Searching For The Black Box - Matt Hasselbeck

Seahawks.NET
Posted Mar 8, 2005


Now that he's the Seahawks' franchise quarterback for the next six years, can Matt Hasselback be...well...the franchise? Seahawks.NET's Todd Webb takes an in-depth look at the synergy between pilot and bombadier, and how the numbers add up.

Searching For the Black Box …

Top Gun …

The 2004 Seattle Seahawks’ Flight took off majestically … appearing as if it was bound for Jacksonville . As investigators continue to seek for crash survivors from a fighter jet that went into an unrecoverable flat spin - the silhouette of one brazened warrior stands undaunted amidst the flames and billowing smoke of the strewn wreckage. In a season of shattered hopes, many Hawk fans find themselves asking: “was pilot error at all to blame?”

Home of the “Free” …

After signing a 6-year, $49.4 million contract, Matt Hasselbeck - looking like Sylvester after finally swallowing Tweetie Bird - had this to say at his press conference …

Matt Hasselbeck:"The unknowns are gone. I know that I’m going to be here for a little while and I'm excited about that. You really feel like you can pour out your heart and soul and give everything to this organization. There is nothing in the back of your mind saying, okay, am I going to be playing against this guy next year? Or am I going to be playing with him? This is your team, this is your home, this is your family. It’s exciting. It really is a dream come true."

"It's an honor for me. I can say this now that I signed the contract, but I really would do this job for free. It's just a dream come true, it really is."

(Quote from The Seattle Times 2/23/05 )

For a season that ended like a Homecoming Effigy Rally, that contract is like an anchorbolt in the side of a cliff that fans and Hawk players alike can securely fasten themselves onto. Hasselbeck’s words are of greater assurance to Hawk fans than a mother’s lullaby to a frightened child … and ones that act like a nail helping to puncture the overinflated tire of their anxieties. The anxieties many Hawk fans shared of seeing Hasselbeck donning another uniform in 2005 were also shared by one Mike Holmgren. At his end of the year press conference, Holmgren was asked if he could afford to lose Matt Hasselbeck …

Holmgren : “I choose not to think about that, really. I think he has progressed to the point now where you kind of don't have to think about that position, which is the most important position, in my opinion. And you never want to go into a season without, you know, we've done that. We did that. It took us a lot of hard work and effort to solidify the quarterback position and I think by most people's standards it's solidified. So I tend to look at the glass half full and we're going to get that done.”

Iron Eagle’s Flight Training …

Matt Hasselbeck was the Boston College Eagles’ starting QB for just his final 2 seasons, yet finished as one of the top 5 passers in the school’s history with over 3,878 passing yards in missiles launched. Rogue bandits might be tempted to aim their cannons at the fact that the Eagles went 4-7 in each of Hasselbeck’s 2 years at the helm as reasons to blast him out of the sky. However, those bandits who decide to go head-to-head with that argument should consider the fact that Hasselbeck went through three different head coaches and five different quarterback coaches in five years. Having three flight controllers in five years is enough to scramble anyone’s pattern.

After hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” for completing his marketing major, …Matt next began tackling a Master’s in Business Administration – wrapping up a 3.78 ERA his first semester. Besides his passing resume, Hasselbeck’s off the field accomplishments underscored his abilities as a squadron leader …

Burger King Scholar-Athlete Award

St. Ignatius Award for Student Involvement

B.C. Chaplains' Office Ignatio Volunteer Program, assisting the poor in Jamaica .

Member of B.C.'s Student-Athlete Advisory Board.

Co-winner of the Thomas F. Scanlan Award along with teammate Omari Walker -- outstanding senior scholar-athletes on the 1997 Boston College football team.

Hasselbeck had to wait until the 187 th pick overall in the 6 th round of the 1998 draft to hear Paul Tagliabue call his name … due in part to the fact that Hasselbeck was a skinny young kid with only a cap gun for an arm. To the casual Green Bay fan that year … Hasselbeck’s name was found in the phone book right next to Mr. Irrelevant. Indeed, “Mr. August” had the distinction of leading come from behind Pre-Season raids against the ballboys of opposing teams.

Andy Reid, then Quarterbacks coach of the Packers, had a much different view and this to say about the drafting of Matt Hasselbeck …

"I see a good football player who will fit in tremendously with the things that we are doing here in the passing game. With the exception of the first two quarterbacks taken (in the draft), Matt could really make things happen for you. I'm looking for someone who I think can fit into this system. That is someone with quick feet, arm strength, the ability to read coverages, accuracy and giving your receivers an opportunity to do something with the ball after they catch it. Then, obviously a mental capacity for all of what we throw at them. He has to be able to handle that."

Reid called Hasselbeck a gunslinger that possessed the "complete package" as a QB. Let’s continue to unpack that package …

Coldblooded Ace … or Downed Pilot …

It’s a debate about Matt Hasselbeck that’s raged on in forums across cyberspace. Just how good a QB is Matt Hasselbeck? Did Matt Hasselbeck have an off year in 2004 … or is he just not that good after all? Besides Reid’s claims of Matt’s “completeness” … Hasselbeck’s performance in the NFL’s flight simulators has been pretty good. After all, Hasselbeck did win 2004’s NFL Quarterback Skills Challenge and scored a 29 on the Wonderlic intelligence test (19 being average). That said, all of those dashes around cones and strikes on moving bull’s-eyes has resulted in an 0-2 playoff record … and 2 straight “Mr. August” type years.

To really answer the question as to whether or not Matt Hasselbeck looks to be poised to join the NFL’s Mavericks … let’s look inside the numbers from the time that many Hawks fans mark as the rise of the Hasselbeck era: from the last 6 games of 2002 on …

2002 Seahawks …

Week

Team

Yards

TD

INT

Results

Pass Defense of Opponent (Yards/Game)

Week 12

Chiefs

362 Yds

3TD

0 INT

W 39-32

31st (261.3 yards/game)

Week 13

49ers

427 Yds

2TD

1 INT

L 24-31

22nd (219.1 yards/game)

Week 14

Eagles

223 Yds

2TD

3 INT

L 20-27

7 th (193.4 yards/game)

Week 15

Falcons

298 Yds

1TD

0 INT

W 30-24

16 th (205.4 yards/game)

Week 16

Rams

303 Yds

1TD

0 INT

W 30-10

12 th (200.6 yards/game)

Week 17

Chargers

449 Yds

2TD

2 INT

W 31-28

32nd (268.4 yards/game)

High yardage numbers there … and great TD/Int ratios overall. The 2002 Seahawks were one of the premier offenses in football over the last 6 games; however, notice how Hass did against the Eagles there in Week 14. OTOH … Hasselbeck did post a 300 yd day against the Rams (12 th in pass defense in 2002) … one of the NFL’s elite anti-aircraft batteries at the time. Overall for a young airman still wet behind the ears with the West Coast Offense at this point … Hasselbeck had a very good showing and did what he was supposed to do for the most part. We’d expect him to whoop poor defenses and struggle against better ones. What about 2003 then? Wouldn’t we expect to see some improvement?

2003 Seahawks vs. Top Defenses …

Rush Defenses Pass Defenses

Baltimore 6 th (96 Yds/Game)

Baltimore 4th (175.3 Yds/Game)

Green Bay 10 th (106.3 Yds/Game)

Cleveland 7 th (177.9 Yds/Game)

Pittsburgh 12 th (108.5 Yds/Game)

New Orleans 8 th (187.1 Yds/Game)

 

Pittsburgh 11 th (190.4 Yds/Game)

 

St. Louis 12 th (192.0 Yds/Game)

 

 

Seattle 14th (109.9 Yds/Game)

Seattle 27 th (217.5 Yds/Game)

Hasselbeck’s Performance 2003 …

Team

Comp

3rd Down Conv

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

Result

New Orleans

12-23(52%)

3-12(25%)

137

2

0

W 27-10

St. Louis (1)

22-39(56%)

7-14(50%)

256

2

1

W 24-23

St. Louis (2)

21-37(57%)

6-14(43%)

246

1

1

L 27-22

Pittsburgh

18-31(58%)

3-11(27%)

215

1

0

W 23-16

Baltimore

23-42(55%)

7-18(39%)

333

5

0

L 44-41

Cleveland

26-35(74%)

11-17(65%)

328

3

1

W 34-7

Hasselbeck’s 60.8% Completion Percentage had him ranked 11 th best … and Seattle ranked #1 in the NFL on 3rd down conversion with 46.8% made in 2003. That’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that Seattle ’s offensive line ranked 26 th in sacks allowed (with 43) and factor in all the drops by the WR’s (37 drops - amongst the tops in the league.) As you can see from the numbers … Matt performed VERY WELL against some of the top pass defenses in the league (14 TDS to only 3 INT’s and two 300 yd days.) Outside of the Saints and Steelers games … Hasselbeck also demonstrated a fairly high propensity at getting the job in the clutch on 3rd down against some of the league’s better defenses. Rock and Roll!!

Hasselbeck’s Statistics

Year

Attempts

Completions

Comp %

3rd Down%

Sacks All

TD’s

INT’s

2004

474

279

58.2

46.8%(1st)

43(26 th)

22

15

2003

513

313

60.8

36.2%(19 th)

34(12 th)

26

15

As noted above … Hasselbeck’s performance in 2003 had MOST Hawks fans expecting 2004’s Seahawks to satiate their need for speed and wax enemy targets at will. In the end though, it was the Hawks that found themselves bailing out on their Super Bowl dreams. While the Hawks offensive line improved to ranking among the upper echelon in fewest sacks allowed … Seattle saw its prolific 3rd down conversion offense go into a power dive.

So, what happened? Did Matt Hasselbeck FORGET how to throw the football? Seeing as how he actually faced FEWER top pass defenses in 2004 … that’s a valid question Hawk fans need to be asking. As first mentioned in the piece “Head Examination” -- I believe the number of that truck can be found in an interesting statement Mike Holmgren made just prior to the Carolina game:

Buzzing the Tower …

Just prior to the Carolina game … Mike Holmgren had this to say at his press conference …

"I've got to start helping Matt a little bit more. I think he's got too much of the weight of the world on his shoulders. ... He's been so good for the last year and a half that I think we had a tendency, as a coaching staff, to load him up with too much stuff."

Holmgren said during training camp that he thought Hasselbeck had progressed enough that he was going to add a few “wrinkles” to the offense. After watching Hass and the rest of the offense struggle, he decided to “simplify” the offense, saying that it wasn’t any reflection on Matt’s abilities.

Jim Zorn added this just prior to the Carolina game:

"I don't think that is the reason we would scale back, because we've lost confidence in Matt. I think people can see us sputtering a little bit. To scale back will help everybody to get faster and we're not having to have such a big learning week. The only thing that's going to be different for the quarterback is the memorizing of the formations. He'll have less to memorize. We're going to use all our weapons, we're using the full force of our offense. We're just not doing it out of as many things."

  • From the Seattle PI prior to the Carolina Game.
Hasselbeck-led Offense With Wrinkles (First 6 Starts)

Team

Completion%

3rd Down Conv

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

Opp. Pass Def.

Saints

19-29 (66%)

6-15 (40%)

246

1

1

27 th

Buccaneers

12-26 (46%)

1-14 (7%)

147

1

1

2nd

49ers (1)

21-30 (70%)

5-13 (38%)

254

2

0

17 th

Rams (1)

20-35 (57%)

2-12 (17%)

216

2

0

11 th

Patriots

27-50 (54%)

8-17 (47%)

349

0

2

19 th

Cardinals (1)

14-41 (34%)

4-13 (31%)

187

1

4

8 th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

113-211(54%)

26-84(31%)

1399

7

8

 

Average/Gm

19-35 (54.3%)

4-14 (28.6%)

233 Yds/Gm

1.16 TD/Gm

1.33 INT/Gm

 

Hasselbeck-led Wrinkle-Free Offense (Last 8 Starts)

Team

Completion%

3rd Down%

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

Opp. Pass Def.

Panthers

21-30(70%)

8-17(47%)

201

1

1

18 th

49ers(2)

17-28(61%)

9-14(64%)

285

3

0

17 th

Rams(2)

15-36(42%)

3-13(23%)

172

0

1

11 th

Bills

19-38(50%)

3-9(33%)

185

1

1

3rd

Cowboys

28-40(70%)

6-12(50%)

414

3

0

20 th

Vikings

23-34(68%)

4-12(33%)

334

3

2

29 th

Jets

22-30(73%)

6-11(55%)

201

2

1

14th

Falcons

21-27 (78%)

4-9 (44%)

170

2

1

24th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

166/266 (62%)

43-97 (44%)

1962

15

7

 

Average/Gm

21-33 (63.6%)

5-12 (41.7%)

245 Yds/Gm

1.875 TD/Gm

.875 TD/Gm

 

If we projected the above avg. numbers over 15 starts … that would work out to 3679 Yds28 TD’s … and 13 INT’s for Hasselbeck. In other words … (all things considered) … Hasselbeck in the “scaled-down offense” would have actually equaled or EXCEEDED his numbers from 2003.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder …

After watching a grounded receiving corps the first few weeks (44 drops in 2004 – up from 37 in 2003), the Hawks decided to add a grizzled war vet just prior to the Arizona game in Week 7. After his first workout with Hasselbeck, that vet had this to say afterwards …

Jerry Rice on Matt Hasselbeck after first practice : "I ran a couple comebacks and the ball was halfway there before I came out of my route," said Rice. "He reminded me of (Joe) Montana , because he could really anticipate when you’re going to come out and the ball is already there. He really gives you a chance to catch the ball and do something with it.”

Hasselbeck’s response? : “That’s what a fifty dollar bill will do," said Hasselbeck. "I heard that Steve Young was in the building, so I’m just hoping that we don’t sign him too.”

Quite a compliment there from arguably the greatest WR to ever put on a uniform. So how do Hasselbeck’s numbers compare with Joe Cool’s?

Joe Montana -- Super Bowl years …

Year

Games

CMP

ATT

Pct

Yards

Y/A

TD

INT

1981

16

311

488

63.7

3565

7.3

19

12

1984

16

279

432

64.6

3630

8.4

28

10

1988

14

238

397

59.9

2981

7.5

18

10

1989

13

271

386

70.2

3521

9.1

26

8

Matt Hasselbeck –

Year

Games

CMP

ATT

Pct

Yards

Y/A

TD

INT

2001

13

176

321

59.8

2023

6.3

7

8

2002

14

267

419

63.7

3075

7.3

15

10

2003

16

313

513

61.0

3844

7.5

26

15

2004

14

279

474

58.9

3382

7.1

22

15

Obviously, when comparing Montana ’s numbers to Hasselbeck’s there is one clear difference – the jewelry – Montana ’s got 4 of them, while Hasselbeck has nary a cubic zirconium. That said, if we compare both their Completion percentages and touchdowns thrown … while considering BOTH:

  • The All-World air support that Montana had (Rice, Taylor , Craig, Rathman, Jones, etc.) …
  • Hasselbeck’s lack of a consistent supporting cast, blown big plays by receivers, and more drops than in Monsoon season.

… it makes one at least begin to say “Hmmm.” when considering Rice’s comment …

Flying -- the Super Fortress? …

The ultimate question surrounding Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks offense … the crux upon which all Hawk fans hang their hopes on is – “Can Matt Hasselbeck produce Super Bowl Caliber numbers in this offense?” To answer that question simply, we need only crack open the history book to view past successful bombing raids from NFL seasons past. The following is a list of the passing offense numbers from those teams that ran the West Coast Offense and made it to the Super Bowl (the ’97 Packers and ’04 Eagles being the only teams on this list not winning the big game.)

West Coast Offense Super Bowl Teams (Pass Offense) …

1981 SF 49ers … 3766 Yds (66% of offense) 20 TD
1984 SF 49ers … 4079 Yds (62.3% of offense) 32 TD
1988 SF 49ers … 3675 Yds (59.2% of offense) 21 TD
1989 SF 49ers … 4584 Yds (70% of offense) 35 TD
1994 SF 49ers … 4362 Yds (70% of offense) 34 TD
1996 Packers … 3938 Yds (68.17% of offense) 39 TD
1997 Packers … 3896 Yds (67.11% of offense) 35 TD
1997 Broncos … 3704 Yds (61% of offense) 27 TD
1998 Broncos … 3808 Yds (60.67% of offense) 32 TD
2000 Ravens … 3102 Yds (58.5% of offense) 20 TD
2004 Eagles … 4208 Yds (71.9% of offense) 32 TD

Average … 3920.2 Yds (64.98% of offense) 29.72 TD

2004 Seahawks … 3715 Yds (63.9% of offense) 23 TD

In other words … the Hawks offense is very close to air supremacy. To put it another way (and this is much more than a hunch) … let’s see how Hasselbeck’s stats stack up (including his “unwrinkled” projected ones) …

Passing Numbers Without Wrinkles (Hasselbeck’s last 8 starts)

Team

Completion%

3rd Down%

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

Last 8 starts

166/266 (62%)

43-97 (44%)

1962

15

7

Average/Gm

21-33 (63.6%)

5-12 (41.7%)

245.25 Yds/Gm

1.875 TD/Gm

.875 TD/Gm

Proj. Season

62%

44%

3679 Yds

28

13


Tom Brady’s Statistics

Year

Att

Comp

Comp %

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

SK

Rat

Rank

2003

527

317

60.2

3620

23

12

32

85.9

10 th

Matt Hasselbeck’s Statistics

Year

Att

Comp

Comp %

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

SK

Rat

Rank

2003

513

313

60.8

3841

26

15

42

88.8

8th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady’s Statistics

Year

Att

Comp

Comp %

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

SK

Rat

Rank

2004

474

288

60.8

3692

28

14

26

92.6

9 th

Matt Hasselbeck’s Statistics

Year

Att

Comp

Comp %

Yards

TD’s

INT’s

SK

Rat

Rank

2004

474

279

58.2

3382

22

15

34

83.1

17 th

2004* Un-Wrinkled Proj.

474

294

62%

3679

28

13

 

94.4

8 th

It looks like that group of numbers somehow forms a family – and not a dysfunctional one either. Here’s how Hasselbeck’s projected numbers WOULD have stacked up …

3679 Yards … would have ranked 11th – right behind Brad y’s 3692.

28 TD’s … would have tied Brad y for 6 th in NFL

3rd down comp. … 44% would have been 6th right behind New England ’s 45.1%

62% completion … Tied 12 th with Patrick Ramsey

Projected QB Rating – 94.37 (would have ranked 8 th in NFL – ahead of Mark Bulger’s 93.7)

Missing Men Formation …

As noted above, Hawk receivers dropped a total of 44 balls. So what if Hasselbeck’s projectiles had found their targets a mere ¼ more? Just increasing that catch total a mere 11 catches would drive that QB rating up to 96.3 (which would have ranked 7 th in the NFL, just ahead of Trent Green 95.2 and just behind the likes of Brian Griese 97.5 and Ben Roethlisberger 98.1.)

Those numbers go on to underscore one gridiron truth --- that the line between Lt. Pete Mitchell and Lt. Topper Harley is a razor thin one. What if Dwight Clark’s miracle in the end zone in 1981 had been dropped … and Bobby Engram’s playoff season killer against the Rams in 2004 been caught? What if John Taylor’s go-ahead TD in Super Bowl XXIII with 1:00 had instead clanged off his hands and into the arms of a Bengals defender? What if Hasselbeck’s pass had sailed safely into the arms of a crisply run route in Green Bay … instead of the mitts of Al Harris? Hasselbeck’s declaration of “we’re going to score” … might then have marked the birth of a legend. A 350 cubic engine can excite with its rumbling and purring … but it goes nowhere without a working chassis. A flyboy’s barrel rolls and supersonic success would be impossible without a working jet, a diligent mechanical crew, and a host of flight staff keeping the airspace free of traffic.

Among other things, Hawk fans will be praying this offseason that Ruskell and crew will surround their flight leader with a few more good wingmen to fly with.

Sources:

Quotes from Seahawks.com page 10/20/2004
http://www.seahawks.com/ardisplay.aspx?ID=4698

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 1, 1998
http://www.jsonline.com/packer/sbxxxiii/rev/hass50198.stm

Boston College Official Athletic Site Nov. 13, 1997
http://bceagles.collegesports.com/genrel/bc-genreleases14.html

Seattle PI Oct. 26, 2004
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/football/196801_hawk26.html

Seattle PI Oct. 29, 2004
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/football/197304_hawk29.html

Todd Webb writes for Seahawks.NET whenever he can be torn away from his beloved Seattle Mariners. Feel free to send any comments, questions or Willie Bloomquist PECOTA projections to apologetic_thinker@yahoo.com.


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