Charlie Whitehurst is getting used to a new life in Seattle, a life with a little more pressure than he had as the number three quarterback in San Diego. There will be expectations now -- that he can push Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job, and even if he loses that competition, that he'll be ready to play at a moment's notice for the Seahawks this year. Until now, the thickly brown-bearded, long-haired Whitehurst has been known for one thing as a Charger: his resemblance to Jesus Christ, at least to how Christ looks in the photos and images we've become used to seeing.
Whitehurst has formed a nice little bond with Hasselbeck. Let me say that if you can't form a good bond with Hasselbeck, you are either a Martian or speak only Swahili. On one of his first nights in Seattle, Whitehurst got an invitation to dinner with the Hasselbeck family -- Matt, his wife and three kids. The kids figured out something was different at the meal because they didn't open it with grace, as they usually do.
"Daddy,'' 8-year-old Annabelle said, acting like she'd just figured out one of the great mysteries of life, "we didn't have to say grace because we ate with Jesus.''
"I'm thinking he looks more like Barry Gibb,'' Matt Hasselbeck said.
Now we got the interesting-looking-quarterback angle out of the way. Now the question is: Can he play?
Whitehurst threw zero passes in four years of regular-season and postseason play with the Chargers. But from watching his preseason play over the last four seasons, Seattle coach Pete Carroll thinks he can play, or he wouldn't have traded a 2011 third-round pick plus a swap of second-round picks this year for him.
"It's not true to say he hasn't played,'' Carroll told me. "He has played, just not in regular-season games. But he's played against guys with NFL talent fighting to make NFL rosters. We've seen him make all the throws. He's sinewy, tall, real big arm, can throw everything. We've been thrilled with what we've seen so far. Matt's our guy. He's our starter. But Charlie's going after him. He gives us what we want at every position on the field -- competition.''
Whitehurst takes the questions about his inexperience well. He says he felt he was good enough to be number two in San Diego, but the coaches picked Billy Volek, the more experienced player, to be the backup to Philip Rivers. And as for those -- like me -- who wonder if he really can play, Whitehurst knows people are going to be skeptical until he actually does it in a real game.
"I understand the question, and I respect that the question has to be asked,'' Whitehurst said. "I haven't thrown a pass in a game that counts. People are going to have questions about me. But I'm confident when I play that I can perform. I think I'm accurate, have a strong arm to make the downfield throws, and I think guys like to play with me. I've been in the league for four years, and I've played for some really smart offensive coaches in Norv Turner and Cam Cameron. I think I've got the knowledge to play the game.''
In workouts, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has been impressed with the downfield accuracy of Whitehurst, although the throws have come against air and no pass rush, and by the way he's picking up the offense quickly.
What also helps Whitehurst is his father. David Whitehurst, the former Packer quarterback, was his youth football coach and remains his biggest adviser and critic. "I've been prepared for the pressure of the game pretty well by my father,'' he said. "I had a really good year, year-and-a-half at Clemson, and I remember him saying, 'Be ready. It's not always going to be this good.' At the time, it's not something you really want to hear, but he's so right. I think he's prepared me for hard the job really can be.''
It's going to be an interesting quarterback competition. I expect Hasselbeck to win it, but I wouldn't be surprised if Whitehurst is impressive in training camp that Carroll finds a way to get him playing time this year.
Now for your e-mail:
FEAGLES AND THE HALL. From Stan Weisel, of Pomona, N.Y.: "Based on your MMQB, what are the chances of Jeff Feagles going to the HOF in five years? Although Ray Guy was always the favorite to be the first punter in the Hall, don't you think Feagles qualifies based on his ability, longevity and overall character?''
Well, character doesn't factor in; the Pro Football Hall of Fame does not include character or things a candidate does outside of football in the deliberations for election. I think it would be tough for Feagles, but I'm only one of 44 voters. What he has on his side is longevity and directional-punting ability, which are formidable qualities. It's possible, with athletes staying in the kind of the shape they do these days, that other punters of this era could last 20 years or so as well -- and they might have better overall numbers than Feagles' top-ranked punting-yardage mark and 110th-place all-time gross punting average. But it's up to us, also, to look beyond raw numbers as many members of our committee did this year when electing Floyd Little, who had a 3.9-yard career rushing average. So we'll see.
THOUGHTS ON KOLB'S CONTRACT. From Juan of Bogata, Colombia: "Hey, Peter. I would like to have your opinion on the new contract for Kevin Kolb as he becomes one of the highest-paid Eagles and he hasn't accomplished anything (yet). Plus, when can I have your schedule for training camps.''
How's life in Bogata, Juan? Excited to have an e-mail from Colombia. I don't think the Kolb contract was excessive, really. It's $12.26-million over two years for a guy who's going to be the starting quarterback of a playoff-caliber team. The Eagles could have waited 'til the end of the season, I suppose -- but then they risked having to franchise him for a single season in 2011 for significantly more money than they would be paying him in this two-year deal. It's a gamble, but not a very big one, in my opinion. Re my schedule, I won't have it worked on until after I return from the World Cup in late June. But I'll let you know in July what my camp trip will look like. I'm going to try to hit 21 teams this year.
KROENKE'S PURCHASE OF THE RAMS WORRIES HIM. From Matt Warren of Los Angeles: "Could you please give your thoughts on the Ram ownership situation? Should Stan Kroenke's ties to Los Angeles be a cause of concern for the fans in St. Louis?''
First, I think Kroenke's bid to buy the Rams will be approved by the league. And if the Rams fans buy tickets in the quantities they bought them a decade ago, I wouldn't worry about Kroenke moving the team. He's not going to move a team that's selling out its games. But like all franchises, if the fan support isn't there, Los Angeles is going to be an attractive alternative.
THE TONY PIKE FAN CLUB CHECKS IN. From Ashley of Cincinnati: "It seems to me one of the unluckiest guys of the draft this year was Tony Pike. I thought he was a guy who could have been challenging for a starting job by the end of the season had the right team drafted him. Now being on the same team as Jimmy Clausen, how much better would Pike have to look to move ahead on the depth chart?''
That was one of my first thoughts after the draft, Ashley. I found it odd that they would draft two quarterbacks of promise, but when you think of what they had -- basically, Matt Moore is the only quarterback with any experience -- it seems that Clausen and Pike could be the second and third quarterbacks on the depth chart. Because the Panthers had Clausen rated so high on their overall board, I'd be very surprised if Pike could move ahead of him on the depth chart this summer.
THE JETS ARE PRETTY GOOD. From Kevin Bedard of Westford, Mass.: "Two things ... 1. Laurence Maroney -- I completely agree. I don't like his running style. He's good for a burst of eight or a two-yard loss while he dances behind the line looking for a hole. Nothing in between. I was never on board with the release of Corey Dillon in favor of Maroney. 2. After the free agent pick ups and the draft selections by the Jets, I have to say I am scared! They went to the AFC Championship Game last year and I think they're going to be a much better team this year. I think their weakest link now is [Mark] Sanchez, who is not that weak. They have improved their already very good running game with LT, their receiver corps, their secondary. And that doesn't include their draft picks. Not sure what Bill Belichick has up his sleeve to combat them. Your thoughts on the AFC East this year?''
I'm trying to sort all of that out right now. The Jets have gotten close to the Patriots, and perhaps surpassed them, and the Patriots have tinkered with the roster while the Jets have added the most name players of any team in football to the roster. I think the Patriots haven't addressed two significant needs on their roster enough -- running back and wide receiver. But Belichick's the smartest guy in the league, and I don't say that flippantly or derisively; I mean it.
Belichick obviously thinks the aging Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are enough of a complement to Maroney. I just don't like Maroney. I just thought that with all the draft currency Belichick had, that he would have improved his running game by now. The Patriots were 12th in the NFL in running the football last year, which is pretty good, but those guys are another year older, along with Kevin Faulk, and it'll be interesting to see if the Pats can somehow fashion a playoff running game out of the bodies they have.
ADDICTED TO FAVRE. From Greg of Toronto: "LOL. I love when you say 'I'm finished predicting what Favre will do' and then proceed to write 'I'd bet he plays next year.' That had me laughing. With respect to Favre, you are like a crack addict or gambling addict. Even when you think you've stopped you're still abusing and using. You need help!''
I have but one comment: Admit me to Favre rehab.
I DIDN'T SAY I WAS GOOD AT FANTASY FOOTBALL. I JUST SAID I WOULD HELP IN MY OWN MISGUIDED WAY. From Cory Payne of Austin, Texas: "Wait a sec, you are enticing people to come to support the Matt Light Foundation and the Greater Boston Food Bank with your help in a fantasy draft? By your own admission you have terrible luck predicting rotisserie baseball, Favre's future, the Kentucky Derby, but now we get your expertise in fantasy football? Scary thought. Can you just maybe slide the lucky winner an extra dessert or maybe a Starbuck's gift card? I do have to give you a little respect for Chris Johnson his rookie year. I took him based on your advice and came in second by a hair, but after that, well, let's just say I love your column and overall insight.''
I did, though, have a great tip for people in Steve Spurrier's first year in Washington. I told them to skip Favre and Manning high in the draft and take Danny Wuerffel in the middle rounds. That turned out to be gold, didn't it?