Funny sports writing: Bill Barnwell on Charlie Whitehurst

This piece by Bill Barnwell at Grantland, describing the charmed career of backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, amuses me:

Just for a moment, let’s go back and run through Whitehurst’s career:

• Whitehurst grows to 6-foot-5.

• He spends four years at Clemson, during which he fails to complete 60 percent of his passes (ending at 59.7 percent) and throws nearly as many interceptions (46) as touchdowns (49). The Tigers go 30-19 during his time in school.

• The Chargers draft Whitehurst in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft.

• Whitehurst spends four years as the third-string quarterback in San Diego behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. He does not attempt a regular-season pass. His only experience comes during the 2006-09 preseasons, during which Whitehurst goes 104-of-197 (52.8 percent) for 1,031 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

• Seattle’s new brain trust of Pete Carroll and John Schneider targets Whitehurst in a trade, getting their man by sending San Diego a future third-round pick and swapping Seattle’s second-round pick (40th) for San Diego’s (60th) in the 2010 draft. They also immediately give Whitehurst a two-year, $8 million contract extension.

• Whitehurst enters into a quarterback competition with 35-year-old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck.

• Whitehurst loses that quarterback competition.

• Whitehurst plays in nine regular-season games over two seasons with Seattle, starting four, most notably the division-clinching win over St. Louis in the fail-in game on Sunday Night Football in Week 17 of the 2010 season. He is benched in his last start after seven pass attempts for an already-injured Tarvaris Jackson. Over the two-year span, Whitehurst goes 84-of-155 (54.2 percent) for 805 yards (a terrifying 5.2 yards per attempt) while throwing three touchdowns and four picks.

• Returning to unrestricted free agency, Whitehurst signs a two-year, $3.05 million deal with the Chargers, including a $1 million signing bonus.

• Now 30 years old, Whitehurst spends 2012 and 2013 as the backup to Philip Rivers without throwing a regular-season pass. He takes 12 snaps during his stint with the Chargers, producing six handoffs and six kneel-downs for a total of minus-5 yards.

• Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt takes over as Tennessee’s head coach and brings Whitehurst along for the ride, giving the now 32-year-old a two-year, $4.3 million deal with $2 million guaranteed.

There are virtually no reasons to think that Whitehurst has any aptitude as an NFL quarterback. He wasn’t especially good in college. He didn’t impress anybody against third-stringers in the preseason. He was downright awful during the brief time he had as a starter, and that came and went nearly three years ago. The most obvious reason Whitehurst has continued to be employed as an NFL quarterback is that he was previously employed as an NFL quarterback.

For that résumé, Whitehurst has earned in excess of $15 million during his time in the NFL, with more than $1 million to come in 2015. Whitehurst is the definition of a replacement-level quarterback; in a totally free market, I suspect you could have offered him $35,000 a year (with serious playing-time incentives) to do the same job and he would have happily taken it.

This may sound like I’m jealous of Whitehurst or bitter about his success. I’m only jealous of his hair. In general, I’m wildly happy for Whitehurst, who is apparently an incredible hustler and a really nice guy, because you don’t get cushy backup quarterback jobs if you’re a dick. Whitehurst has lived in some of America’s most beautiful cities and collected millions of dollars almost exclusively to practice and serve as a de facto coach. God bless Charlie Whitehurst.

More Barnwell on Whitehurst here.

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