All eyes in Seattle are on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for Sunday's NFC West showdown with St. Louis. "This is the big opportunity," says his Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
RENTON — He was Seattle’s first significant addition under coach Pete Carroll, and in the nine months since Charlie Whitehurst arrived, no Seahawk has been scrutinized more while playing less.
And no one has so much to gain in this game that will decide Seattle’s season.
“It’s all on him,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I’ve talked about that. This is the big opportunity. This is the big challenge. This is the big spotlight.
“This is all of that for him.”
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Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is injured and a longshot to play, according to Carroll. That leaves Whitehurst the presumptive starter, an opportunity he relishes in that sweet Georgia drawl.
“That’s how you like it as a quarterback,” Whitehurst said. “I think the game plan is what we would do with Matt. I’m prepared. I’m ready to go, ready to execute.”
An entire city will be watching to see just what it was that prompted the Seahawks to trade San Diego significant draft capital for the privilege of signing him to a two-year, $10 million contact. While Whitehurst stands 6 feet 5 and possesses an NFL arm, he never attempted a regular-season pass in the four years he spent buried on San Diego’s depth chart.
He has appeared in five games this season, attempted passes in four and started just one. At no point this season did he have a performance to convince everyone Seattle was starting the wrong quarterback.
Just don’t be too sure that’s all Whitehurst has to offer. His coach isn’t, because while we may be past first impressions, there is no final judgment.
“Think about how much he’s played,” Carroll said. “He’s just getting going. He’s spent all these years in the league but he has not spent all these years in the league playing.”
But that’s an issue in itself. Whitehurst, 28, spent four years as the No. 3 quarterback on San Diego’s depth chart. Say all you want about the Chargers’ No. 2 QB, Billy Volek, but Whitehurst was a third-round pick. San Diego wanted him to become the backup, and he never did.
Seattle didn’t acquire Whitehurst to be the starting quarterback, but the Seahawks wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t think he could be. And there have been moments he has flashed that ability. It’s the velocity of a deep pass to Golden Tate in practice. Or when he entered the game against Atlanta two weeks ago, engineered a touchdown drive and had the Qwest Field crowd chant his first name.
“He has the ability,” Carroll said. “He can run around. He can throw it. He’s got a terrific arm. He understands the offense. I think it’s just a matter of time before he’s a really good starting quarterback in the NFL.”
But then there are games like last week in Tampa, Fla., when he stepped in for an injured Hasselbeck in the first quarter and the Seahawks were leading 7-3.
His first pass was a short screen to Ben Obomanu, which Whitehurst sprayed high. His next three passes fell incomplete, too.
Seattle had one first down on its first six possessions after he entered the game, and Whitehurst didn’t complete a pass longer than 15 yards.
“It was tough for him to get going,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “And I credit Tampa. They did some good things on defense, but I think he’s going to be fine.”
The ride this season has been too short to call a roller coaster, but Whitehurst understands the ups and downs of his performance.
“When you go in there, you expect to play well and play at a very high level,” he said. “I think there’s times I have done that and times I haven’t. I know it takes time. This is a competitive league. But you want to be good and you want to be good now.
“I think I could have played better this year, but I’ve got another opportunity and I want to go out there and play well.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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