We’re regularly seeing new and exciting lows NFL teams will sink to in an effort to find a competent quarterback. The latest involves ESPN NFL analyst Matt Hasselbeck, one of several figures The Ringer’s Kevin Clark interviewed for a feature on the changes that have allowed several older NFL quarterbacks to thrive. As part of that feature, Hasselbeck mentions that “a contending team” tried to convince him to come back this year:
“Hasselbeck got a call from a contending team this year asking whether he was in shape and available to sign. He is 43.”
Not only is Hasselbeck 43, he’s been away from the NFL field (at least as a player) for quite some time. He retired in March 2016 to join ESPN, and he only played in eight games for the Colts in 2015. And while Indianapolis went 5-3 with him under center, he only averaged 211.3 passing yards per game and 5.84 net yards per attempt with a completion rate of 60.9 per cent. Those numbers are better than some, for sure, and the idea of him as a competent game manager who can protect the football (something some teams were definitely seeking in a replacement) is reinforced by his nine touchdowns to five interceptions that year and his career 212 touchdowns to 153 interceptions. But it still seems like an incredible stretch for a “contending” team to seek out Hasselbeck.
As some who have written about this (including Yahoo’s Jason Owens) have pointed out, this year did see some reasonably desperate “contending” teams. The Washington Redskins in particular seem like a strong possibility, as they lost first starter Alex Smith and then backup Colt McCoy, eventually turning to Mark Sanchez (who hadn’t played a regular-season game since 2016 with Dallas) and Josh Johnson (who hadn’t played a regular-season game since 2014 with San Francisco). But both of those players had been with NFL teams in 2017 (and in Johnson’s case, in the 2018 offseason as well), giving them much more recent experience than Hasselbeck, and they’re also both much younger. Maybe Washington was actually desperate enough to try Hasselbeck instead or as well, though. Another possibility is the Tennessee Titans after Marcus Mariota’s injury, but they eventually turned to Blaine Gabbert (who was already on the roster). And while neither of those quarterback situations ended well for the team involved, it’s hard to see bringing back Hasselbeck turning out any better.
Of course, this is all rather a moot point, as Hasselbeck didn’t opt to come back. And judging from his other quotes to Clark on the pain he took in his last NFL seasons (especially from a helmet-to-jaw hit from Whitney Mercilus), he may not have been all that excited about taking more physical punishment, even if the rules do protect quarterbacks more now. But it’s still interesting that a contending team was so desperate for quarterbacks that they reached out to a 43-year-old like Hasselbeck. Maybe that’s another entry for Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case.