As an admitted NFL Draft junkie, I recall debating the choice of former Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst with a colleague when the San Diego Chargers tabbed him in the third round of the 2006 Draft.
A first-day selection was too high for Whitehurst, whose up-and-down career with the Tigers, was equally compelling and frustrating, my friend said.
I felt that Whitehurst, who demonstrated an accurate and strong arm at Clemson, could have a long, lucrative career as an NFL backup (a la Gary Kubiak), and if a starting job opened up, Whitehurst could get a shot and be a solid starter in the right system.
Last week’s trade of Whitehurst to the Seattle Seahawks has proven my point. The Seahawks and new head coach Pete Carroll see the same things in their new quarterback that I did.
Whitehurst toiled under three different offensive coordinators at Clemson, taking steps backward after a sensational sophomore season and then regaining his form somewhat under then offensive coordinator Rob Spence as a senior. Still questions of his decision-making loomed and he dropped to the third round despite a first-round arm.
He fell into the right situation in San Diego, sitting behind Drew Brees at first and then Philip Rivers, whose shadow Whitehurst is finally free of after years competing against him in the ACC and then working as Rivers’ understudy.
Seattle starter Matt Hasselback and his balky back are fossilizing before our eyes at 34, and Whitehurst will have a chance to become the starter in Seattle. The Seahawks invested millions of dollars on the gamble that he will be.
Enter Whitehurst, the Clemson product and son of former Furman star quarterback David Whitehurst. The elder Whitehurst played eight NFL seasons after being drafted in the eighth round by the Green Bay Packers in 1977.
Charlie Whitehurst has that pedigree and now six seasons of tutelage under Chargers’ head coach Norv Turner. Regardless of Turner’s mixed success as an NFL head coach, there is no denying that quarterbacks simply get better under his watch (see, Alex Smith and Rivers).
Now, Whitehurst has the chance to prove his mettle as a second-generation quarterback and as another Turner QB alum, a class that also includes Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.
The Seahawks may have just found their QB of the future — and present.