HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
When we drafted Jake (Locker) last year, we knew one day he'd take this thing over, and today is that day. We want to officially announce that Jake will be our starting quarterback for the 2012 season, and we hope for many more years after that. I know that we've talked a lot about this over the last three or four months. For me, the process of how it went began last year when we drafted Jake in the first round in April, when we had the lockout going on. We brought Matt (Hasselbeck) in when the lockout ended and when camp started. Matt was exactly what we needed here. We needed his leadership. We needed his experience, and he is a big reason as to why we were 9 and 7 last year, and we mention that quite often. When Jake did get a chance to play last year, he was ready to go. He played in three games; he played very well; he got in situations. We were surprised at how well he did for not playing, at how well he moved the team; he brought excitement and energy. So when the season did end, we thought that we had something special, like we did when we drafted him. That's why we told y'all right from the beginning that we thought we were going to have a competition here, because of what Jake showed he was capable during the season, of how much he progressed. That's kind of how we looked at it. We went into April, May, June, July, did our OTAs, and again, he just continued to get better and better at a lot of things, at handling the team; all of the things that we've talked about that we were looking at and analyzing and watching him and how he improved. When he went into camp, it was the same thing; he just got better. He had some bad days, but he came back quickly from them. When things didn't go his way, he handled them very well, which was good to watch. Matt was having a nice solid camp and games. Every time Jake has been in the game he has scored points; he moves the team. In the Seattle game, during the short time he was in, he went down and got a field goal. The game last week, we know he made some mistakes in the game. Again, he didn't let them get him down; he came back, in the same game, made some good decisions on very similar situations that ended up being a 21-yard run that set up a touchdown. Another play was where he ran to secure a field goal. When he left the field, we were up 20-7. So, we take all of that into account, and we just feel his time is now; he has proven that to us. We think he has had a very good camp; by no means has this job been given to him, he's earned it. We're excited for him. We talked to both guys yesterday after practice. I wanted to talk to them at night, not during the day; I wanted to give them time to take it all in and digest it and where our thinking was and just talk to them like I'm talking to all of you, very honest, very up front, tell them how it was. We think we've got two quarterbacks, and we're going to need two quarterbacks this year, we feel, to be successful, but we just felt going forward that this was the best thing for the team. In the big picture of things, for the whole season, this is probably what's best for this team if we want to go into this division and do things we're talking about. So, that was our decision and we're excited for it. I think Matt is going to be obviously disappointed, which we talked about. I knew one of them was going to be disappointed, which you'd expected them to be, but he's going to be a pro, as he is, and I know he's going to be a great help to Jake. The reason Jake's in the position, I told him (Matt), is because he helped him to get to where he's at in his progress, as I should say. They have a great, unique relationship for guys who have competed to play. Obviously, Matt still wants to play; he's going to compete every day like he's the guy, and if we need him he'll be ready to play. I know he'll be the biggest rooter for the guy who's starting, and he'll help us, which will be a good situation for us and for me as a head coach to have someone like Matt here. So, we thought this was the time. Like I have mentioned to you before about this game, I thought he needed to have this game and play 40 or 50 snaps or whatever it may be. He has three full weeks before we play; I thought that was fairest to the team, to him, to everyone, to move on and to move forward and to start locking into what we want to accomplish. We wanted everything to play out the way that it did and the timing was what we thought was right, what I thought was right, so we made the move last night.
(on if he was looking for reasons to choose Jake Locker as the starting quarterback)
No. I would not say that. I wouldn't say that at all. Obviously, we have a young player. We have to see Jake Locker progress. He can't go out and play games for me other than the two games he played. I was looking to see how Matt Hasselbeck played. If Hasselbeck was way ahead of [Jake] like last year, then he would be starting but Matt is not. We don't see it that way. We see it as a situation where Jake is just going to keep getting better and better. It's a long season. A lot is going to happen. You have to take into account everything. I don't think I could have gone wrong in the end with who I went with probably. I think this is the best thing to do.
(on if the quarterback competition was close or was Jake Locker much better)
I think it's just a combination things and I am not going to sit here and go through all the little things that we thought through. The bottom line is we think this is the best thing for the team going forward for the full season. People always talk about what about for this game or that game. It's not a one-game season. It's not a two-game season. It's not a four-game season. People seem concerned about the first four weeks. Well, you have to worry about the whole season. What is the best thing to do going forward? Who is the best guy right now to help us through the season and do what we need to do? And what we need to do is win. And, we feel the best thing for this team to do now is start Jake Locker.
(on how much he considered letting the quarterback competition play out longer)
It didn't make any sense to me to do that. What was going to come out of it? We could manufacture a good game for anybody if we wanted to. Like that game last week, Jake Locker could have came out and threw a three-step and we be real smart. He could have done 15-for-16 and everybody say, 'Man, he's ready to go.' But to me, I learn more about the kid when he failed. I hope he doesn't. I hope that he is successful, but when he struggled some, I was more interested to see how he handled that on the sidelines. How he handled talking to receivers and took the coaching. I would rather see that now then I would in game one or game two how he is going to deal with things not going his way. Because that is what we would all be saying right now. 'Well, that was preseason. He was 10-for-12. They weren't game playing him.' You want to do well all the time. There is no doubt about it, but you want to see the other side unfortunately, because in this league, you are going to see the other side. It doesn't matter who you are. You need to play one guy. Someone needed 40 snaps this game. I don't think that would be fair to either one and I don't think my mind was going to change on what happened. I wasn't looking to justify the position on how someone played the game on Thursday night.
(on an example of Jake Locker handling adversity well)
I thought he handled it last year well. I saw him commit to very tough situations when we were losing those games against the Saints and the Falcons and how he was changing plays, changing protections, handling what was going on. Maybe a couple of times he should have done this, but he didn't. He came out and regrouped in a new series when he came on the sidelines. I'm just standing here saying that's what encouraged me about him last year in real live games, since then it's been at practice. He may have a bad day throwing and reads the stats. He was 3-for-20. Well, the next four days, he came back and had his best four days. You have to look at small windows like that. It's not like going through a regular season and the grind of being a quarterback. He won't experience that until he goes through it. We have to assume by what we have seen that he is the kind of guy that can handle those things very well.
(on how Jake Locker reacted on the decision being made now versus later)
I hope well. I hope it's well for everybody. I think we did it because it was the right time to do it for everybody-for them, for us. I think we are to a point where not much more is going to happen. So, you hope that Jake Locker can settle in now after a couple days, get passed talking to the media and everybody else that is going to weigh in, and he concentrate on being a great football player for this football team. So could the rest of the team. I don't think it was necessarily a distraction, because the way they handled it made it not a distraction. They got reps with everybody. It's not like they are far behind. We worked these guys with the receivers and the first line a ton. Both of them have, so I don't know that the reps have been much different to this point. Now, I think they need to be different. I think this game needs to be different. Maybe I should have left Locker in longer. Maybe I should have given him the two-minute drive. But Locker got it in the first game, so I wanted it to be Hasselbeck in the second game, because I think he can take us down the field and score. So that's how I feel about how he played. Hopefully, it'll be a common thing and now we can just go out and play football this weekend and not worry about what it all means. The bottom line is winning football games and being productive and watching them compete. I am looking forward to watching them just go play.
(on whether there is a chance that Matt Hasselbeck will regain the starting quarterback position)
Well I'd say that he'll get to play, just like last year, if something happens health wise, which I'm hoping doesn't happen. I'm hoping he doesn't get to play; I'm hoping he's a great back up, and that Matt's (Hasselbeck) here for the next two or three years and doesn't have to play much at all other than a preseason game here and there. That's the hope. If it doesn't go that way for a game or two, I mean Jake likes to run; there may be times that he will take it, like quarterbacks we've had in the past, and that he may miss a game over something like that. We hope we don't, but we feel like we've got a guy who is going to step in the heat of the battle and win a football game for you. So we're very fortunate to have Matt here, not only because of what a player he is but also in how he's handling all of this and how helpful he's going to be to the quarterbacks.
(on health being the only way Locker would lose the starting position)
When you name a quarterback you are not going to start wondering about him doing bad or how you are going to replace him already. It's his job and hopefully it's his for years to come.
(on how he plans to get Locker through the growing pains)
I think you have to be smart on how you the manage games; we have to help him manage games. He is good at a lot of things. We have to focus on those and add to it as he goes. Which I think we will do and other teams do the same thing. It is not something that has never been done, obviously there were a couple of quarterbacks that came in last year and played right away and had success and it is happening more and more. I think it is up to the staff as much as the player to do a good job of not overwhelming him with things and start adding as we go. We will be able to do that because there are a lot of things he can do, there are a lot of phases of the game he can affect: the run game obviously, he can affect that a lot of different ways. There are things he can do with him that we have not shown in the preseason, we have not helped him play his style of game where people can really see what he can do in a game. He has not been in a game where one has been game planned for him yet. So I think that will be interesting to watch as we begin the regular season.
(on how practice reps are going to be divided now)
I think it depends on the period, 75-25 percent, 70-30 percent. I think it just matters what period we are in and how many reps he needs. Again it is not drastically different than camp was because camp we ran a lot more reps so really he got a ton of snaps. If we were in a 16- play period he got eight plays each. If it's a 12- play period he still (now) gets eight. There was no down side for me to give these guys a few games to see where this thing was at and to see if something would change the direction of where they both were heading or how they were both playing. That is why this was the key time to do it because we are home; it will be game like because it will be our crowd, just like Seattle was. We will be at home which will be nice for the next few weeks and I just thought it would be a good time to go ahead and get this going.
(on how much Locker's mobility plays in the decision and how does it affect the defense)
It brings a totally different element to the game, which we have had before with Vince Young, Steve McNair and Warren Moon when I played. He is a quarterback that can run. He is not a running quarterback to me, he obviously has the talent and ability to run the ball, get out the pocket and really put the fear in the defense. That is a nice thing to have. Does that mean we have to move the pocket and do all these things because he is not capable of sitting in the pocket? No we think he is great in the pocket and we are excited about that. The fact that he can do all these other things creates issues for teams to have to deal with him. He is young and has things to learn but it's nice to know that a guy that has a lot to learn can handle failure a little bit. He handled it in college, when the team wasn't doing well, he battled through it and played well. I think he is showing that, that was a characteristic that we liked about him when we drafted him. We feel he is a guy that we can do things wit, things that we were able to do with quarterbacks in the past. It will be interesting for people to see what we are going to do. You can see on film that we are not going to change our offense. We are not going drastically different from what Chris (Palmer) has done in games but it just allows you to do other things that he brings. If Matt (Hasselbeck) was the guy you would do things that Jake wouldn't do. It just brings another element that we will explore.
(on Tommie Campbell being the third cornerback)
Yes right now the other guys are mixing in but the first two games we rolled him in there first to get some experience. Obviously he had a tough play in the first game, the ball he wished he broke up but he played pretty solid last week. This week we will be challenged a lot differently than we have been so I think this will be the true test for the secondary this week and next week but we will see, especially when that season starts. We hope we get a lot of balls to the back end so we can see Ryan Mouton, Coty Sensabaugh and that group play, to see Robert Johnson play in the back end where he has to cover things up. Last week was more of a running game and play action so it will be fun to see how those guys handle a different style of offense.
(on set slots for the cornerback position)
No I think it's the same way, I think he has definitely stepped up to this point. They are getting confidence and this game will mean a lot for a lot of guys. Like I said with the quarterback you still have positions that have guys battling and will make tough decision for us in about 10 days.
(on the wide receiver depth chart)
(Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams) are three. If you went out there with three receivers on the first snap—I think we did it last week—we started three wides, and those three were the guys. Yeah, that's how we see it. The tight ends are what they were last year, except for adding Taylor (Thompson). He's learning as he goes, but he's way ahead of where anyone thought he'd be when we drafted him. Obviously, he's going to be part of our offense in different ways, and he's definitely going to be able to make a difference for us. So we're happy with that, also. Obviously, the backs—in the backfield I think we've got some interesting guys there that can make plays also that are playmakers that have very good speed, depending on how that position sorts out. Then (you have Lavelle) Hawkins, and Marc (Mariani) has had a good camp, and all of a sudden he adds into it. Then Kenny (Britt) at some point. We feel we have a lot of things that this offense can do, and it's just a matter of us executing and being patient with what we have.
(on if the first-team defense will play the same length of time as the first-team offense)
Yeah. Again, you're going to see them mixing and getting rotations down, but for the most part, you'd like to see your main guys—your first team and a half, I should say, a guy or two might change—but you'd like to see them play into the third quarter. You'd like to see the defense go out for one series and get a three-and-out and be done, and the offense to get a drive together and go through the drill of being out there in third quarter.
(on if Matt Hasselbeck will play at all on Thursday night)
Matt (Hasselbeck) will want to play. Matt will play, it's just a matter of how much depending on when Jake (Locker) comes out in the third quarter. But Matt will probably definitely finish the third and go into the fourth. The Saint game we will kind of see after we get through this one how much he's going to play in that one.
(on Matt Hasselbeck's reaction to the starting quarterback announcement)
Well I think he handled it well. Like I said, that's a personal conversation. When I kept talking about this competition and that fact that someone was going to be disappointed, that conversation was the one I was least looking forward to all camp. It was probably one of the hardest conversations I've had with a player since I've been the head coach with a guy because of how much I respect him as a player. He's come in here and done so much for me as a head coach—a new head coach. He really helped me get my job done last year. That meant a lot to me, and I know to this team. When you make decisions about playing, you have to just lock into what is best for the team in a different way. So I think that's what made it hard for me. I wasn't putting it off. It made it tougher telling him that because I know how much the game means to him and what a competitor he is. I knew he was going to handle it the way he did, with class like he does everything he does. Was he upset? Yes. Does he want to start? Yes. Does he still want to play? Definitely, yes. I think he's been nothing but great for Jake (Locker) going through this season.
(on if the difficulty of the first month of the schedule affected his decision at quarterback)
Not really. If I worry about one game, we have 15 more to play. I have to do what I think is best. It wasn't like I can say, 'OK, I'll play this guy for three games, and then I'll put the other guy in.' That doesn't work, and that'd be a horrible situation for our team to do something like that. I thought about what was going on, but the bottom line was I have to think about all 16, what's the best in the long run, how this thing could play out. You think about the scenarios, but the bottom line is who's going to help you win. We thought it would be Jake (Locker).
(on if Kendall Wright is his No. 2 receiver right now)
Well it depends. It will probably depend on what positions we want to play him. Kenny (Britt) is going to factor into that at some point. If he's on the field, then he's playing somewhere else. Until we know that, our bottom-line situation when the season starts, I don't know if that's going to be the way it is or not.
(on if he's heard from the league regarding a decision on Kenny Britt)
No, nothing at all.