National Football Authority

Matt Hasselbeck isn’t a name that comes up much when discussing NFL quarterbacks from eras past. He was a solid presence under center but never viewed as a star.

We’re not necessarily here to change that. This isn’t a “Matt Hasselbeck belongs in the Hall of Fame” shill job or anything along those lines.

It is, however, a public service announcement: Matt Hasselbeck’s prime-most years were better than you remember.

Specifically, we’re talking about his run with the Seattle Seahawks, which spanned 131 starts between 2001 and 2010.

During that time, Hasselbeck ranked sixth in touchdown passes and passing yards. The only players in front of him in both categories were all superstars and inevitable Hall of Famers: Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Donovan McNabb.

Hasselbeck was never known for his accuracy, but he did boast a completion rate north of 60 during his stretch with the Seahawks. That’s higher than that from McNabb (59.55 percent). He also led about as many game-winning drives over this span (17) as McNabb as well (19).

That’s pretty wild when you think about it. There was nearly a decade-long span in which Hasselbeck was arguably one of the top nine or 10 quarterbacks in the game. That needs to be mentioned as part of his legacy, even if his best football didn’t last the 15-plus years typically expected of the biggest names.

In reality, Hasselbeck’s reputation would look a lot rosier had he performed better in the playoffs. His career completion percentage in the postseason dropped to about 58, and he only won more than a single playoff game on one occasion—in 2005, when the Seahawks made it all the way to the Super Bowl and lost.

On the flip side, Hasselbeck did pilot a postseason-bound squad in six of the nine years he spent with Seattle. And across this stretch, he only posted two winless playoff trips. He won at least one game in the other four.

History tends to most fondly remember Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. That’s fair. But we sometimes get too caught up in counting rings and trophies. Hasselbeck was a steadying, consistent force under center for one of the NFL’s most competitive franchises for almost a decade. Few other quarterbacks can say the same.

Even Eli Manning’s best years never included that much consistency. The difference is he has two Super Bowl victories to Hasselbeck’s zero. Who knows how much better history would remember the latter had he one in 2005. People might even be clamoring for him to make the Hall of Fame. Seriously.

July 27th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

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The year was 2011. The Florida Gators had just hired a new head coach. Fans were ecstatic. This was the guy that would lead them to continued prominence in the post-Urban Meyers era. They wouldn’t miss a beat under this replacement. He would be Meyers’ genuine successor.

That man’s name: Will Muschamp.

Renowned for his defensive coaching abilities, he was supposed to ensure that Florida wouldn’t fade from the national spotlight. They would continue to thrive in recruitment and, thus, continue to win.

Muschamp lasted just three seasons and change at Florida, compiling a 28-21 record. That along with two Bowl Game appearances—Gator Bowl and Sugar Bowl—is enough to earn you job security at most programs. 

Florida, as we know, isn’t most programs.

After a dominant 2012 season in which the Gators finished 11-2 and checked in at No. 9 in the national rankings, they fell to 4-8 in 2013. Then, in 2014, with a record of 6-5, they elected to fire him rather than let him finish out his fourth season at the helm. A 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina at the time proved to be his death knell.

No one questioned Muschamp’s work ethic while he was at Florida, and he accepted full responsibility for their shortcomings. He promised to nab a bunch of high-end recruitments and to even steal top recruits from Texas-based powerhouses. He never delivered on that promise, at least not consistently, and while Florida was still able to field talented teams, they just couldn’t win enough games during Muschamp’s tenure.

The veteran head coach would land on his feet after an off-year, securing a gig with South Carolina, where he is still employed today. He has run into similar issues at his latest post. He’s been to three Bowl Games, winning one, but he has just two above-.500 seasons to his name.

Still, three Bowl Game appearances is nothing. The SEC is a tough conference, and Muschamp’s South Carolina teams have, by and large, sustained gritty defensive identities. They have only finished outside the top 55 in points allowed per game once over his first four seasons.

That still isn’t the kind of success that would’ve salvaged Muschamp’s job in Florida. Likewise, he’ll need to guide more dominant squads if he ever hopes to land back at a first-choice coaching school like Florida. 

July 13th, 2011

Posted In: CFB

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There is no denying the legacy Bill Belichick is going to leave behind for his work with the New England Patriots.

Since taking the helm in 2000, the team has been to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them, and missed the playoffs only three times. That is a patently absurd track record when you consider only six of the 16 teams in the AFC conference make the postseason each year.

Naturally, then, Belichick is the person most associated with the Patriots’ success, even more so than Tom Brady. Is that fair? We can’t yet be sure. The quarterback and head coach have been together for far too long, nearly two decades, for us to know for sure.

We may, however, be about to find out.

Many expect Brady, who will soon turn 43, to leave the Patriots in free agency. Rumors have swirled over the past couple of years that he and Belichick aren’t on the same page. The coach has apparently wanted to pass the torch for some time and was livid when it came time to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, then Brady’s backup, at the behest of ownership. The vast majority of people think he sent Jimmy G to the San Francisco 49ers for a lukewarm return just to spite the powers that be above him.

That’s some wild hubris on Belichick’s part if all this is true. Brady is no doubt on the back end of his career, but he’s arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. The Patriots won a Super Bowl with him just two years ago, and they still mustered 12 victories with him under center this past season.

How responsible Brady has been for New England’s most recent runs is up for debate. The Patriots have started leaning more on the run game and their defense as he ages. It is on this model that Belichick has a case as the franchise’s most important building block.

New England has long been a revolving door for defensive talent and running backs. Belichick has always trusted his system over the individual. The Patriots’ transformation into a run-heavy team that relies on its defense to control the pace of games and come up with stops support this opinion he apparently has of himself.

If Brady leaves, though, that will be Belichick’s ultimate test. It’s one thing to succeed with a known commodity under center, even one on the downswing. It’s another to rebound quickly with a younger, unestablished QB who can make or break your rebuild.

July 7th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

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It is difficult to overstate the complicated nature of Michael Dyer’s football career. He arrived at Auburn in 2010, as the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation, according to 247 sports. Most expected him to turn in three or four years of strong play for the Tigers before making the jump to the NFL.

At first, everything seemed as if it was going according to plan. Dyer had two productive seasons at Auburn as a freshman and sophomore, totaling 15 touchdowns and more than 2,300 rushing yards. He had NFL prospect written all over him.

Everything went sideways by the end of Dyer’s sophomore campaign.

First, he was ruled ineligible for the 2011 Chik-fil-A following a robbery scandal. The Tigers beat up on the Virginia Cavaliers, 43-24, without him.

Then, somewhat suddenly, Gus Malzahn left to be the head coach of Arkansas State. He was the assistant credited for building up the Tigers’ offense around Dyer.

Perhaps in response to Malzahn’s departure, Dyer then entered the transfer pool ahead of his junior season. His intended destination: Arkansas State. And he got there, reuniting with Malzahn. Sort of.

Dyer was kicked off the Red Wolves before ever playing a down for them. He spent the next year out of football before ending up at Louisville. He was used in a reserve capacity during his first season there and then afforded a larger role in 2014, as a senior. After a relatively strong year, he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2014 Belk Bowl.

This effectively marked the conclusion of Dyer’s career. He would never play in an NFL regular season, even though many believed he was talented enough.

It is tough to say whether things would’ve been much different had he stuck at Auburn. Prospects go bust all the time, and even if you strike his off-field problems from consideration, the academic ineligibility could’ve still loomed later on.

This is just as much of an indictment against the NCAA as it is Dyer. He could’ve done more to put himself in a position to succeed outside football, but the NCAA’s demands of its collegiate athletes coupled with a lack of focus on academic development is most definitely at fault to some extent.

And let’s be honest: Given the numbers Dyer put up in his first two years at Auburn, it isn’t hard to envision him making the NFL if he’d kept it up. What ended up happening to him is both a cautionary tale and cause for the NCAA to take a look in the mirror.

July 4th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

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