Seahawks Could Make Change at Quarterback

After three third quarter turnovers by Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday, including a fumble in the end zone the Atlanta Falcons recovered for a touchdown, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll made the change and put Charlie Whitehurst in at quarterback.

"We gave them the football game in the third quarter," Carroll said after the Seahawks' 34-18 loss. "We had a shot to come back, but we gave them everything that they needed to win the football game.

"There's no decision about the quarterback situation," Carroll added.

Despite their eighth loss of the season, all of which have come by 15 points or more, the Seahawks are still in control of their playoff fate. Win the two remaining games--at Tampa Bay and home against St. Louis--they'll win the NFC West and host a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend.

The question Carroll will have to find an answer to this week is whether or not Hasselbeck or Whitehurst gives the team its best chance to win.

Hasselbeck is by far the team's most experienced option, and at times, the 35-year old has played very well this season. However, he's struggled in one critical area that Carroll has stated his quarterback cannot struggle in: Protecting the football.

Between fumbles and interceptions, Hasselbeck has 22 turnovers this season, with twelve of those occurring in the last four games, three of which the Seahawks have lost.

Whitehurst's stat line on Sunday--8-of-16 for 83 yards and a one-yard touchdown run--isn't inspiring, but he did provide a bit of a spark to the offense. His mobility and health (Hasselbeck is playing despite a cracked bone in his left wrist) may also appeal to the Seahawks coaching staff at this point.

What should not have an impact on Carroll's decision is the notion that the Seahawks "have to see what they've got" in Whitehurst.

Seattle has had an entire off-season, training camp, pre-season, 15 weeks of practices, one start, and two relief appearances to evaluate Whitehurst, who is the only quarterback the Seahawks have signed beyond this season.

They know, or should know, who he is as a quarterback by now.

The Seahawks paid a large freight--a 2011 third-round pick and a swap of 2010 second-round picks--to acquire Whitehurst from the San Diego Chargers. Regardless of who starts at quarterback during the final two weeks, or what the club does at the quarterback position in terms of free agency and the 2011 NFL Draft, Whitehurst will most likely remain with the club through the end of the 2011 pre-season.

Upon acquiring Whitehurst, the Seahawks signed the restricted free agent to a two-year, $8 million contract, with an additional $2 million available via incentives. According to a league source, it was technically a one-year contract extension worth $6.284 million, with Whitehurst receiving a $2 million roster bonus last March and a $2 million base salary for the 2010 season.

Whitehurst is due $4 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2011. Assuming base salary guarantees for vested veterans remain the same in the next collective bargaining agreement, Whitehurst's base salary would not become guaranteed until the first week of the regular season. This means that the Seahawks could re-sign Hasselbeck (or another veteran), draft a quarterback, and keep Whitehurst, which would give them three potential starting quarterbacks entering training camp.

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