A few days ago, I wrote that I thought it was very questionable for the Cleveland Browns to cut ties with Brady Quinn–shipping him to the Broncos–and stick with a quarterback tandem of Jake Delhomme (former Carolina Panthers starter) and Seneca Wallace (career Seattle Seahawks backup). I thought that Mike Holmgren had made a decent move getting Wallace as a backup–a player that he was familiar with from his days of coaching in Seattle)–but I also thought that Quinn should’ve been kept around to provide a backup option. It was my unofficial “Dumb Move of the 2010 Offseason So Far” pick.
I was so, so wrong. So very wrong. Yesterday (March 17th, 2010) featured a clear “Dumb Move of the 2010 Offseason” pick; I’m not even sure I would qualify it with the phrasing “So Far.”
Yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks signed San Diego Chargers backup QB Charlie Whitehurst to a two-year, $5 million a year, contract.
There was no question that the Browns needed to make changes at the QB position; Derek Anderson was a no-brainer to be out of town, given that he was due a significant roster bonus if he stayed with the team. And while the jury is out on whether a Delhomme/Wallace/Draft Pick depth chart is an improvement on the Anderson/Quinn depth chart, at least the Browns know what they’re getting into.
When considering the thinking behind the Whitehurst move, we have to consider a number of factors that illustrate how questionable the decision is. First off, let’s consider career statistics in the NFL:
Jake Delhomme, QB Cleveland Browns
- 97 Games Played
- 2,755 Passes Attempted, 1,630 Passes Completed (59.2% Completion)
- 19,892 Yards Passing
- 123 TD Passes, 94 INTs
- 82.1 QB Rating
Seneca Wallace, QB Cleveland Browns
- 48 Games Played
- 556 Passes Attempted, 333 Passes Completed (59.9% Completion)
- 3,547 Yards Passing
- 25 TD Passes, 14 INTs
- 83.1 QB Rating
Charlie Whitehurst has yet to throw a pass in an NFL regular season game. In two appearances (in 2006), he rushed twice for 13 yards and a touchdown.
At this point in time, neither Delhomme nor Wallace would be mentioned among the NFL elite at QB, but Delhomme has a Super Bowl appearance (Super Bowl XXXVIII) and a Pro Bowl (2005) to his name. Even after a rough 2009 campaign (8 TDs, 18 INTs, 59.4 QB Rating) the Browns know what they’re getting into with Delhomme, and they have a competent backup as well as the 7th Overall Pick in the 2010 Draft–a pick that Mike Holmgren could potentially use on a QB if a quality player is still available.
The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, seem to be much less settled at the position. They still have Matt Hasselbeck at starter, but he’s coming off a season where he put up an even 17 TD/17 INT performance over 14 games, with two games missed due to injury. He also posted a QB rating of 75.1, his lowest QB rating in a season where he played 10+ games since 2001. The current backup in Seattle, now that Wallace is with Cleveland, is Mike Teel, who saw no action as a rookie 6th Round pick last season.
Charlie Whitehurst has been in the league since being drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2006 Draft by the San Diego Chargers. Whitehurst was 3rd on the Chargers QB Depth Chart behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. The former Indianapolis Colts backup QB, Jim Sorgi, and current backup QB Curtis Painter both have more NFL experience than Charlie Whitehurst despite playing as backups to Peyton Manning.
So Whitehurst doesn’t have any true professional experience to speak of; what about his college days?
Going back to his college career–which, it should be noted, ended nearly 4 years ago–at Clemson, Whitehurst posted a 49 TD to 46 INT ratio and a 59.7% completion rate; okay numbers, but nothing great.
Let’s consider Tim Tebow’s numbers in college by comparison; seeing as Tebow isn’t projected to be a first-round QB pick this year. He threw for 88 TDs and only 15 INTs despite the fact that his mechanics are universally decried by scouts. Not trying to say that Tebow will be a better NFL player, but the college statistics are certainly nowhere close.
Don’t like the Tebow comparison? Let’s look at Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, projected to be a 1st-rounder: 50 TDs and 27 INTs. Texas QB Colt McCoy, ranked by some as the 3rd-best QB in this year’s draft, threw 112 TDs and 45 INTs in 4 years. Sam Bradford, arguably the top QB in the 2010 draft, put up 88 TDs and 16 INTs despite only really playing two full seasons of college football at Oklahoma. Depending on how the picks play out, Seattle could make a play for one of these much more accomplished college QBs–and they still might–but now they’ve thrown a $10 million contract at Whitehurst.
THE COST OF THE SIGNING
I’m already pulling a “my bad” about the Browns move–which may, of course, still prove disastrous depending how Delhomme (who will make $7 million from the Browns in 2010) plays this fall–but there is some chance that Whitehurst will become a franchise player in the Seahawks’ future. And if that happens, a $10 million investment will have paid dividends for Seattle. Pete Carroll seems hopeful about the signing, saying today that Whitehurst would “battle” Hasselbeck for the starting job, but we’re still months away from the start of the season. Throwing $10 million at a career third-string NFL QB with no passing attempts on record seems foolhardy at best; particularly when Seneca Wallace is reported to be making $1.5 million in 2010. Let’s not forget that the Seahawks also traded down 20 spots in the 2nd Round for this year’s draft and traded away a 2011 3rd Round pick to the Chargers as well.
Let’s consider the other QB signings that occurred yesterday, as this Whitehurst blockbuster went down.
- Derek Anderson signed with the Arizona Cardinals, 2 years for $7.25 million
- Rex Grossman signed with the Washington Redskins, 1 year for undisclosed terms.
Now, some are saying that Whitehurst has a legitimate chance to play for the starting job in Seattle, and that’s all fine and good; I still think that Hasselbeck starts the year and new coach Pete Carroll sticks with him if he shows up better than last year. There’s even a chance that Seattle could use their 6th Overall Draft Pick–one spot higher than the Browns–to grab a rookie QB.
And though Derek Anderson has a very outside shot at challenging Matt Leinart in Arizona and Rex Grossman could potentially fight for the QB spot in Washington, I think they’ll both end up holding a clipboard to start the season just like Whitehurst.
The difference here is that the Cardinals and Redskins knew what they were getting into with these signings. The Cardinals are getting a QB who has a Pro Bowl on his résumé but has been inconsistent; the Redskins are getting a QB who practically defines inconsistent–unless you apply the term “consistent” as a negative evaluation of Grossman’s QB ability–but also led the Bears (despite his best efforts otherwise) to an NFC Championship and Super Bowl XLI appearance just a few years ago.
Say what you will about the Anderson and Grossman signings; at least they’ve thrown passes in the NFL (though Anderson has a 46/45 and Grossman has a 33/37 for their TD-to-INT ratios).
I wish no ill will on Charlie Whitehurst or the Seattle Seahawks; I’m actually a minor fan of Seattle, since starting LB Lofa Tatupu attended my alma mater (University of Maine) for one year before embarking on his stint at USC. However, it is clear that–based on prior performance–the Seahawks have horribly overpaid for a career third-string QB who has yet to throw a pass in the NFL. As it is, Whitehurst will only be making about a million dollars less than Hasselbeck for the 2010 season. Time might prove me wrong–and in that case, I will certainly issue another mea culpa for poor analysis of the situation–but Seattle has given up much for a player who might not be worth the cost.