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Peter King
March 05, 2001
Backup Plan Packers sub quarterback Matt Hasselbeck could be the x factor at the top of the draft
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March 05, 2001

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Backup Plan
Packers sub quarterback Matt Hasselbeck could be the x factor at the top of the draft

Heard the one about Packers backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's being the key to how the top of the 2001 draft shakes out? Here's how:

San Diego, which has the first pick, will probably take Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, who continued to impress the club's coaches and staff last weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. It appears that the only way the Chargers will pass on Vick is if someone blows them away with an offer of two or three very high draft choices. The one team with that ammunition is Seattle, which owns the seventh and 10th picks in the April 21 draft. The Sea-hawks' coach is Mike Holmgren, who was the Green Bay coach when the Packers took a sixth-round flier on Hasselbeck in 1998. Holmgren is smitten with Hasselbeck, and Seattle is in dire need of a quarterback.

Holmgren, however, is investigating other possibilities as well. He has told the Rams not to trade backup Trent Green without talking to him and will take a hard look at Elvis Grbac if the Chiefs release him in a cost-cutting move this week. But a source with knowledge of the way the Sea-hawks are leaning says Holmgren is most interested in Hasselbeck because he knows Holmgren's system and has shown Brett Favre-like coolness under pressure, albeit in limited preseason and regular-season trials. "Pretty incredible," Hasselbeck said last Saturday of the speculation. "Especially considering that a couple of years ago the Packers would have traded me for a roll of athletic tape."

With seven weeks left before the draft, it is a time of grand posturing—as Green Bay and Seattle showed at the combine. Holmgren thinks Hasselbeck's market value should be what quarterback Mark Brunell's was in 1995. Brunell, 24 and entering his third year as a Green Bay backup after being a fifth-round pick, had thrown 27 pro passes when the Packers traded him to the Jaguars for third-and fifth-round choices. Hasselbeck, 25, is entering his fourth year, and he's thrown 29 NFL passes.

However, Packers coach Mike Sherman, who is adding the general manager's title to his name with the pending retirement of Ron Wolf, told Holmgren he's had a feeler of a first-round choice for Hasselbeck. (A Green Bay source says it's from Miami, which holds the 26th selection.) Holmgren told Sherman, who worked under him for three seasons in Green Bay and Seattle, that he should take it because that's more than Hasselbeck's worth. "What's the difference between Matt now and Mark Brunell when we traded him?" Holmgren asked Sherman.

"Different times," said Sherman, meaning more teams are shopping for quarterbacks.

"Different times?" Holmgren said. "They're exactly the same, and Brunell was worth a three and a five. How can Hasselbeck be worth more?"

Holmgren says it's highly unlikely he will enter the draft without two first-round picks, but he still could deal the seventh or 10th selection for two or three high picks, and ship one of those to Green Bay. Then there's Vick. Holmgren wasn't blowing smoke when he left a Friday-night meeting with the quarterback saying he was impressed by the cold confidence of a player he thinks will be a great pro.

A prediction: Because Seattle is 15-17 in Holmgren's two checkered seasons as coach and he has to get off to a fast start this year, Holmgren will not pursue Vick and will find a way to pay the piper for Hasselbeck. That's because Hasselbeck will come cheaper in total compensation and/or base salary than will Vick, Green or Grbac and, most important, as Hasselbeck said, "If there were a game in Seattle tomorrow, I'd be ready to play."

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