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Originally published November 10, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Page modified November 10, 2009 at 10:39 PM

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Danny O'Neil

NFL | Predicting quarterback success resembles a coin toss

The future of Hasselbeck has become one of the biggest questions facing the Seahawks.

Seattle Times NFL reporter

The first half of Seattle's cautionary tale about NFL quarterbacks took place Sunday at Qwest Field when Detroit's shaggy-haired rookie with a shotgun for an arm showed how far he has to go to become an adequate passer.

The second half of the story comes Sunday when the Seahawks travel to Arizona to face the division-leading Cardinals and Kurt Warner. He is 4 years older than Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and he has been cut loose by two NFL teams only to end up in Arizona, where he piloted his team to the Super Bowl last season, the third time he has played on the sport's biggest stage.

Matthew Stafford and Warner are the bookends of the quarterback debate, the youngster who is not quite ready and the veteran who is not yet done. They are the landmarks Seattle should take note of as the future of Hasselbeck becomes one of the biggest questions facing the franchise.

Anyone who has been hollering that now is the time for Seattle to draft the franchise quarterback for the future is encouraged to take a long look at the way Stafford played for Detroit on Sunday.

Stafford was the first player drafted this year, and he had one of the NFL's strongest arms from the moment he joined the league. After an impressive first period, Stafford needed two quarters to surrender a 17-point lead and he finished Detroit's death spiral with interceptions on the team's final two drives. Cornerback Josh Wilson picked off Stafford's final pass and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.

"A young quarterback got rattled and he started giving us some nice to-go presents," Wilson said Monday.

The fact Seattle's 5-foot-9 cornerback was looking down his nose at Stafford says about all you need to know about the struggles a rookie quarterback faces.

There are a lot of adjectives that could be hung on Stafford's performance this season. Surprising is not one of them. He is a rookie, after all, and the success of first-year starters such as Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan last season were exceptions, or haven't you been keeping track of the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez? Sanchez has eight interceptions and five touchdown passes in the last five games, the Jets have gone 1-4 and he has gotten more attention for eating a hot dog than devouring defenses.

An NFL team doesn't just go and pull a franchise quarterback off the top shelf of the draft, unwrap him and start winning games. It is more like you pick a passer, wheel up an armored truck to his house and fork over enough money to make him sign and then you hope. You hope he is not like David Carr. Or Tim Couch. Or Ryan Leaf. You get the idea.

For all the scouting and all the coaching a first-round quarterback gets, it is about a 50-50 proposition he will pan out.

Just look at the last two teams Warner played for. In New York, he was supplanted by Eli Manning, who went on to win a Super Bowl. In Arizona, he has stayed in front of Matt Leinart, the No. 10 pick in 2006 who Sunday was incapable of mopping up Arizona's victory in Chicago.

So what will Seattle do with Hasselbeck this offseason? He is signed through 2010. He is 34 and over the past four seasons he has missed time because of an injured knee (four games in 2006), back (nine games in 2008) and rib (two games this season). He is also merely two years removed from a career high in passing yardage and Sunday he surpassed his team record by completing 39 passes.

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Prudence requires looking for a potential successor at quarterback. Hasselbeck has spent more than a decade in an NFL pocket and has the injuries to prove it.

Designating a timeline for that succession is problematic because it would mean risking the chance Hasselbeck could be like Warner and enjoy a renaissance elsewhere.

It is not an easy question to answer, but Stafford's performance last weekend shows how tough a situation it can become once a team decides to designate a franchise quarterback with a first-round draft pick.

Note

• Defensive end Derek Walker was signed from Seattle's practice squad to its 53-man roster. He replaces receiver Mike Hass, who was released. Hass could return to the practice squad.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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About Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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