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.