Friday, December 17, 2010
McNabb and the Hasselbeck exit strategy
By Mike Sando
Donovan McNabb's reported benching as the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback comes after his team fell from contention in the NFC East race.
The move would make less sense if the Redskins found themselves in the Seattle Seahawks' position: fighting for a playoff spot (despite a losing record).
Like the Redskins, the Seahawks are not quite one season into a roster overhaul. Like the Redskins, the Seahawks have a declining former Pro Bowl quarterback who may or may not fit into the team's plans beyond this season.
Unlike the Redskins, the Seahawks still have a shot at the playoffs. That difference makes it tougher for Seattle to justify benching Matt Hasselbeck and giving backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst a chance to prove himself over the final three games.
"If you can possibly get into the playoffs, I believe that you do everything to make that happen," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said when I asked him how Seattle should proceed. "That means starting Hasselbeck still. It is certainly unfortunate, though, and it could put the franchise back a year -- or more."
The Seahawks' decision to keep Whitehurst on the sideline even after falling hopelessly behind San Francisco could suggest the team isn't all that excited about Whitehurst. Then again, throwing Whitehurst into an impossible situation -- Seattle was without top wideouts Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu -- might not have been the best move, either.
Giving up on Hasselbeck outright makes little sense until the team has a better alternative. Hasselbeck performed at a high level in games against Chicago, New Orleans and at Arizona in particular. He's shown he can produce when Williams is healthy. Upgrading the supporting cast could help Hasselbeck produce next season and beyond.
It's just tough for a rebuilding team to go through a full season without advancing the discussion at quarterback. Whitehurst has attempted only 29 passes. Hasselbeck attempted 34 in his very first NFL start, back in 2001. He was written off more than once over that season and the next before finally securing the starting job. That's why it's borderline ridiculous to dismiss Whitehurst without taking a longer look at him.
If I were the Seahawks, I'd give Hasselbeck another start and see how he performs. Nothing much is accomplished if the team sticks with Hasselbeck and misses the playoffs anyway.