By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – For their next trick, the Seattle Seahawks will put the rabbit back in the hat.
No matter what kind of magic trick Trent Dilfer pulled off to invigorate the Seahawks’ offense Sunday, he could go back to the role of backup quarterback this week. Coach Mike Holmgren said starter Matt Hasselbeck’s health will be evaluated Wednesday, with the goal of re-inserting him into the lineup if his sore groin has healed.
Hasselbeck will undergo physical tests over the next two days to determine his status.
“I already know Trent can play and play well,” Holmgren said one day after a 24-15 win over Jacksonville. “He played pretty well in the game. As soon as I think Matt can do all those things, he’ll be back playing.”
That’s that. No quarterback controversy. No matter how well Dilfer does, no matter how many times he’s forced into action and delivers a win, Holmgren will go back to Hasselbeck.
Dilfer, the one-game savior, is taking Holmgren at his word.
“Trust me, I’ve been around the smokescreen thing before,” Dilfer said Monday. “We are so focused on getting better and doing what it takes that we just want to win.”
Although no one at Seahawks headquarters will get pulled into any kind of quarterback controversy, the numbers provide good fodder for some healthy discussions. Dilfer’s 100.1 quarterback rating would rank first in the AFC, but his 25 attempts are 31 short of qualifying him to be included among the leaders. Hasselbeck, who has completed 50 percent of his 86 attempts, ranks 18th in the AFC and 33rd in the NFL in quarterback rating (48.9).
Perhaps the bigger statistic is win-loss record. Dilfer is 12-1, including playoffs, since last season – with victories in his last 12 starts. Hasselbeck had a subpar start in his first game with the Seahawks, but got the win in that game before dropping the next two.
Yet when Holmgren was presented Monday with the possibility that Dilfer gives his team a better chance to win, he was non-committal.
“(People) say that because we won our last game, and he started,” Holmgren said. “I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure.”
During his tenure in Seattle, Holmgren has avoided looking back on past mistakes. Yet it’s evident that he is not going to get himself into a similar situation to last season, when he created a quarterback controversy by openly questioning whether he should start Jon Kitna or Brock Huard in a Week 2 game against the St. Louis Rams. Holmgren eventually opted for Kitna, but the question of who would be the team’s quarterback of the future continued to simmer until Huard was finally inserted into the lineup four weeks later.
This year, Holmgren has decided to thwart any possible controversy by sticking with his quarterback of the future. Although Hasselbeck has struggled, Holmgren is going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Despite one game in which Dilfer looked like the team’s best quarterback, the locker room is also avoiding controversy.
“Dilfer played well, that’s why we’re here,” center Robbie Tobeck said Monday. “But if everyone on the offense played as well last week or the week before, people would be saying, ‘Hasselbeck is the man! What a great pickup!’ I’ve got 100 percent faith in Hasselbeck. Whoever’s in there, we all have faith in them.”
Holmgren admitted that he would take next week’s bye into consideration when evaluating Hasselbeck’s condition. If the Seahawks want him to be their quarterback this season, it might not be a bad idea to sit Hasselbeck out again this week, thereby giving his groin another two weeks to heal. And as the Seahawks found out Sunday, they have a quality backup in Dilfer.
“Obviously, there is not a controversy,” Dilfer said. “Mike and I and Matt and everybody involved has stated that. I think we’re fortunate. Matt, Brock and I, under the tutelage of Jim (Zorn) and Mike, we understand what the position takes and the dynamics that go along with it. And we’re all very comfortable with one another and comfortable with how this thing is going to unfold. We all want what’s best for this football team and we trust Mike’s leadership.”