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Originally published December 19, 2010 at 6:36 PM | Page modified December 19, 2010 at 9:49 PM

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Steve Kelley

It's time Seahawks make the change at quarterback

Qwest Field crowd chants for Charlie Whitehurst

Seattle Times staff columnist

Late in the third quarter, when Charlie Whitehurst jogged on to the field, with his team down 34-10 and its playoff hopes reduced to a series of improbable permutations, the half of the house remaining cheered sarcastically.

Almost seven minutes later, after he ran up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown, those same fans chanted his name, "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie," as if they'd found their savior.

Whitehurst then feathered a two-point conversion to Ben Obomanu into the back of the end zone and they chanted again.

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie."

On the sideline, starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the best quarterback in franchise history, heard the cheers and felt the sting.

The Matt Hasselbeck era might have ended at Qwest Field on Sunday afternoon. At least it should have ended.

It ended in a flurry of fumbles and interceptions; a second consecutive week of hideously bad decisions you wouldn't even expect a rookie to make.

Matt Hasselbeck isn't Matt Hasselbeck anymore. He isn't the prodigy Mike Holmgren mentored into an all-star. He isn't the disciple of Brett Favre, gun-slinging the Seahawks into the playoffs, with clutch throws and mistake-free games. He's Favre without the wherewithal.

In his three quarters, Hasselbeck was 10 of 17 for a mere 71 yards. He had a quarterback rating of 28.9. It was the worst pitching Seattle has seen since Carlos Silva left for Chicago.

"Looking back, I seem to do stupid things when we're losing." a brutally honest Hasselbeck said after the 34-18 defeat against Atlanta. "When we're down by two touchdowns or more, that's where I have to be way smarter. I know better."

It's time to make a change, even if it's merely a change for the sake of change. Even if coach Pete Carroll knows deep in his heart that Whitehurst isn't the answer.

Whitehurst has wheels, something Hasselbeck has lost. The Seahawks spent a lot to get Whitehurst in trade from San Diego. It's time, even if you expect the worst, to see if he can play.

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For these Seahawks, the future is just as important as the present NFC West.

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie."

At 17-10, the game still was in doubt in the third quarter when Hasselbeck rolled to his right and saw Ben Obomanu running free.

But with Atlanta defensive end Jamaal Anderson in his face, Hasselbeck had to forget about Obomanu and get rid of the ball. Instead he tried to escape, tried to make a play, lost the ball and lost the game.

"The biggest play of the game for me," Hasselbeck said. "A 14-point turnaround."

Carroll's whole philosophy is about the ball. Finding a way to get the ball, control the ball and, most important, take care of the ball. He expects to win the takeaway-giveaway game.

But Hasselbeck is giving the ball and giving games away. He has committed eight turnovers the past two Sundays and 13 in the past four games.

In an infamous third quarter, he tried to force-feed a pass into Obomanu that Brent Grimes intercepted. He threw another pass deep to Obomanu that was tipped and picked by William Moore.

After the game, Hasselbeck seemed more down and more at a loss to explain himself than at any other time in his Seahawks career. He doesn't need our sympathy, but he's been too good for too long in Seattle to be treated with anything but respect.

"I understand the frustration," Hasselbeck said. "I have that frustration, but it is what it is. It's not an easy job and it's not an easy job right now and that's OK. I understand the job description. I understand what's needed of me and they need me to be better."

In the first year of Carroll's reign, the Seahawks, who say they aspire to be like the Falcons, aren't ready to beat teams as good as Atlanta.

Still, they enter these last two games at 6-8, with just a glimmer of hope of winning the NFC West.

Knowing how miserable his only start against the New York Giants was, it's still time to look at Whitehurst. See if he can make the plays Hasselbeck hasn't made. See if he can play relatively mistake free.

"There's no decision about the quarterback situation," Carroll said. "I'm not doing anything right now ... I want to see how Matt played."

Hasselbeck played poorly, again, which means Carroll has a difficult decision to make this week.

The Qwest Chorus, however, already has spoken:

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie."

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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