CLEVELAND – History provides the backdrop for this game, but it won’t decide the outcome nor the significance.
Mike Holmgren was the most successful coach the Seahawks have had, and he’s the president of the Browns team that Seattle will play today. But for all the emotional entanglements this matchup stokes, today’s game is about the future much more than any shared past.
The Browns and Seahawks are two franchises rebuilding themselves. Each enters the game at 2-3, and both face their biggest uncertainty at the same position: quarterback. This isn’t about the short-term absence of Tarvaris Jackson because of a strained pectoral muscle, and much more to do with the search for a long-term answer.
“We’re all in that same boat, you know,” Holmgren said this week. “Find the quarterback.”
Is Colt McCoy the answer in Cleveland? Is Charlie Whitehurst a viable alternative in Seattle? Today won’t provide a definitive answer to those questions, but their performances will go a long way to determining the outcome.
This is how the other half lives in the NFL. All of those teams without a Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers or a healthy Peyton Manning are either searching for a franchise quarterback or trying to decide if they’ve found one. It’s as close as the NFL gets to alchemy.
Could be Cleveland has found its man. McCoy was chosen in the third round of last year’s draft, and despite averaging more than 40 passes per game this season, he has been intercepted only three times.
“He has a great chance to be the guy,” Holmgren said. “That’s my feeling. Now, he has to do it on the field.”
The question in Seattle is a little bit more muddled. Whitehurst is in the second season of a two-year contract, and for now, remains a backup.
Some fans are convinced he’s better than Jackson. Others think the two starts last season for a player in his fifth year was enough to know exactly what the ceiling is. The reality is that the gap between Whitehurst and Jackson might not be as great as anyone thinks.
“If you were to talk to our guys today,” coach Pete Carroll said, “they don’t feel like anything is different with Charlie in there or Tarvaris.”
Neither the Seahawks nor the Browns have yet to make the big-budget quarterback commitment that will define the franchise’s immediate future. In the two seasons since Holmgren arrived, Cleveland has cut Derek Anderson, traded Brady Quinn and practiced catch-and-release with veteran Jake Delhomme.
“I don’t think any team gets to the Super Bowl or reaches their potential without the quarterback being a very good player,” Holmgren said. “Certainly in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck was that player for us.”
Holmgren’s choice of a quarterback was his defining legacy in Seattle, and now the Seahawks are searching for the same answer.
The Seahawks activated tight end Cameron Morrah from the physically unable to perform list. Morrah sat out the first six games recovering from offseason toe surgery. With starting tight end Zach Miller out because of head and neck injuries, Morrah provides depth behind backup Anthony McCoy. … Safety Chris Maragos was also signed from the practice squad in time for today’s game. Linebacker Stephen Franklin and defensive tackle Jason Shirley were cut to make room.