Seahawks roll dice on backup Charlie Whitehurst
Coach Pete Carroll made it clear Matt Hasselbeck remains the assumed starter with Charlie Whitehurst providing some competition. But Whitehurst comes to Seattle as more than a backup. This is a player the Seahawks project as a quarterback of the future.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — The introduction was a casual one.
Coach Pete Carroll wore a Seahawks sweat shirt. General manager John Schneider had on khakis. Charlie Whitehurst sat between those two in sweats with a smile, a newly minted millionaire excited at the thought of finally getting a chance under center.
"I think everybody is presented with an opportunity at some point in their career," Whitehurst said. "You don't know when it's going to come. You have to be ready."
Whitehurst is a new face for the franchise, his acquisition from Seattle completed on Thursday. He's just not the new face of the franchise. He's not the replacement to starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Not yet.
Carroll made it clear Hasselbeck remains the assumed starter with Whitehurst providing some competition. But Whitehurst comes to Seattle as more than a backup. This is a player the Seahawks project as a quarterback of the future.
Whitehurst stood all of 6 feet 4 with a full beard and made a solid first impression given he arrived in a city asking just why Seattle had done all this to acquire him given that he'd never actually thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game.
There was no way to completely answer that question on Thursday. Not for Whitehurst, who was polite and poised but, fully cognizant of the limitations on his résumé.
"I don't have a ton of experience in game situations, and I understand," Whitehurst said. "That's kind of what I have to make up here pretty soon and convince everybody this was the right thing to do."
Seattle agreed to switch spots with San Diego in the second round, the Seahawks going from No. 40 to No. 60 in a deep draft. Seattle also gives up a third-round pick next year.
All that for a guy who hasn't seen meaningful playing time in four years in the NFL.
No member of Seattle's coaching staff has worked with Whitehurst before. So why does Seattle see the player who was third on San Diego's depth chart as a quarterback for the future?
"We thought we saw enough," Carroll said. "The fact that he is such a good athlete, that he does run so well, that he's got very good feet and just generally good speed for the quarterback position that we think enhances the style of play that we intend to put out there. We felt good enough about that evaluation.
"We took our time, now. We didn't rush through this judgment at all. We looked at everything. We've seen every snap he's had about three different times."
Schneider joked he and Whitehurst were born in the same Green Bay, Wis., hospital — St. Vincent. He referenced scouting Whitehurst at Clemson — first at a workout and then at a 2005 regular-season game.
Carroll talked about Whitehurst's physical tools from mobility to arm strength and foresaw a fit with the offense Seattle will run under Jeremy Bates. The Seahawks studied, replayed and scrutinized Whitehurst's exhibition games, all 15 of them, and then took the leap of faith.
"There is risk involved when you make decisions like this," Carroll said.
This is the first yardstick of Seattle's remade franchise. They have staked out Whitehurst as a potential piece of the future.
Don't exaggerate what Seattle gave up. The Seahawks sacrificed 20 spots in the second-round draft order in April, gave up a third-round pick next year and paid Whitehurst better-than-backup money.
Schneider said twice that acquiring Whitehurst did not rule out the possibility Seattle will choose a quarterback with one of its two first-round picks next season.
But while Seattle didn't mortgage its future for Whitehurst, it did invest in his possibility.
The Seahawks put resources behind their belief Whitehurst can play. The Seahawks made that clear with the contract they offered him and the compensation they gave San Diego to acquire him. An accurate measurement of the decision will be made two years from now when we will know if Whitehurst will be mentioned alongside Hasselbeck as a starter Seattle fished out of the backwaters of another team's depth chart or if Whitehurst is included in the list of quarterback errors for a franchise that drafted Dan McGwire and traded for Kelly Stouffer.