Four interceptions and that silly attempt to pitch back to Justin Forsett last week were really ugly plays. Really ugly. But do they tell us much about the competence of Matt Hasselbeck? Perhaps, but I am far more convinced that they speak of a Pro Bowl caliber signal-caller that feels he’s got to do far too much himself for this team to have a chance. He speaks of his failures, takes responsibility for the team’s shortcomings, acts like part real leader, part Custer at the last stand. I admire the hell out of Matt, and his toughness, integrity and esprit-de-corps.
This is a Quarterback who has been beset by every hardship that can come to a signal-caller. Poor blocking for the running game puts pressure on the play action passing game. The passing game is battered beyond recognition by the poor play of some of the receivers, the injuries to almost all the other receivers, the team’s inability to get in a rhythm, not just between QB and receiver, but in protection schemes, reading the defense and running the proper route, blocking which has had so many hurries, hits and sacks that it is no wonder Matt has been a different guy the last two years.
I put much of this squarely at the feet of Tim Ruskill, and the line he allowed to decline from the best in the NFL to one of the worst. It started with the loss of Hutchinson, to be sure, but it continued with young guys that flopped and an apparent disinterest in offensive lineman. The defense has had to play far too many minutes, from behind, and it has shown that no squad can overcome both key injuries and eons on the field between three-and-outs by the offense.
Sunday’s loss looked like a team that had given up, and a team that has been challenged, threatened and in the end, has not responded. Telling your team the league thinks they’re ‘soft’ is a far different thing than building an expectation of tough, physical play. I’m beginning to think Mora is more the guy who blabbed (jokingly according to him) to a Seattle radio station that he’d leave the Falcons even in a playoff run to get the Huskies job, than the guy who took over a Dan Reeves built team and took it on a good one-season roll. It is likely not fair to form a judgment on the head coach in one season, though I have no such qualms about the opinion formed over five years with the previous GM.
There will be some good draft picks to work with, and some money that can be freed up this offseason. Let’s hope the new GM starts fast, gives Coach Mora the tools, and that Coach Mora makes deft use of them – something I am just not sure he can do. I really hope so, and I do think it is unfair to him to give him just a season to change systems, personnel, schemes, etc, especially as the GM is let go. Next year, with some impact players and a season under the new offensive and defensive systems, and perhaps a Head Coach and staff that are settling in, we will see some real improvement.
Warner won’t be the zillion yard thrower he still is for much longer, most likely, but then, neither will Matt. Let’s not waste the franchise quarterback’s last good to excellent years. It ain’t that easy to find and develop the next one. Just ask around.