There are those who will undoubtedly say that this is much ado about nothing – that first cuts are little more than another preseason distraction to the real games, which begin in less than two weeks. Others may be curious why Seattle’s third-string quarterback position is of such interest to this particular writer.
In Hamdan’s case, I suppose it was a little bit of the knowledge that both Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme cut their teeth in the NFL Europe League, where Hamdan had excelled over the last two seasons, and I was hoping that this player would follow in that lineage. It’s a good story, after all.
When I began watching NFL Europe games more closely in the spring of 2005 in order to catch Hamdan and monitor his progress, I was impressed by his pocket presence, composure, accuracy, and ability to lead his team. Though Hamdan was suffered injuries in both 2005 and 2006, he set his Admirals up to win the World Bowl in 2005 and go again in 2006, through they were defeated by Frankfurt this year. In 2006, Hamdan was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, leading the league in completion percentage (63.0), passing yards (1,629) and touchdowns (12), while posting the highest passer rating in league history (113.4) – and this despite appearing in only seven games.
Watching Hamdan and his most likely competitor all along, Seahawks 2005 third-round draft pick David Greene from Georgia, in training camp has been an interesting process. There was little doubt that last year, though Hamdan looked more decisive and developed as a quarterback, Greene would get the nod – teams don’t just up and release third-round draft picks unless their names are “Maurice Clarett” – and though David Greene may not yet be the answer to every Seahawks fan’s prayers, he’s certainly not that, either.
In 2006, however, there were ancillary concerns. Though Seneca Wallace had the second-string quarterback job wrapped up before camp even started, the lack of an experienced backup to Matt Hasselbeck made the fight below Wallace a bit more interesting. Greene had done very little to convince anyone that his future was very bright in the NFL, and more than one acrid comment from coach Mike Holmgren during 2006 minicamps and training camp led those following the story closely to believe that this might be the case in which the best man would win.
Again, in the team’s 2006 training camp, the difference between the two quarterbacks was obvious. Hamdan’s arm was better, his decision-making seemed more developed, he appeared to progress through reads with more of a natural sense – there is a flow to an experienced quarterback that you tend to recognize when you see enough of them, even as a layperson who does not evaluate quarterbacks for a living. Hamdan had it – Greene did not. Greene continues to appear to be what he is – a work very much in progress.
And when you have Matt Hasselbeck and, say, Trent Dilfer clogging up your depth chart, that’s an acceptable option.
But the Hamdan option would have given the team a bit more veteran presence in a position where it is sorely needed, not to mention a bit more breathing room should the team choose to take advantage of Wallace's athleticism at other positions, as they did in the NFC Championship game. Now, the choices for the Seahawks are Matt Hasselbeck and a great deal of “I don’t know”.
During the preseason, Greene was given 22 passing attempts, from which he managed to extract 15 completions for 141 yards. Hamdan? 2 of 2 for 20. Beyond a couple of garbage-time looks in the win over the Colts, Hamdan was never allowed to be a factor.
In the end, it is the front office that knows the real reason behind this decision. Did Hamdan’s injury history scare them off? Is there a lingering reluctance to jettison a third-round draft pick selected by Tim Ruskell, thus admitting a hint of failure in a mostly spotless presidential term? Is Mike Holmgren SO desperate to develop quarterbacks that he might push for a player less mature?
It would be good form for the team to let the player, and the fans, know exactly why this move was made. For now, Gibran Hamdan leaves with a curious legacy in the Ruskell era – the first player to be eulogized as follows:
“Good enough to try, but never really given a chance”.
UPDATE: In a report released by the Associated Press, the Seahawks have announced the fifteen cuts to bring them in line (actually, under) the league-mandated 75-man roster limit by Tuesday, August 29. The names:
WR Taco Wallace
OL Taylor Schmidt
The only surprise outside of Hamdan might be Guerrero, who was cut by the Chiefs in late July and looked good in camp and in limited preseason action. However, Seattle is stacked at DT, and Guerrero was battling Chris Cooper, whose play has received kudos from Mike Holmgren, for that final roster spot.