Friday, October 24, 2008

Important Game for Seneca Wallace

by: Michael Steffes

It is looking increasingly likely that Seneca Wallace will get another start this week in San Francisco. This will likely be a career defining game for Mr. Wallace. His performance this year has left his future in doubt, so let's take a closer look.

First off, the main value that Seneca holds as a QB is his time and experience in Mike Holmgren's system. Right now, three things are diminishing his value. First, despite his 5 years here, he still seems less than adequate to step in and get this team victories when Matt is down. Second, Mike Holmgren's system is likely to either disappear altogether next year or at least be modified based on the input of a new set of coaches. Third, with Matt getting up there in age, and now having back problems that could reoccur, management might feel the need to acquire a more capable backup to lessen the impact of Hasselbeck missing a game or two.

If we take a look at Seneca's performance as a backup, the most logical examination includes his four games in 2006. In that year, Seneca lost at KC in a game the Hawks had a chance to win, but their final drive stalled. He then beat the Raiders at home in a Monday Night game in which the defense shut out the Raiders. Then at home versus the Rams, Seneca started well, but the offense stalled. A 90 yard return from Nate saved the day. Finally, in SF, with a hundred family members and friends watching, Seneca threw three picks and the Hawks looked terrible. Granted, he did all this without the team's top RB, Shaun Alexander, as well. Seneca gets a chance to make up for the SF game this weekend, but if he falls short again, it will be fairly clear that he is not the type of backup who can a) get you a road win, and b) doesn't need exceptional performances from others to win a game. Do you want this type of QB to back up Matt going forward? It seems a risky move.

The next point made was that next year, Seneca is likely to find a new offensive system for him to learn. Not only that, but the new coaches may view him differently. Wallace has a tremendous amount of loyalty to Coach Holmgren. One of the reasons is that Holmgren was the only coach to view him as a QB. Other teams were interested in Wallace coming out of college, but only as a receiver. Holmgren took him as a QB and has largely resisted the idea of him doing more--and even when he finally gave in this year, it seemed destined not to happen. So when new coaches come in, the question will be whether they see Wallace as a capable backup, and if not, whether Seneca will finally be ready to accept that he is not a QB. Would he accept a new role? These are questions that are likely to define Seneca Wallace's career going forward. His performance this weekend may do a lot to either prove or disprove his usefulness as a signal caller.

Finally, the status of Matt Hasselbeck will fairly or unfairly have a definitive impact on Wallace. This is will be the case for several reasons. First, if Matt misses more games over the next few years, this team is not likely to want a repeat of the backup's performance of this year. Granted, the offense wasn't functioning great with Matt under center either, but the last two weeks have been abysmal. If this week follows suit, changes will most likely be coming at the position. Also, it is highly probable that the Hawks will be drafting a QB this year. Jim Mora doesn't appear to be John Gruden light, so it is doubtful he will be keeping a bushel of quarterbacks on hand. Charlie Frye is a free agent, but he is also younger, taller, and more experienced than Wallace. He also most likely comes cheap. The question then becomes who to keep? Tied into this decision is whether or not Wallace is willing to take on new roles, and how much he embraces that idea. Of course, he could make decisions like this a lot more difficult with a road victory this weekend.

It is a big game for Wallace this weekend, especially if he enjoys the life of a career backup. If he goes 19-31 with 3 picks like he did in 06, then Seneca may never get another shot as an NFL QB.

However, if he leads this team to victory and rejuvenates this stagnant offense, then maybe these things will be reconsidered. ~END~