As NBC said, biggest playoff upset (by Vegas line) since the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. What. A. Game!

As I'm not a Seahawks insider, I have no idea what vision Pete Carroll had for this team when he took the job, or just before week 1. But there were so many games this season I was hunched over my computer watching them get blown out (as they did in all 9 of their losses), and thinking, "This can't be what he envisioned." But today, I think we got a little bit of a glimpse.

Seattle didn't have a 100-yard rusher in a game all season long. Marshawn Lynch ran for 131 yards today, including a 67 yard touchdown run where he broke about 146 tackles and embodied his nickname: Beast Mode.

Matt Hasselbeck threw for 12 touchdowns all year, and never more than 2 in a game. He threw for 4 today. And he had his highest rated game of the season (113.0). The interception? Not his fault, so it could have been higher.

Seattle's defense was victimized all season by any halfway decent offense they faced. Yeah, they were picked apart a bunch by Drew Brees (404 yards, 2 TDs) and gave up almost 4 yards per carry to a (cue Bill Walton voice) TERRRRRR-IBLE running back (former Seahawk Julius Jones), but they made enough big plays to hold on. Not many sacks (I think I counted 1), but enough pressure on Brees to force some key incompletions to end some drives.

Were they perfect? Heck no. But this was by far the best offensive performance of the season and it wasn't close.

And for all the gruff I've given Matthew Hasslebeck, I am delighted to be eating crow right now. I thought (and said) that Whitehurst gave this team the best chance to win. I couldn't have been more wrong. This was vintage Hasselbeck. Did some...okay, all of his deep throws look like wounded ducks? Oh yeah. But they were expertly, perfectly placed wounded ducks. Does this mean Seattle should bring him back next year? I'm not going there. I just want to enjoy a beautiful playoff win for my team, made possible by one of the better performances of Matthew's career. And for a guy who has done so much for the Seahawks organization, I am thrilled that, no matter what happens next weekend, we will always have this as a sendoff if this is his last season as a Seahawk. I said last week that it's never fun watching a "hero" from your team's past fall apart before your eyes. It's a whole barrel of fun watching said past "hero" reach into his bag of tricks for one more vintage performance.

The best games as a fan are those that a) you didn't expect your team to win, and b) never really let you get too comfortable. Even though you prefer the easy, 20 point blowout wins, these are the games that stay with you as a fan. These are the games that allow you to stick with your guys when they break your heart in game after game, or fade from relevance for years at a time. These are the types of games that make it all worth it.

And I now have at least 7 more days to be excited about my team in the present, and to listen to the media talk about my team with begrudging respect to go with their jokes and derision.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Get ready for NFC West Fireworks

No, I'm not talking about the playoff game. If there are fireworks it will be the New Orleans offense torching Seattle off their home field.

No I'm talking about next season. You see, the joke of the NFL will have some drama next season that's not related to two sub-.500 teams "competing" for the divsion title.

Jim Harbaugh has agreed to take the San Francisco 49ers job. Harbaugh's a fiery guy, sometimes a little rough around the edges. How rough? Put it this way, eternally positive Pete Carroll has a problem with him. Why? See below.

"What's your deal?" was referencing Harbaugh's decision to go for 2 when Stanford scored to make it 48-21 with 6:47 left in a Nov. 14, 2009 game. Stanford didn't get it, and later scored again to make it a 55-21 final. You just saw the postgame handshake. When asked later why he did this in a televised interview on ESPN's College Gameday program, Harbaugh noticeably bristled, and basically clammed up until the interviewer moved on to other topics.

Now they get to face each other twice a year. Should be fun.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NFL Play-in game: 4th Quarter -- PLAYOFFS!

- Well, Seattle made the plays, and the Rams blew their opportunities. A couple of huge drives for the Seahawks eating clock and getting 3 points. Incredible.

- In the end, the Rams were not ready for primetime, this applies double to their coach. Bad use of timeouts, and terrible non-use of his challenges. There were 2 big plays (3rd down non-catch call in the first half, terrible 1st down spot in 4th quarter) Spags should have challenged and didn't.

- On a related note, this officiating crew was terrible. If I see them in the playoffs that's a crime.

- If you had told me before the game that shady calls and wide receivers dropping the ball would play a big part in the game, I might not even have bothered to watch, as those are 2 areas Seattle tends to get the short end of the stick. Thankfully, it happened to the other guys this time.

- No apologies. How many teams beat the Bears in Chicago this year? Seattle did. Every team knows going in that the number 1 goal should be to win their division. You never know what may happened.

- I never thought a quarterback controversy on a 7-9 team would be this sweet.

- Finally, whatever happens, I've seen my Seahawks win essentially a playoff game. Didn't think I'd say that.

NFL Play-in game: 3rd Quarter

- 1st drive thoughts: Marshawn Lynch is awful! I can't believe he plays!!!! He's killing me.

- 2nd drive thought: Oh, that's why Marshawn Lynch plays. And by the way...where on earth did thhis running game come from???

- The 3 points was big, but the prolonged drives (aside from the fumble) have been the biggest developments of the 3rd quarter. It's given Seattle's D a chance to rest, which has allowed them to keep flying around.

- It will come down to 2-3 plays in the 4th quarter. Who makes them, who misses them. I honestly don't know the answer.

NFL Play-in game: 2nd Quarter

- Seattle's leading 7-3 at the half, but overall the game is trending Rams. Seattle needs a couple of big plays to mask their deficiencies on offense, plus a couple 30-40 yard drives to take pressure off of their defense. The Rams simply conservative you to death. The 2nd quarter was exactly what the Rams wanted, and if Seattle doesn't change things up in the 3rd quarter, odds are the Rams eventually break through to take the lead.

- Russell Okung's ankle is the biggest question for the 3rd quarter (and the rest of the way). If he can't go Seattle's OLine goes from bad to historically bad, and they can't afford that with either Whitehurst or Hasselbeck under center.

- Seattle's defense has been good enough. That will only continue to be enough if either the offense or special teams makes a few plays.

- Seattle needs to do something to get some separation for their receivers. Whitehurst isn't known for his accuracy and asking him to keep hitting tight windows is asking for trouble.

- St. Louis needs to get back to the basics in the run game, they only struggle when they try to get cute. I'm surprised Bradford hasn't tried anything over the top yet, with his rep Seattle should be sitting on everything short.

- Seattle's consolation prize should they lose? The 8th pick in the 2011 NFL draft. They'll pick 21st at best if they win and make the playoffs.

NFL Play-in game: 1st Quarter

- I was shocked that Whitehurst started. Staff has not demonstrated much faith in Charlie so far, so with the reports Matt was okay, I figured he'd start.

- You can see why though, this is the offense Bates wants to run: rollouts and deep looks. You can see such a difference with Charlie's cannon compared to Matt's noodle-arm.

- Defense is amped up, and Bradford's lack of arm strength might enable them to keep this up most of the game. Charlie will need a couple prolonged drives though. Seattle's defense tends to wear down.

- I like what I'm seeing so far, but one good drive isn't enough.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thoughts from a fan who's hoping his 6-9 team will make the playoffs (and isn't drunk)

In case you don't follow the NFL, one of the eight 4-team divisions in the league is 4/4 with terrible teams. By NFL rule, the winner of each division is guaranteed a playoff spot, no matter the record. The NFC West is taking this rule to its limits, with 7-8 St. Louis playing at 6-9 Seattle Sunday night with the winner moving on to the playoffs.

As of Monday morning, the Seahawks were stating that backup QB Charlie Whitehurst would start the game, with Matthew Hasselbeck sidelined with a mysterious hip/lower back/butt injury (in other words, he's old). Hasselbeck has been Seattle's quarterback since partway through the 2002 season, and has led the team to heights they had never reached before (the Super Bowl). In past years, news that Hasselbeck would be missing the biggest game of the season would be cause for concern, but 2010 has not been like past years.

2010 has been a season of turnover. Notably, those turnovers have come from Matthew's hands, be they interceptions (17) or fumbles (6). Before this season started, the Seahawks traded a pretty bounty for the former 3rd stringer of the Chargers: Charlie Whitehurst.

Whitehurst is everything Hasselbeck isn't. Where Hasselbeck needs a running start to get the ball to travel 20 yards, Whitehurst can flick his wrist and uncork a beautiful 40+ yard spiral. Where Matthew runs like a duck (or 2005-era Drew Bledsoe), Whitehurst can move with some degree of urgency. Where Hasselbeck is accurate on the short throws, having been schooled in the west coast offense, Whitehurst is not, having been schooled in the sit on the bench and hold this clipboard offense. Where we know Hasselbeck can read an NFL defense, we're still not sure whether or not Whitehurst can progress past read #1.5 on any given play. And where Matthew is 35, and old QBs are like old dogs (no new tricks), Chazz is 28, and a relatively blank canvas.

Hasselbeck is also a free agent after this season (likely tomorrow circa 11:30 PM), while Whitehurst has one more year on his contract (assuming 2011 isn't erased by a lockout). If Seattle re-signs Hasselbeck after this season, I may firebomb Seattle HQ. Hasselbeck is a terrible fit for the offense Seattle wishes to run, with it's many deep throw looks, rollouts and bootlegs. I assumed (and the plan may very well have been), that Hasselbeck would start the season as the starter, and then as Seattle fell out of the playoff race, Whitehurst would get an opportunity to show what he had in the skill department.

The problem was, Seattle never fell out of the playoff race (see my previous point about the terrible NFC West). As such, Carroll never felt he could change his quarterback to someone who had never started a game before, and now Seattle is facing entering an offseason where they have no idea what they have at quarterback, and Whitehurst will be a free agent after next season, a season which may not even happen, and (as Arizona fans can confirm), quarterback is kind of an important position. Would it be the end of the world if Whitehurst leaves after next season as a bust? Well, Seattle did spend the equivalent of a mid-first round pick on obtaining him, so yes. Yes it would be a bad thing.

So that's what made this week exciting: Whitehurst was going to be the starter in a winner-takes-the-NFC West week 17 game, with a full week of practice. It wouldn't be as good as seeing Whitehurst get 8-10 weeks to ply his wares, but it's something. And given that Seattle has lost 5 of their last 6 by more than 2 touchdows, there's not a lot to get excited about surrounding this team.

Then this starts leaking out: ...that Hasselbeck did practice (somewhat) and that he could play this weekend. I immediately thought 3 things:

2) You just cannot trust Pete Carroll when it comes to injuries. Usually Pete's just overly hopeful. But this time he full-180's us, and sets it up for us to see someone screw up the QB position in a new way, rather than the same old, noodle-armed bad decisions.
3) Is Whitehurst really this bad that he can't beat out Hasselbeck, despite all of the losses and turnovers? SHould I be angry at Carroll and his staff? Or Whitehurst himself?

Is Hasselbeck the better option? Probably. But if he's giving Seattle a 5% better chance to win, is it worth it to forego a chance to see what the QB the coach and GM chose to bring in can do? If it's a 50% better chance, sure, go with baldy. But it can't be that much of a difference. It just can't be. I hope.

It's also not that much fun as a fan to hope the best QB in your team's history is too hurt to go. To see him falter as age, injury, and the supporting cast around him betray him. I grew up hearing the stories about Willie Mays hanging on too long and how his stint with the Mets was hard to watch, and I'm starting to understand it now. I own a Matthew Hasselbeck jersey, and I loved watching him during the 2002-2007 seasons, but that time is over and isn't coming back. I'd rather pop in my 2005 Seahawks DVD and watch that Hasselebck than subject myself to the 2010 version.

But instead, 2010 Matthew will likely be on my television tomorrow night at 8:30 PM, trying to stave off the end of his Seahawks career for one more game. I'm not hopeful, but I'll be sitting on my couch tomorrow night, hoping against hope that I'm wrong.