- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"When Matt came here, I wanted to pump him up, show everybody I believed in him," says Holmgren. "Maybe I overdid all that."
It didn't help that Hasselbeck tried to play the role of veteran gunslinger, at times subconsciously imitating Favre. In unit meetings he offered unsolicited tweaks for plays, drawing the ire of coaches. On the field his manic energy made him difficult to understand in the huddle, and his freelancing confused the young receivers. In the locker room he came off as arrogant and overly chatty. "That first year I thought maybe they could get him some Ritalin," recalls linebacker Chad Brown. "He was just ... off."
Hasselbeck is quick to accept responsibility. "It was my immaturity and lack of humility," he says. "When I got here, I thought they'd want to hear my thoughts, as [the Packers had] always wanted Brett's. I failed to realize Brett was an exception to the rule. I needed somebody to say, 'You're not in Green Bay anymore.' Somebody probably did, and I just missed it."
Leaving Green Bay for the Pacific Northwest was difficult for Hasselbeck and his wife, Sarah, who gave birth to their first daughter, Annabelle, six weeks into the '01 season. (A second daughter, Mallory, was born in February 2003.) They loved Green Bay's cozy, family-friendly environs; Seattle's comparatively far-flung geography left them feeling detached. "We were miserable," he says. "I tried to hide it, but I couldn't."
His insolence and gilded excuses for bad reads and poor execution grated on Holmgren, who compared Hasselbeck to the similarly stubborn and cerebral Steve Young. As an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers from 1986 through '91, Holmgren had groomed Young to be Joe Montana's successor. "Mike would say, 'You're just like Steve, talking about wind speed and ball flight,'" Hasselbeck recalls. In practice and in games he disregarded his progressions. "Matt would say, 'But I feel so confined,'" says Zorn. "and I'd say, 'Great!' That's exactly how we wanted him--confined."
Throughout the difficult transition Hasselbeck leaned heavily on Dilfer, who, having struggled mightily himself with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens before winning Super Bowl XXXV, was a perfect sounding board. In addition, Dilfer and his wife, Cassandra, the parents of four young children, helped ease the Hasselbecks' anxiety over their relocation and offered perspective on the mysteries of child rearing. The couples became fast friends. " Trent was everything to me," Hasselbeck says. "To call him a crutch or a buffer doesn't do him justice. He showed me how to be a professional, what it means to be a teammate. He's why I was able to keep going."
So when Dilfer went down with a torn Achilles in the seventh game of the 2002 season, Hasselbeck returned to the lineup a changed man. "Matt took immediate control of the huddle," center Robbie Tobeck says. "He was totally different." He had also stopped butting heads with Holmgren, whose authority Hasselbeck had finally learned to respect. "Yeah, things were different," says Zorn. "Mike talked, and Matt listened."
"I'd been humbled," Hasselbeck says. "I'd realized that it had been 10 guys on one page, and me on another. I learned to trust that the coaches knew better than I did."
Then, in April 2003, came the devastating news that the Dilfers' five-year-old son, Trevin, had died from heart disease. Hasselbeck ached for Trent, but he was unsure of what to do for him. With training camp approaching, Hasselbeck was stunned again when Dilfer told him he was retiring. Hasselbeck would have none of it. "He convinced me that I was missed and needed by my teammates," Dilfer recalls. "He let me know his Number 1 goal in camp was to support me. He gave up countless hours of sleep helping me deal with the loss. Despite all the pressure he was under, he sacrificed to be there for me." Dilfer spent the season as Hasselbeck's backup, a job he is expected to fill again this year.
Meanwhile, Hasselbeck's role will be to help the Seahawks get back to the playoffs. Those who recognize him around town salute him for his proclamation. In fact Hasselbeck has been criticized by only one person for his infamous statement; in a meeting two weeks after the loss, the coach told his quarterback he was not happy about the stunt and never to say something like that again. Whereas in the past he might have pleaded his case, Hasselbeck instead nodded his head and quietly took his leave.