Matt Hasselbeck or Shaun Alexander? Shaun Alexander or Matt Hasselbeck?
Apparently, there is some question when it comes to the most-prolific passer and most-prodigious running back in Seahawks history. Each was a cornerstone player on the teams that won four NFC West championships in a row and advanced to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons during the mid-2000s.
But when it comes to which belongs on the franchise’s Mt. Rushmore, well, it’s Hasselbeck or Alexander. Not both.
When we asked the readers at Seahawks.com to vote for the fourth player that would be included with Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and Walter Jones, Hasselbeck was your choice – generating 28.6 percent of the votes. Alexander? He was third (20.5), behind Hasselbeck and Kenny Easley (20.9).
But when Mike Florio and friends at Pro Football Talk unveiled their Mt. Rushmore for the Seahawks late last week, it was Alexander who joined the most-decorated players in franchise history – Largent, Kennedy and Jones. Hasselbeck? He was third, behind Alexander and you – the 12th Man.
It was PFT’s exercise that will eventually include a Mt. Rushmore for each of the 32 NFL franchises that prompted us to ask for your opinion.
Maybe the Seahawks’ Mt. Rushmore should have five heads. Or six. But that’s not how it works. That’s up there with wondering how things would have been different if Bill Walsh had been hired as the franchise’s first coach in 1976, rather than Jack Patera. Or, what would have happened if Warren Moon had signed with the Seahawks, rather than the Houston Oilers, in 1983 when the eventual Hall of Fame quarterback was coming out the CFL.
But it is undeniable that Hasselbeck and Alexander left the Seahawks with better final performances than the three undeniable members of the team’s Mt. Rushmore.
Let’s revisit Alexander’s finale first. The only player in franchise history to be voted league MVP (in 2005, when he also led the NFL in rushing and scored a then-league record 28 touchdowns), Alexander’s last game was during the 2007 season. He had only 20 rushing yards in a divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers at snow-blanketed Lambeau Field, but Alexander did score a touchdown in the 42-20 loss. In his final regular-season game, a 44-41 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta, Alexander averaged 3.9 yards on eight carries, but also scored a TD.
Hasselbeck’s was head-and-shoulders better than that in what proved to be his final game – or games. His finale was a divisional playoff game against the Bears in Chicago after the 2010 season. The Seahawks lost that game 34-24, but Hasselbeck threw three fourth-quarter TD passes to make the game appear more competitive than it actually was.
It was his efforts the week before, in that wild wild-card victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in Seattle, which produced a passing performance for the ages. The defining moment on that Saturday night at CenturyLink Field was
Largent? Kennedy? Jones? The memories of their final games for the only franchise they ever played for are not as memorable – but just as vivid. In fact, it’s been one of the true conundrums in the team’s first 37 seasons: How is that the three best players in franchise history had such unsuccessful finales?
Largent’s last game also was played on a Saturday – Dec. 23, 1989, at the Kingdome. The 12th Man raised the roof during a stirring pregame tribute to the Hall of Fame wide receiver, only to have the team – and afternoon – go flat after kickoff. Final score: Washington Redskins 29, Seahawks 0. Largent’s stat line: Two catches for 41 yards; upping his NFL all-time record totals to 819 receptions for 13,089 yards.
Kennedy’s last game was played in near-monsoon conditions at Husky Stadium as wind and rain off Lake Washington swept across the field – again on a Saturday and again on Dec. 23, but this time in 2000. The Seahawks played their home games at the University of Washington that season because their new stadium was being built on the site where the Kingdome once stood. The most-decorated defense player in franchise history could only shake his head that night after the Buffalo Bills had rolled up 579 yards in rolling to a 42-23 victory. Last summer, Kennedy joined Largent in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his stat line that night: Three tackles, one assist.
Jones’ last game came in one he later admitted he should not have played in – a 34-9 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27) 2008. The knee situation that would require surgery and force Jones to retire after spending the rest of 2008 and all of 2009 on injured reserve rendered Jones significantly less than the best left tackle of his generation – and one of the best in NFL history to man the blind side, if not the best. Jones allowed only 23 sacks in 5,703 passing plays during a decade of dominance that will eventually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But on this day, he was beaten twice by the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware.
At least Ware was aware of what had just transpired after the Seahawks had run 68 offensive plays, offering, “Yeah, I beat him twice. But he beat me 66 times.”
It was difficult to get the best of Largent, Kennedy and Jones during their Mt. Rushmore-worthy stays with the Seahawks. With the notable exceptions being their final games.