When former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck retired from the NFL this year, he joined a new team at ESPN with three very familiar faces: his brother and fellow analyst Tim Hasselbeck, former teammate and current Countdown partner Trent Dilfer, and a reporter who chronicled much of his career in Seattle, Mike Sando.
– Mike Sando
Sando covered Hasselbeck and the Seahawks for both the Tacoma News Tribune (1998-2006) and ESPN as its NFC West blogger (2008-12).
Now a national NFL columnist for ESPN Insider, Sando is again reunited with Hasselbeck on-site at Monday Night Football games each week. Sando writes columns with MNF analyst Jon Gruden and Hasselbeck provides analysis on the Monday Night Countdown pregame show.
“The love Jon, Matt and others on the crew have for the game is something I share,” notes Sando, in his third season with MNF. “That really makes the experience different than it would be if people were simply clocking into work and trying to break away at the next opportunity. It’s great sharing in the passion for football.”
Leading into the Buffalo Bills-Seattle Seahawks game tonight (8:15 ET, ESPN), Sando spoke with Front Row about his experience covering the Seahawks during Matt Hasselbeck’s tenure as their quarterback.
What do you remember about the day (March 2, 2001) Matt was traded to the Seahawks?
It was dramatic because [then-Seahawks coach] Mike Holmgren was coming off the first losing season of his career and he was committing to a quarterback, so we all knew the clock was ticking. At the press conference, Holmgren put his hand on Matt’s shoulder and basically said, yeah, the futures of Mike’s own kids and grandkids were riding on this 25-year-old quarterback who had never started a game in the NFL. I remember Matt just rolling with it like it was no big deal. He’d grown up around the game and the situation did not seem too big for him.
– Mike Sando, recalling a prank Matt Hasselbeck executed
What’s your favorite memory covering Matt in Seattle?
Before Matt went to Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl in Seattle, things didn’t go to plan right away. There was unrest in the front office and rumors that Holmgren might leave. One day in the offseason, I get this text from Matt, which was unusual, and it said something like, “Holmgren out.” Being a reporter and a young reporter, I rushed into action — so eager to break what would have been a huge story.
My wife and I were preparing to take our oldest son to the zoo, and I remember how disappointed she was that the news cycle was derailing our plans yet again. I called an assistant coach on his cell phone and caught him at one of his kid’s games. This coach hadn’t heard anything. My head was really spinning. But before I could make another call, in came another text from Matt. “April Fools’,” it read. He’s a smart guy and a funny guy, and he got me good.
Matt was 3-2 on MNF for the Seahawks. What do you remember about those games?
Matt played one of his best games against Dallas late in the 2004 season when he passed for 414 yards and three scores. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice caught eight passes for 145 yards, the final 100-yard game of his career. The Seahawks were struggling on defense at the time. They actually blew a 39-29 lead in the final three minutes and lost. But Matt was hitting the prime years of his career and would help Seattle to the Super Bowl in the following season. There was no doubt about who was going to be the QB.