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Here We Go, Boys

March 21, 2010

Thank you for those kind, if not exaggerated, words, Noot. I know I have quite the standard to uphold on your Observatory.

For my first post, I want to touch on a topic that is going to make two close friends of mine a bit unhappy. By now all NFL fans are aware of the Seahawks’ move to obtain Charlie Whitehurst from the San Diego Chargers last week. In the first major move under the Pete Carroll era, the ‘Hawks decided a guy who has never attempted a regular season pass was worth a second round swap in this year’s draft, a 2011 third round pick, and a $10 million dollar contract. Look, I loved Carroll at SC. I think he put together the most powerful and exciting college football dynasty since The U, but this move is perplexing given Carroll’s drive to prove himself as an NFL head coach after a failed stint with the Pats from ’97-‘99. As Gregg Rosenthal wrote on ProFootballTalk, “For better or worse, the first years of the Pete Carroll era in Seattle will be defined by Charlie Whitehurst.” Check out that stat line. Not exactly the guy I’d want leading my redemption campaign in the NFL.

Meanwhile, AJ Smith is grinning ear-to-ear trying to figure out how the heck he just pulled this off. Mind you, Whitehurst was the third string quarterback on the Chargers, who as a restricted free agent this offseason was given a third-round tender. However, since Seattle didn’t have a third round pick this year because of previous shrewd offseason maneuvering under this guy, a trade had to be worked out. So instead of only receiving a compensatory third round pick for Whitehurst signing an offer sheet with Seattle, Smith and the Chargers were also able to move up 20 spots (from 60 to 40) in the second round of this year’s draft in addition to obtaining Seattle’s third round pick next year. All for a guy that couldn’t beat out the 33 year-old Billy Volek to serve as the Chargers backup. Not bad AJ, not bad at all.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Whitehurst (who outside of NFL scouting circles does?) other than his time at Clemson five years ago. But therein lies my confusion with this trade. Even beyond the exorbitant price tag Seattle paid to the Chargers, I just cannot wrap my head around why Whitehurst was deserving of a $10 million dollar contract, including $8 million in guarantees. I can’t get over it. With the potential of Armageddon (a 2011 lockout) on the horizon, and with no signs that Matt Hasselbeck will be released, the Seahawks could theoretically find themselves paying at least $8 million dollars to a guy who may not take a meaningful snap over the life of his contract. Unlikely, sure, but still a definite possibility.

This trade especially hit close to home because of a move my beloved Bills made 12 years ago. Searching to solidify their quarterback position after the departure of Jimbo in ‘96, the Bills traded their first and fourth round picks in ’98 to the Jags for Rob Johnson. That worked out well. I would never do any NFL quarterback the disservice of comparing them to Johnson, one of my least favorite Bills ever, but this does seem eerily similar.

Seattle fans can point to the Matt Cassel case all they want, but the bottom line is that he became their starter (by default mind you) under his seventh round contract with rock bottom fan expectations. I unfortunately live with two Patriots fans – trust me, everyone thought they were screwed. Cassel also had the luxury of stepping into a situation surrounded by a veteran team led by perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history that knew how to win by any means necessary. Sorry, but none of these factors are in play in Seattle with Whitehurst.

For Carroll’s sake, and my friends’ well being, I hope Whitehurst pans out. But in the modern day NFL landscape, where successful teams are built more through the draft than ever before (see: the New England Patriots), this trade will inevitably result in even more scrutiny being brought on Carroll in his first season. If Whitehouse flops, he may begin wishing he never left the friendly confines of SC in the first place.

Go Bills,

Commodore

EDITOR’S NOTE: I capitalized the word Observatory in the first paragraph.  Sue me.

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