At age 36, perhaps Matt Hasselbeck shouldn't be doing the things he has been doing.
But four games into his 13th NFL season, Hasselbeck has been putting up his best numbers since, well, ever.
It's only a four-game sample, but Hasselbeck has himself in elite company among the NFL's top passers, amazingly enough with no off-season and a late training camp start with his new Titans teammates.
Hasselbeck has completed thus far 88 of 132 passes for 1,152 yards with eight touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Keeping that pace for an entire season would give Hasselbeck his first 4,000-yard passing season, a career-high in touchdown passes and a career best in completion percentage. Not to mention is 104.7 passer rating, if maintained, would also be a career best.
That type of performance would be impressive for any player so late in his career. But when you consider that Hasselbeck over the past three seasons has thrown 34 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions with his highest passer rating being 75.1, it seems he has found the Fountain of Youth in Tennessee.
“You see that water over there. That's the Fountain of Youth over there,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer joked, speaking of the lake that surrounds the Titans practice facility on three sides. “He's drank a little water from it, and we have some young quarterbacks, and they're trying to keep him very, very young.”
Hasselbeck joked that Palmer, who is in his 60s, had probably been swimming in it, but when asked seriously why he has been so resurgent so late in his career, Hasselbeck said the Titans were simply the right situation for him.
“I just think it's a good fit for me here. There's a lot of pieces in place here,” Hasselbeck said. “I think they had a pretty good team and they were looking to fill a spot at the quarterback position, somebody who could just do their job, nothing special and let everybody else around you make plays. And we've got some playmakers here.”
Nate Washington, who is having a career year himself with 23 catches in four games, has become one of those playmakers, likes what Hasselbeck is bringing to the playing field and in the locker room.
“Certain guys react different at different times,” Washington said. “Matt's
done a good job managing our offense. He's fallen into a comfort level, that he understands with us. He's communicating with us every play. Surprising? No, but I'm definitely thankful that he's here with us having a career year.”
In talking about the quarterback position, it is hard to overstate how much of an upgrade Hasselbeck has been for the Titans. The Titans are averaging their most yards passing per game since 1991, when they were quarterbacked by Hall of Famer Warren Moon and were known as the run-and-shoot Houston Oilers.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team faces Hasselback on Sunday, has been impressed with the veteran QB's rejuvenation.
“He is playing great. He is making all the necessary throws. He is keeping negative offensive plays to an absolute minimum. He has been an awesome shot in the arm for them. I’m sure they will attest to that,” Tomlin said.
Not only that, but the stench of the Young era has been cleared out and Hasselbeck, who was voted a team captain, has brought a leadership quality to the team. You can bet that this quarterback won't miss two meetings with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the docket this week.
“(Leadership) is one of the big reasons or part of the reason we brought him in, other than the quarterback need, the leadership that we thought he would bring just because of the type of player he is, the success he has had in the league,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He brings instant credibility and when he came in here he took over from day one with the way he set the tempo and the things he did.”
Hasselbeck said he doesn't get caught up in a four-game span of success, and he continues to work with his receivers to develop a chemistry. On Thursday, he was huddled off to the side discussing football with Washington, Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams.
“Even had we had every chance starting March 3 during the off-season, and even if those guys had moved in with me, we would still be having things to talk about and to work on,” Hasselbeck said. “It's hard for us because we're trying to cram so much into a short amount of time, and at the same time, just take care of everybody's legs and that type of thing. It's a work in progress and my hope is that we can just win some games while we're growing, while we're learning and play our best football at the end of the year.”
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