Matt Hasselbeck's return to the field last Sunday had Seahawks fans breathing a sigh of relief.
The quarterback most famous for being Elisabeth Hasselbeck's brother-in-law (just kidding—his claim to fame is actually "We want the ball, and we're gonna score") spearheaded Seattle's 41-0 slaying of the Jaguars last week to halt the Hawks' three-game losing skid.
As much as backup Seneca Wallace has endeared himself to fans with his charming smile and controlled play, he just doesn't command the offense the way Hasselbeck does. Wallace doesn't have the finesse on short passes to keep drives moving or the experience to improvise when a play seems stymied.
Hasselbeck brings both game manager and big play aspects to the Seattle offense.
However, that latter trait sometimes drives fans crazy.
The quarterback can have a hard time letting plays end. He'll force bad throws that turn into interceptions, or he'll dive for the end zone with the ball in his hands, leaving his ribs exposed for Patrick Willis to crack.
All right, maybe that only happened once, but it would behoove Hasselbeck to slide and save himself for the next play.
Part of the problem with Hasselbeck is he thinks he's a better quarterback than he actually is.
To be sure, Hasselbeck is a very talented and intelligent quarterback. He didn't make three Pro Bowls on luck alone.
That said, sometimes he lets his intelligence get the best of him.
Many a time Seahawk supporters have watched Hasselbeck go all Peyton Manning at the line, yelling audibles left and right, only to burn a timeout on the first drive of the game because he can't make up his mind.
This trait also relates to his tendency to force throws. Maybe he thinks his arm is just a little stronger than it actually is, or maybe he thinks the defender lurking near his receiver won't notice he's throwing it in his direction.
Of course, Hasselbeck was just reflecting the personality of his coach and mentor Mike Holmgren, who was similarly prone to bouts of indecision and inability to handle multiple brainwaves.
All that said, Hasselbeck is undoubtedly one of the two best quarterbacks in Seahawks history (along with Dave Krieg) and has played an integral role in the team's success this decade.
The question is, does he have it in him to lead Seattle back to the playoffs or even another Super Bowl run? Will he merely keep the quarterback seat warm for a year or two longer, captaining Dennis Erickson-like 8-8 squads, while the Seahawks try to groom his replacement? Or will his myriad of injuries finally drive him from the game after this season?
Seattle's road back to contention in the NFC West starts this Sunday against divisional rival Arizona. Similarly underachieving with a similarly aged quarterback in Kurt Warner, the Cardinals stand at the same crossroads as the Seahawks: trying to shake off a slow start and establish themselves as a viable postseason candidate.
Hasselbeck lifted the hopes of Seahawks fans with his four-touchdown performance against Jacksonville. Now they wait anxiously to see which Hasselbeck will show up against Arizona: confident Hasselbeck, confused Hasselbeck, or injured Hasselbeck.
Matt Hasselbeck is the key to Seattle's playoff hopes. That's a good thing—but not good enough for Seahawks fans to start buying Super Bowl tickets just yet.
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