Seahawks’ Hasselbeck hoping to learn from last season’s mistakes

RENTON — There are plenty of statistical measures to indicate just how poorly the final few games of 2009 went for Matt Hasselbeck.

But the easiest way to understand is to let Hasselbeck tell you about the offense’s film sessions this preseason. As luck would have it, the Seahawks faced Green Bay, Minnesota and Tennessee in the preseason; all teams that beat the Seahawks last season, and all opponents that frustrated Hasselbeck to varying degrees. So when it came time to study film in preparation for those opponents, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch offered some unusual advice.

“None of those games did they want me to watch the film …,” Hasselbeck said. “It was like, ‘Hey, don’t watch the film from last year. It’s terrible, don’t watch that one.’”

In Hasselbeck’s defense, Seattle’s problems went much deeper than quarterback play during last year’s 5-11 season, but looking back, Hasselbeck is finally starting to understand how to learn from his mistakes, something he wasn’t able to do right away.

“I think I tried to learn from it at the end of last year, and I really didn’t know how,” he said. “I didn’t really have a clear way to fix what the problems were. I know some of the problems were that I don’t think everyone really believed in what we were doing, so we had, at times, not everybody doing the same thing. There was very little confidence in ourselves.”

And while his coaches may not have wanted Hasselbeck to study last year’s film, the new staff had to watch in order to evaluate the team they inherited. Pete Carroll, who has had high praise for Hasselbeck throughout the preseason, saw a quarterback who was trying to do too much.

“We don’t even talk about that,” Carroll said of last year’s struggles. “It’s so far away from what’s going on. But clearly he was over-trying, tremendously over-trying. He was trying to make things happen in classic fashion, trying to make a play, and that caused him to make decisions where he’d throw the ball into trouble.”

Heading into last season, Hasselbeck had thrown four interceptions in a game only once in his 10-year career, but last December he accomplished that dubious feat in back-to-back weeks against Tampa Bay and Green Bay. He ended the season with a career-high 17 interception.

That won’t cut it this season under Carroll, who preaches taking care of the football above just about everything else. The good news for the Seahawks is that Hasselbeck appears to be healthier than he’s been in a long time and was solid in the preseason, leading a first-team offense that didn’t turn the ball over. Despite his recent struggles, Hasselbeck is still the best quarterback in the NFC West, a commodity that gives the Seahawks hope in a flawed division.

Hasselbeck credits Carroll with helping him improve this offseason, but also, oddly enough, a video Carroll showed of Kobe Bryant talking about playing in the NBA finals. The message, Hasselbeck explained, was that if you’re doing things right all the time, then there is no need to press when the situation becomes dire.

“I don’t even remember how he said it, but it just made perfect, perfect sense for me, not just with last year, but every year,” Hasselbeck said.

If the Seahawks can keep Hasselbeck healthy for the first time in two years, he said he believes those exceptional plays will happen. A back injury cost him nine games in 2008, and broken ribs led to a two-game absence last season, but Hasselbeck said he feels healthy now, and at age 34 fully believes he can recapture the form that made him a Pro Bowler after the 2003, 2005 and 2007 seasons.

“I feel great,” he said. “I’ve only had one surgery in my career, I’ve been very, very fortunate.”

Of course, if Hasselbeck stays healthy and has a productive season, it will make for an interesting offseason. Hasselbeck is in the final year of his contract, and prior to the draft the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, his possible successor. But Hasselbeck is hardly old by quarterback standards, and if he does bounce back in 2010, the Seahawks will have a tough decision on their hands. Hasselbeck is aware that people are talking about his future, but says it isn’t a distraction.

“You can think about it, I understand it,” he said. “Speculation is part of the NFL, but what’s in my control is how I play on Sundays, how I practice this year, and how I lead this offense. That’s what’s in my control, so that’s what I’m working on, that’s what I’m focused on. I’m focused on helping turn this program around.”

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