The oddness is compelling, the imagination is stimulated and the mystery deepens.
How much ball can a Whitehurst chuck if Chuck Whitehurst could chuck ball?
Chuck chucked fairly well Sunday in New York. Operating in abrupt, hostile conditions, Whitehurst replaced injured starter Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter and jumped into the no-huddle version of the offense with little practice in the art of haste.
After a couple of stumbles in the first two drives, Whitehurst directed the Seahawks to a field goal. Then, trailing 25-22 with 4:40 left, he took the Seahawks 80 yards to the go-ahead touchdown by completing four of five pass attempts, the only miss being a drop by a receiver. The resulting 36-25 road victory over the 10-point-favored Giants was transformative, taking the Seahawks from the clown car to at least an outer ring of the NFL circus.
Given that the injury to Jackson, a strained pectoral muscle on his right (throwing) side, has an unknown time for healing, Whitehurst’s late play has re-stoked the fires of debate that kept the Seahawks warm during the cold preseason shoulder they were receiving from national and local media.
The conventional wisdom in football is that when a team has two equal quarterbacks, it has no quarterback, meaning that the starter should clearly be better than the backup, or the team doesn’t have a winning leader. Plus, it creates the dreaded quarterback controversy.
Naturally, Pete Carroll is not much of a conventional thinker.
Theres no controversy in this building,” he said, smiling. “You guys (reporters) can have all the one you want. I think its controversial to have two really good quarterbacks.
Despite the attempt at sarcasm with the last remark, Carroll is sort of right. It is controversial to have two really good quarterbacks — if the Seahawks had two really good quarterbacks.
What they have is two quarterbacks verging on competence, which is more than what most Seahawks fans believed and less than what it takes for NFL success.
But success, as in 8-8 or better, really wasn’t in the figuring for this Seahawks season. When the Seahawks told Matt Hasselbeck he was free to go to Green Acres, and replaced him with a mediocre starter who was barely better than the mediocre backup they hired for the same money ($8 million, two years for each), they basically declared a season-long tryout, followed by the best quarterback available in the April draft.
Then, without competition, Jackson was declared the starter, thanks largely to his relationship with Darrell Bevell, the new offensive coordinator. For four and a half games, Jackson has been on a steady climb to averageness, peaking Sunday by helping get the Seahawks their first touchdowns in any first half this season.
Then he did a dumb thing: Keeping the ball on a quarterback option, he ran for 11 yards but failed to slide or otherwise avoid serious contact with the defense of the Giants, who committed the pectoral-ectomy.
“I’m still mad at him,” Carroll said, barely working up a joking expression. The injury forced Whitehurst into his first seasonal action.
“We got a good performance from Charlie,” he said. “He did the things we needed to do to keep the game moving and then had enough there to finish it off and get the touchdown drive. Were really pleased about that.”
More than just winning the game, Carroll was pleased that Whitehurst did what Jackson increasingly was doing — managing the offense without making unrecoverable errors.
Carroll is not alone in believing that while some quarterbacks can win games alone, most games are won with quarterbacks who can run their teams without getting in the way of them. In other words, if Trent Dilfer can win a Super Bowl in 2001 by completing 12 passes for 153 yards, the quarterback position doesn’t always require John Elway — if the rest of the team is done right. But Carroll is among the few willing to throw away a proven winner in Hasselbeck to prove the point.
The theory is that if the defense and special teams are sufficiently adroit, and the offense has playmakers besides the QB, success is possible. As long as the QB doesn’t feel obliged to win the game himself, turnovers and mistakes borne of high risk can be reduced. Which is why the biggest development out of the Sunday triumph was the 145 rushing yards, including 98 by running back Marshawn Lynch. For the first time, the Seahawks weren’t predictable.
But the second-biggest development is the opportunity to second-guess the coach on his choice of quarterback. Whitehurst completed 11 of 19 passes for 149 yards. Jackson was 15 of 22 for 166 yards.
“Once (Charlie) got going, he relaxed and was comfortable and played very well,” Carroll said. “The numbers were pretty close . . . I thought they both played well.
Unfortunately for the second-guessers, the Seahawks have a bye this week, increasing the chances that Jackson will heal sufficiently for the next game Oct. 23 at Cleveland.
Then again, if Jackson and Whitehurst can combine to beat the 3-1 Giants in New York — the first time the Seahawks have won, Giants or Jets, in Gotham in 28 years — does it matter?