SEATTLE—Matt Hasselbeck concluded the worst four-game statistical stretch of his career Sunday evening and looked ready to get away from anything football-related.
After those final four performances, his frustration was understandable.
"I'm probably going to need a breather for a little while," the Seattle quarterback said.
Hasselbeck's last play of the 2009 season was a summary of the entire year for his Seahawks, who concluded a 5-11 campaign with a 17-13 loss to Tennessee.
Facing a fourth-and-9 at the Titans' 27 with 1:19 left, Hasselbeck was pressured from the pocket by Tennessee's rush and forced to scramble. Hasselbeck tried to gently loft a pass toward an open Deon Butler to keep the drive going. But he didn't put enough on the pass, and it fell into the hands of Tennessee linebacker Gerald McRath.
Painful punctuation? Yep. It was Hasselbeck's 17th interception of the season - the most of his career - and his 10th in the last four games of the season, also the worst stretch of his career.
"It's sort of the story of our season: Opportunities were there, and we didn't take advantage of them," Hasselbeck said.
From the start, 2009 was a trying climb for Hasselbeck. Gone was his mentor - Mike Holmgren - and in stepped new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp with his own brand of offense, bringing different language and different ideas.
It all looked fine in the opener when Seattle shut out lowly St. Louis 28-0. But in Week 2, Hasselbeck broke his ribs in San Francisco and the spiral of struggles started.
Hasselbeck missed only two games with the broken ribs, yet Seattle's offense gave only brief glimpses of productivity all season. Only twice in 14 starts did Hasselbeck finish with a passer rating above 100. He topped 300 yards passing just twice.
Then came the final four games, when Seattle had nothing to play for and Hasselbeck was a combined 85 of 148 with 10 picks and just four touchdowns. Two of the interceptions came inside the opponents' 20. There was also the inexplicable fumble against Tampa Bay when Hasselbeck tried to lateral the ball to a running back 8 yards downfield.
"I think if you have a season like this, I think you got to really take a long, hard look in the mirror, each of us as players," Hasselbeck said. "That's one of the things I'm going to do. You know, just try to figure out what can I do to improve."
Finding the trigger to re-ignite Seattle's once-potent offense would be a good start in the offseason. The Seahawks finished the year averaging just 18.5 points per game, almost exactly the same as a year ago and nowhere near the 28 points they averaged during their Super Bowl run in 2005.
It'll all be part of an offseason filled with overhaul for the Seahawks, who will welcome a new general manager likely to make major changes to keep a third-straight losing season from happening in 2010.
"I think at times, our team has gotten maybe a little despondent, is the word, a 'here we go again' type of attitude that sometimes happens when you're struggling," Seattle coach Jim Mora said. "It's something we have to fight through and find a way to purge. When you have two seasons that are unsuccessful, like we have, back to back, that's common. But it can't be accepted, so we have to find a way to purge any of that from our culture. ... And the best way to purge it is to win games."