Showing posts with label charlie whitehurst. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charlie whitehurst. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Play Rewind: Obomanu Corner Route Gone Wrong

Charlie Whitehurst had a bad game on Sunday. Everyone has already said that. All quarterbacks have bad games. Heck, Carson Palmer only managed half of Whitehurst's 35 passer rating on Sunday. The difference with Whitehurst was there were a few plays that stood out as indictments on his ability to play quarterback in the NFL. Plays that are not about having a bad game, they are about a player's viability. One such play came very early in the game. Hugh Millen discussed it on Hardcore Football with Ian Furness on Monday. It was a throw on 3rd and 13 to Ben Obomanu on what is called a corner or flag route that was severely under-thrown. Let's walk through it to see how it developed, and why it was an inexcusable miss.

THE SNAP: The Seahawks a 3WR, 1TE, 1RB set, and at the snap of the ball, Cleveland was showing blitz with six players crowding the line of scrimmage. Two safeties are not visible in this shot, and all the corners are rolled up in press coverage. 
PLAY FAKE: After the ball is snapped, LG Robert Gallery pulls to the right, and Whitehurst fakes a handoff to Leon Washington. It is worth noting that Washington would have had a ton of green in front of him if they play call had been to him. Cleveland only sends four rushers, but keeps two players near the line. All three corners are playing man coverage.


ROLLOUT: Whitehurst rolls to his right after the play fake to Washington. The line has done it's job wonderfully, and creates a gorgeous pocket for Whitehurst to throw from. Nobody is within 10 yards of the QB. Whitehurst has time and space to wind up and throw the ball as far as he can. He could survey the field and pick any target. The ball is being thrown from about the 35-yard line after Whitehurst steps into the throw.

BEHIND THE DEFENSE: Obomanu ran what appeared to be a Post-Corner route where the receiver breaks inward toward the middle of the field, and the out toward the corner of the endzone. He had gotten by the corner and the safety, and was running free two yards past the nearest defender. The ball is already in the air at this point (it's above the 42-yard line). Note that Doug Baldwin is five yards past his defender, and looked to be a viable choice as well.

IN-FLIGHT ADJUSTMENT: Obomanu sees that the ball is under-thrown, and breaks off his route to try and come back to the ball. His defender sees it as well, and positions himself between Obomanu and the ball. 

INCOMPLETE: The ball falls harmlessly at the 23-yard line, which make the throw about 42-yards vertically. Add another 10 yards since it was across the field, so figure a 52-yard throw. For Whitehurst to have completed the throw, he would have needed to get it to about the 20-yard line, maybe a few yards beyond. He also could have thrown a shorter pass to Baldwin.

So why is this so egregious? A quarterback needs a few things to go right in order to make a big play. Primarily, he needs protection and he needs a receiver to run a good route and give him a place to throw. Whitehurst had plenty of time, and a massive pocket. He was able to take all the time he needed to select his target, and had space to step into his throw to give it everything he had. He had multiple receivers that were open by more than a step. In the case of Baldwin and Obomanu, they were open by at least two steps. That's serious separation in the NFL. Whitehurst chose the right receiver to target since a completion could have led to a touchdown. All he needed to do was throw the ball 55-60 yards down-field. For a guy that is supposed to have a good arm, that should not be a problem. If it is a problem, he either should have selected a closer target or thrown the ball sooner. Whitehurst will not get a better designed play, executed with more precision than he got on this one.

People will tell you it takes a team to lose a game, and it is never on one guy. This play is a prime example of everyone on the field doing their job except the quarterback. There were other plays like this, that I may choose to breakdown as well. These are the plays that stick out when evaluating a quarterback. These are the plays that cause a person to write-off a player. This is not about having a bad game. It's about not being good enough to play the position.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ghost Of Jeremy Bates

An unexpected name came up when Scott Enyeart and I were talking after completing our podcast today. Enyeart wondered aloud whether Jeremy Bates was to blame for the acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst. At first, it  seemed like a reach. I respect Enyeart a lot on football matters, but he can sometimes be a little too quick to deflect blame away from Pete Carroll. Trading for Whitehurst was considered Carroll and GM John Schneider's first big move. Carroll is ultimately responsible for all moves the team makes, plays his coaches call, and the performance of every player on the field. The question to ask here is whether the moderate swing and massive miss on Whitehurst is indicative of Carroll and Schneider's ability to find the true franchise quarterback this team needs. There is some evidence to indicate it was Bates, not Schneider and Carroll, that campaigned for Whitehurst.

Start by looking at who Carroll is as a coach. Like almost all NFL coaches, he came up on one side of the ball. Carroll was a defensive coach, which meant he would need extra help on the offensive side when he ascended to a head coaching position. Mike Holmgren did this with Fritz Shurmur in the opposite direction since Holmgren was the offensive guru. The way a good head coach works in the NFL is not totally unlike a good corporate executive. It is important to set some high-level parameters without micro-managing. They may establish a style (e.g., run-oriented, ball control, etc.) and some points of emphasis (e.g., low turnovers), but the assistants get a lot of room to figure out how to meet the head coaches requests. Carroll showed more patience in that regard last season with Bates than most coaches ever would. There were multiple examples where Carroll clearly did not like the play-calling of Bates, but he never went so far as to take over play-calling or dictate a change in philosophy to Bates. Carroll wanted more emphasis on the run and less risk-taking, as evidenced by the desire to add Tom Cable as assistant head coach after the season. Bates did not want to relinquish that control, and was fired.

Carroll did not bring Cable in just so he could tell Cable how to build and coach an offensive line. In the business world, executives call it 'empowering.' Employees tend to just roll their eyes because many execs talk a good game, but seize control and take critical decisions out of their employees hands whenever they feel like it. Carroll has shown some restraint. Look at the draft in 2012. Anyone that thinks James Carpenter and John Moffitt were Carroll and Schneider picks are not looking hard enough. Carroll brought in Cable to transform the offensive line and running game. A people manager like Carroll would then ask, "what do you need to succeed?" Cable surely pointed to a need for upgraded talent. When the Seahawks 1st and 3rd round picks came up, and the team was unable to trade down or find a different player they loved, Cable got his wish. This both gives Cable some key cogs to build his line, and leaves him with no excuses for failure. Building ownership like that is how good managers get the best out of their employees. It's also evidence that Carroll gives his assistants a fair amount of sway in picking personnel.

More evidence came when Darrell Bevell was added to the staff. Does anyone really want to argue that it was Schneider or Carroll's idea to bring in Tarvaris Jackson? Bevell had coached him in Minnesota, and certainly had to be the guy advocating for him in the off-season meetings. Is it possible that Schneider or Carroll were huge Jackson fans? Sure, but it is far from likely. The logical conclusion is that Carroll, again, deferred to his assistant to make the moves he needed to complete the task Carroll assigned him.

Look back now at Whitehurst. His performance against the Browns leaves no doubt this team will never get equal value back in the trade with the Chargers. He is not an NFL starting quarterback, and might not even be a serviceable back-up. Giving up too much to acquire him goes squarely on Schneider's shoulders as the GM, but evaluating his talent smells more like Bates. Remember, Bates was a guy who wanted to institute a deep passing game. He wanted big chunks of yards. Whitehurst was rumored to be a strong-armed quarterback. And if Carroll has given this much power to his current offensive assistants in picking personnel, why wouldn't he have done it with Bates last year?

It all starts to make sense when you replay training camp this year and the "no-competition" decision at quarterback. Whitehurst was never Bevell's guy. He was never Carroll's guy. He probably was never Schneider's guy. One look at his hair, and you can be sure he was never going to be Cable's guy. Whitehurst was never good enough to earn the support of any one of these guys. He had a chance to do that against the Browns today, and failed miserably.

What does this mean for the future? Jackson is looking like a smart move so far, certainly better than Whitehurst. That bodes well for Bevell's ability to find a decent quarterback given the dregs the team had to choose from this off-season (Matt Hasselbeck notwithstanding). One could argue that passing on Andy Dalton was a mistake, but I have a hard time picturing Dalton as anything but a decent pro quarterback. The goal is to win a Super Bowl, and Dalton does not seem to be a player of that caliber even if he is enjoying a nice rookie season. Plus, you need to be damn sure a quarterback drafted in the first round is *the* guy because it is your job if you are wrong. Acquiring Whitehurst will go down as a bad move by this front office. Given his win in the division title game last season and the back-up performance against the Giants, it was not disastrous. Fans should take some solace in the likelihood that the guy who pined after Whitehurst is no longer making decisions that can impact the franchise. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jackson vs. Whitehurst: Stop Arguing Over Temporary Mediocrity

Charlie Whitehurst is being treated unfairly! He's being held back, and deserves a chance to start. No, wait...T-Jack is the man! He has been treated unfairly by his past coaches and deserves a chance to start for an extended period of time.

For the love of football, stop. PLEASE! Listening to people plead the case for Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst, and even Josh Portis, is just embarrassing and pointless for all involved. Neither Jackson or Whitehurst have any meaningful future with this franchise. They are both battling for the right to mentor and then back-up the QB of the Future (QBOTF) who the team will draft next season. They are both almost hopelessly mediocre players. Almost, because you can never count anyone out, and both show some modest promise to be serviceable starters.

If the front office had any hope for either player, their contracts would reflect it. Whitehurst is in his final year. Jackson is signed through next year, and even that is not guaranteed. There is no evidence that the team is planning for either of these players to be leading this team when it is ready to challenge for a Super Bowl.

Start Whitehurst. Start Jackson. It just doesn't matter. At most, we are talking about a difference of perhaps 1  game plus/minus in the win column. If you want to debate which guy gives you that possible 1-game advantage in a clearly limited season, go ahead. You will be missing the things that actually matter about this season, like the development of the offensive line, the wide receivers, the tight ends, the linebackers and the secondary. The quarterback situation matters less than perhaps any other position on the entire roster. Heck, punter Jon Ryan has a better chance of starting for Super Bowl-contending Seahawks team than either Whitehurst or Jackson.

I will continue to evaluate the players across the team, including the quarterbacks, but I'm certainly not going to lose any sleep over who wins the right to play below league average at the position.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to add that asking for Whitehurst to get more reps is batshit crazy. Whoever starts at QB for this team will barely get enough snaps this pre-season given the lockout. Splitting reps would lose the team more games than any possible advantage they would gain by figuring out which of these mediocre quarterbacks is "better." Pete Carroll is doing the absolute right thing by choosing one guy and sticking with him. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Remember...Charlie Whitehurst? A Series Looking Back @ 2010 Seahawks

The true NFL off-season is almost upon us. Those of us who have effectively hibernated during this soul-sucking lockout can be excused if we feel the need to reacquaint ourselves with what exactly the 2010 Seahawks were. This is the seventh in a series of articles examining that team, and the implications for the imminent 2011 off-season.

Bring up Charlie Whitehurst to a Seahawks fan, and you are guaranteed to get a strong reaction. That level of passion is generally reserved for clear villains (e.g., Bobby Ayala) or established heroes (e.g., Walter Jones). Whitehurst has not done enough to fit in either category. So why they controversy? Like all good stories, it starts with a compelling opening scene.

Whitehurst was a name almost no Seahawks fan knew until the rumors of his potential acquisition started to surface. Word was that Whitehurst was a player with all the physical tools to play the position that had enjoyed great mentoring under offensive guru Norv Turner in San Diego. He was headed toward free agency and the Chargers had Phillip Rivers, so they were interested in taking offers. The competition became fierce enough between the likes of Arizona and Seattle that a 3rd-string QB, who had never played a snap in a regular season game, ended up being traded for a 3rd round pick and 20 spots in the 2nd round as Seattle swapped their 2nd round pick with San Diego's. He also got a two-year contract at a price that clearly stated he was more than a back-up. It was the first significant move of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era, and it was for a quarterback. Given Schneider's affinity for draft choices, the trade was all the more intriguing. Some would say a 3rd round draft pick is not all that high of a price, but for a guy like Schneider, that's like trading away the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. The general analysis was that the front office overpaid in draft choices and in contract for a player who was unproven. Hopeful fans chose to believe Carroll and Schneider saw something the experts didn't. Expectations were raised. The first chapter in the Whitehurst saga was written.

Players like Taylor Mays, Jimmy Clausen and Rob Gronkowski were drafted between the pick the Seahawks gave up in round two and the one they gained from San Diego where they drafted Golden Tate. Players drafted after the 3rd round pick the Seahawks gave up (and before their next pick) include: Colt McCoy, Ed Dickson, Tony Moeaki, Jimmy Graham, and Mike Williams (the other one). There is no guarantee the Seahawks would have drafted any of these players had they kept their original draft choices, but they represent the type of value that can be had in the early 2nd and 3rd rounds. The Seahawks future may look completely different with a player like McCoy developing last year behind a veteran like Matt Hasselbeck.

Fans and the media were primed for an all-out quarterback controversy by the time the team reached training camp. Instead, it was clear to all that attended on a regular basis that there was no competition to be had. Hasselbeck was light years ahead of Whitehurst in accuracy, timing, and command of the offense. Some will claim that Whitehurst was never given a fair shot because Matt got so many more reps, but Whitehurst did little to earn more reps. I attended more than one day of practice where Whitehurst got almost ALL the reps because Hasselbeck sat out to rest. Whitehurst generally hurt his chances in those situations by continuing to be inaccurate despite a chance to gain a rhythm with more throws. Even so, he displayed a strong arm, and had the QB "aura" about him. He was confident, and it showed.

His first pre-season action was impressive. He threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns in just a couple of quarters. Most impressive was his long touchdown to Mike Williams where Whitehurst recognized a change in the defense and checked out of the called play into an audible that directly led to the score. That was a great sign, and bred more hope that he really had learned something all those years behind Rivers and Billy Volek in San Diego. Unfortunately, he never approached that level of play again in this remaining pre-season games. He started to show some bad QB characteristics in those games. He threw off his back foot quite a bit. His willingness to stand strong in the pocket in the face of a pass rush did not seem to be there. He would start back-peddling and make a poor throw. He stared down his primary receiver, rarely looking off the safety. Worst of all, he was habitually inaccurate. Some of these things can be overcome with time and proper coaching. Whitehurst was already many years in the league, however, and was too old to expect a team to take another 3-4 years to develop him.  Hasselbeck was announced the starter to nobody's surprise, and Whitehurst took a back seat.

The next time he appeared was in week 9 after Hasselbeck was injured in the previous game. Whitehurst got the first start of his career at home against the NY Giants. The game was destined to be a blowout loss with, or without, Hasselbeck due to a series of other injuries the team sustained against the Raiders. Whitehurst, however, looked horrible. He managed just a 44.3 QB rating and a miserable 4.9 yards/attempt. He played in  a couple more games (@ARI, ATL) when Hasselbeck was either injured or embarrassingly ineffective. His QB rating in those limited chances never eclipsed 65.4. There was nothing positive to point to that could make a case that he deserved more playing time.

Whitehurst would get another chance, and this time the stakes were much higher. The Seahawks needed a win against the Rams to win the division and make the playoffs. Hasselbeck had injured himself (literally, as nobody touched while he ran in for a TD against the Bucs). Whitehurst was rushed into action against the Bucs, and again, was forgettable with a 68.3 rating and a mind-boggling 3.67 yards/attempt. He showed the heart of a kitten, checking down time after time in the face of a pass rush. His real chance came the following week when he got a full week of preparation for the Rams game. The Seahawks installed a very conservative game plan against an incredibly weak Rams offense, and Whitehurst played well enough to win. He managed a QB rating of 84.5 and did not throw an interception. His yards/attempt was still a paltry 5.33, but he did enough to win a big game and deserved some praise for it.

Whitehurst, however, got entirely too much praise for that one game. Remember that 5.33 yards/attempt? He got 61-yards on a single pass to Ruvell Martin (that was significantly under-thrown). His average on his other 35 attempts was 3.74. Folks, that is abysmal. Whitehurst deserves credit for stepping forward, but the coaches deserve more for putting together a gameplan that did not ask much of him. And the defense deserves even more credit for throttling the Rams offense, keeping them to 6 points.

Whitehurst has been in the league long enough, and has had enough chances to earn a starting role that it is now time to look elsewhere. He is not a rookie. He is not a guy who is demanding playing time with great performances in a game or on a practice field. Nobody is given a thing in the NFL. Whitehurst doesn't deserve a chance anymore than Mike Teel or JP Losman did. He has to earn it. He has not done that. Time to move one.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Whitehurst's Roster Spot Not Safe

NFL Network's Michael Lombardi and I got in a little Twitter tussle this morning about his article dismissing the possibility of the Matt Leinart coming to Seattle. National reporters rarely know a team well enough to do a reasonable job analyzing what they may, or may not, do. Lombardi's article is a perfect case in point. The implicit premise was that Leinart has done nothing to merit consideration as a starting quarterback solution for the Seahawks, or any other team. Who said he was being considered as a starter? National media, including Pro Football Talk, do a surface analysis and see a starting QB gap, an old Carroll protege, and reports the two sides have been in contact. Put them all together and they lazily assume 1+1+1 = 3. Could it be possible Leinart is being considered as a starting option? Sure. They might be considering Jimmy Clausen or Charlie Whitehurst as starting options as well, but that doesn't mean it's anywhere near likely. What makes far more sense is Leinart being brought in as a replacement for Whitehurst.

Do yourself a favor and set aside any anti-Leinart feelings you have and just consider the facts. Choose which quarterback you want:

Quarterback #1
Age: 28
College Stats
SO 63.4% completions, 3556 yards, 8.8 YPA, 38/9 TD/INT*
JR 2 65.3% completions, 3322 yards, 8.1 YPA, 33/6 TD/INT*
SR 3 65.7% completions, 3815 yards, 8.9 YPA, 28/8 TD/INT
*Won National Championship
Drafted: 1st Round, 10th pick overall
Pro Stats
Combined: 340/595 57.1% completion, 3893 yards, 6.5 YPA, 14/20 TD/INT 70.8 Rating

Quarterback #2
Age: 28
College Stats
FR 57.5% completions, 1554 yards, 7.3 YPA, 10/6 TD/INT
SO 61.9% completions, 3561 yards, 7.7 YPA, 21/13 TD/INT
JR 50.7% completions, 2067 yards, 5.9 YPA, 7/17 TD/INT
SR 67.4% completions, 2482 yards, 7.3 YPA, 11/10 TD/INT
Drafted: 3rd round, 81st overall
Pro Stats
Combined: 57/99, 57.6% completion, 507 yards, 5.1 YPA, 2/3 TD/INT 65.5 rating*
*Was the winning starter of a game that decided NFC West Championship

Let's continue looking at the facts. Quarterback #1 won the starting job as a rookie in the NFL. He was later displaced by a sure Hall of Fame quarterback that led his team to the Super Bowl and deep in the playoffs. Quarterback #2 entered the league behind a Top 10 NFL QB, and was not expected to take over the starter's role anytime soon. QB2 also stayed at #3 on his team's depth chart during his time there, unable to beat out the veteran back-up for the #2 spot.

Neither player has distinguished himself in the NFL. Neither has played enough in the last three years to definitively state who they are as NFL QBs. QB1 made between $600K-$1M in 2010 and QB2 made $4.5M.

Obviously, QB1 is Leinart and QB2 is Whitehurst. I find it most effective to strip the names away and just look at facts. Leinart came into the league with high expectations, a reputation as a lazy playboy, and has done little to justify those high expectations. His career is not nearly as catastrophic as most would have you believe. He's had seven games of a QB rating over 88, and thrown for over 400 yards, things Whitehurst has never done. He sat behind a QB in Kurt Warner just as good, if not better, than Philip Rivers.

Whitehurst apologists love to throw out that he's never really been given a chance. That's the worst kind of mealy-mouth horse shit analysis you will find. David Greene was never really given a chance. Neither was Jesse Palmer. Do you know why? Because they did not EARN it! Nothing is given to anyone. Even rookie QBs that start earn the right to do so by the way they played in college, tested in the combine and proved themselves in camp. Whitehurst has earned the right to be considered due to his "good enough" performance in a critical game. Leinart has not won a big game in the NFL, but you'd be hard-pressed to make the case Whitehurst has been a better career winner than Leinart.

Another criticism of Leinart is that he has become a pure check-down QB that only throws short. You all realize Whitehurst had a YPA of 5.1(!!) in his only NFL action last year, right? Nobody in the NFL throws shorter at a lower completion percentage than Whitehurst. Leinart completed over 63% of his passes for at least an 8-yard average in his 3-year college career. Whitehurst never eclipsed 7.7 YPA, and was all over the place in his completion percentage. There is more evidence that Leinart could eventually become a big boy and throw down-field again than that Whitehurst will suddenly start to do something he has never shown the ability to do.

None of this is to say Leinart is a terrific fit in Seattle, or anywhere. He's behaved like a douche, and deserves the criticism he's received. He's also a left-hander, and I question whether the line is ready to have a RT protecting it's quarterback's blind side. The real point here is that we have a very expensive 3rd-stringer masquerading as a back-up quarterback who has no guaranteed money on his contract this year. There are LOTS of viable replacements on the market. The fans and media are fixated on who the starter will be. That matters a lot, but the way Schneider and Carroll manage the roster, it would not surprise me to see them cut bait on Whitehurst and take another flier on a guy that has even marginally better potential than he does at a much lower price. It's called hedging your bets, and Leinart could be a perfect combination of price, potential and risk.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quarterback Dilemma Finally Resolved

Picking a quarterback to start for the Seahawks this weekend against Drew Brees and the Saints has proven tougher than most expected. Just look what the candidates have to offer:

The first guy has won many games as a starter in the NFL, far more than the other guy. He has won tough games at home and on the road. He has faced varying defensive schemes and coordinators, and has a good understanding of how to attack them. He has had seasons where his QB rating eclipsed the other guys best game. There have been some terrible games in his career, but some real beauties as well. He is older, and probably does not have a long future as an NFL starter in front of him, but there are reasons to think he gives the team the best chance to win.

The other guy has only started two games, and has won only one. In the 11 quarters he has been on the field, the team has been outscored 85-31. Until his last start, his QB rating was under 50. In the best start of his career, he completed exactly one pass over 10 yards out of six tries. Outside of one pass that went for over 60 yards, he averaged an infinitesimal 3.74 yards per attempt. Like Hasselbeck, he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. He has never faced Gregg Williams' defense, never played in the playoffs, never even started two games in a row. He has proven he can face a mediocre defense with an ultra-conservative game plan, and play a decent game.

It's not a contest from where I sit. You play the first guy. Not all Seahawks fans will be behind the idea of starting JP Losman, but it definitely makes more sense than Charlie Whitehurst.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Takes Two, Baby

Liz Mathews has gone from someone I knew nothing about to one my favorite Seattle sports Twitter personalities in a scant few months. Mathews captured my feelings about the game against the Rams and my thoughts on the teeth-grinding, wannabe QB controversy brewing with this Tweet yesterday:

@lizmathews12: The worst thing about this loss is having to listen to people's Charlie Whitehurst babble for two straight weeks.
Nobody needs to make the case that Matt is playing poorly, or that the offense is a mess. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. There is no need to reiterate that Matt's on the last year of his deal, or that Whitehurst was acquired by the new regime at considerable cost. Everyone Seahawks fan and media member (except Liz!) have been parroting the same schlock today.

There are a few parts of this story that are under-served, but thankfully appear to be grasped completely by the guy that counts, Pete Carroll. First, there is a fundamental misperception that Whitehurst is the QB of the future. He may be the QB of the next 2-5 years, but nobody becomes a franchise QB at the age of 28, especially a guy that's been 3rd string his whole career. Matt and Charlie are in competition to see who can be the bridge to the franchise QB we have not yet acquired. If Matt continues to play at a sub-80 QB rating for the rest of this season, Charlie will have a great chance to be next year's starter. A strong end to this season could easily result in a two-year contract for Hasselbeck to return. In either case, the winner will be warming the seat.

Let's play out the Charlie Whitehurst fantasy for a moment. The team would need to either play below .500 ball, or be strong enough in other areas that a case could be made that the QB is holding the team back. It would be a minimum of 3-4 more games before we got to that point. The door on a Hasselbeck return would close, leaving the Seahawks with a single QB heading into the off-season. The team's record would have to be bad in order to get Whitehurst the chance in the first place, leading to a higher draft position with numerous franchise-level QB prospects likely available. Do you think the front office would throw all of its faith in Whitehurst and sign a veteran backup? Unlikely.

Look back over the past decade of Seahawks football and you will see a constant state of at least two viable QB candidates until we settled on our franchise QB. We've seen Kitna/Huard, and Dilfer/Huard/Hasselbeck. The question is not when the Whitehurst era starts. The question is when the franchise QB is acquired. My hopes are pinned to the upcoming draft.

The second critical under-served story is that Whitehurst is NOT GOOD ENOUGH YET. He had a fantastic debut in pre-season game one, but was anything but in his games after. Hasselbeck's decision-making has been poor thus far in 2010. Whitehurst's decision-making in pre-season was worse than poor. His interceptions were head-slappers, and that's against pre-season talent and game plans. His presence in the pocket was equally concerning. He had the heart of a kitten when facing pressure, often throwing fadeaway passes off his back foot. He even had trouble making basic swing passes to his check-down receivers. None of these things mean Whitehurst can't be a solid starter for us. They do mean he will struggle mightily when he gets into the lineup and needs as much preparation as possible to be ready. His best this year will be only a little better than Matt's current performance, and we won't get his best each week. After a full off-season of preparation, that will hopefully change.

I would love to be able to say we have Matt's successor waiting in the wings. As big a fan as I am of Hasselbeck, I am a far bigger fan of winning. Whitehurst playing this year has nothing to do with winning, and would close the door on the best quarterback in franchise history. Decisions like that are not made off of four games. Focus must continue to be on setting the Seahawks up to have the best two QB options for next season without giving up on this one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whitehurst as a future starter

Starting QBs in the NFL need to be more than just good players. They need to be solid leaders who can go from motivating and commanding frothing grown men on the field of play, to handling 360 degree questions from the media. Matt Hasselbeck is the best I've seen in my time as a Seahawk fan. He's approachable as a fan, but has always clearly had the team in his corner. He's a guy's guy, and might even be a girl's guy if he wasn't follicly-challenged.

As successors to Matt have auditioned over the years, I was almost as focused on their off-field leadership capabilities as I was on their on-field performance. Seneca Wallace was never going to be the personality that Matt, Dave Krieg, Warren Moon or Jim Zorn were. Charlie Frye finished a fantastic pre-season game at SD in his first real audition, and it only took 15 seconds of interview time to realize this guy was never going to be *the* guy on a winning football team.

During the two training camp practices I attended this season, I noticed a few things about Charlie Whitehurst. First and foremost, this guy is quintessential Southern California. He comes across as a guy without a care, at least in part due to his 70s era bearded sex appeal. Multiple female Hawk supporters could be heard "noticing" Whitehurst, and this was during the stretching drills folks. There was no football ability to notice at this point. That's okay, though. The goal is to make Hawk fans swoon, and getting a few ladies on board won't hurt.

At first, Whitehurst comes across as a space cadet. He's not really engaging with his teammates or coaches. He doesn't smile much. If not for his red QB jersey and his long hair/beard combo, I'm not sure you'd have any reason to notice him at all. Matt, on the other hand, is all smiles and conversation. He is the BMOC.

Whitehurst looked largely mediocre during the first practice I saw, and was much improved the next day when he got all of Matt's reps (maybe he got more confident after winning the HR derby the previous night). There was no difference in his demeanor. Even keel. Rolling with the flow. Waiting for the next wave.

The more I observe the guy, the less I think he's a space cadet. Instead, I think he's not a guy that feels he has anything to prove. This can work against him if he doesn't rise to the occasion during a competition for playing time, but it can also work for him when he enters a hugely important first game as a Seahawk with no jitters. The big stage does not phase the guy. That's a clear plus.

His performance was even more impressive after watching it again on DVR. No rushed throws. Solid reads, not always to the primary receiver. He very rarely locked onto one guy with his eyes. He was poised in the pocket and threw with authority and touch.

I'll now be looking to see how his teammates respond to him. That interception he threw looked like it was his fault on first blush, but on replay I'm not so sure Mike Williams didn't run the wrong route. Williams also appeared to be late getting his head around on a pass further into the game that hit him in the hands. Whitehurst didn't throw up his hands or stare up into the sky. He didn't show up his receiver. After the game, Williams made a point to tell people his TD was mostly due to Whitehurst making a pre-snap read of a blitz and adjusting his route. Is Williams always that deferential, or did he owe Whitehurst for not calling him out?

These may seem like inconsequential questions, but being a Super Bowl-level NFL starting QB requires all of these things. There are cases where a QB may be so talented on the field he can overcome off-field leadership or personality issues (Ben Roethlisberger), or so talented off-field leading his team that he can overcome on-field shortcomings (Trent Dilfer), but those are the exceptions.

Whitehurst is a looooong way from having my vote as a future starter in Seattle, but he has already proven to have the best combination of on-field talent and off-field presence we've seen in a backup since Matt came along.
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