Matt Hasselbeck was good for the Seahawks, and he will be missed in Seattle. But it was time for him to go, and time for a rebuilding team to plan for the future.
As Matt Hasselbeck slowly lifted himself from Husky Stadium’s hard artificial surface, the jeers rolled over him as punishing as North Shore waves.
It was 2001, Hasselbeck’s first game in Seattle, and the combination of the Philadelphia Eagles defense and the Seahawks fans was hazing him as if he were a fraternity pledge.
Back then, before Hasselbeck quarterbacked the Hawks to the 2006 Super Bowl, he was coach and general manager Mike Holmgren’s great gamble. The make-or-break trade.
Holmgren had acquired Hasselbeck from Green Bay and, although Hasselbeck had thrown only 29 regular-season passes in his first two seasons, he was anointed the Seahawks’ starter and their future.
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Hasselbeck was expected to take Holmgren’s Hawks to the same glamorous places Brett Favre had taken Holmgren’s Packers.
But in his home debut, Hasselbeck was sacked seven times. He completed only 9 of 24 passes for 62 yards, and the Hawks lost to the Eagles 27-3. It wasn’t exactly the harbinger of Super Bowls.
Over the next 10 seasons, however, Seattle learned to love Matt Hasselbeck. He had the toughness it took to survive those early growing pains. He was smart enough to digest all the information the demanding Holmgren gave him.
He made himself into a Pro Bowler. He became one of the most respected athletes to play in Seattle and one of the classiest, most humble guys I’ve covered.
But it was time for him to go.
The Seahawks will go into this season with two rookies projected to start on the right side of the offensive line. Four of their starting linemen will have a combined total of 27 career starts. That’s a prescription for disaster for Hasselbeck, who will turn 36 in September and has had injury and mobility problems the past few years.
Truthfully, the end of the Hasselbeck era has been coming since former general manager Tim Ruskell hustled Holmgren out the door.
It became apparent early in this offseason the Seahawks weren’t serious about re-signing him. Really, it became apparent in March 2010, when the team traded for Charlie Whitehurst and declared the quarterback position open for competition.
For the past three years, under three different coaches, Hasselbeck’s time here has been weird and rocky. But his last home game, that wondrous playoff win over New Orleans, seems the perfect way for it all to end.
On that turn-back-the-clock January afternoon, Hasselbeck threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns and he left the field with his son Henry on his shoulders, the fans’ cheers ringing in his ears and a victory smile that looked as wide as the goal posts.
Contrasting it with his home debut 10 seasons earlier, this was the best kind of goodbye.
Now it appears former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will be Hasselbeck’s replacement. Jackson, 28, is the kind of mobile quarterback the Seahawks will need to survive the inevitable mistakes of a young offensive line.
He isn’t the quarterback for the future. He would be the quarterback for the meantime, a transition guy until the Hawks can draft a permanent solution.
Maybe in 2012 they can choose Oklahoma’s Landry Jones or USC’s Matt Barkley. If this season is a disaster, the silver lining could be Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Jackson has started only six games in the past three seasons. The Vikings jerked him around the past couple of years, waiting while a battered and fading Favre played hard-to-get.
The arrival of Jackson and former Arizona Cardinals and USC quarterback Matt Leinart won’t excite many fans. The idea of a summer-long competition among Jackson, Leinart and Whitehurst is the stuff of yawns.
Make no mistake, the Seahawks are the defending NFC West champions, but they still are rebuilding.
In the meantime, Hasselbeck will be missed. He was the perfect quarterback for the Holmgren era. He had the right disposition to deal with Holmgren’s demanding crankiness. He was confident enough to fight back from adversity.
He was honest in his evaluations of his own performances. Win or lose, damaged or unhurt, he was a stand-up guy. He was the face of the organization for a decade.
He will find a home, maybe in the NFC West, and he could play another game or two on the field he used to call home.
His long-term health remains an unanswered question, but on any given Sunday, Matt Hasselbeck still is tough enough and smart enough and good enough to win a football game.
And 2011 will seem strange without him.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org