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Why on earth did the Seahawks sign Paxton Lynch?

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Late yesterday reports emerged that the Seattle Seahawks had signed former Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch to a future contract, filling the void behind Russell Wilson that had been created when Alex McGough signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this week. With 2018 backup quarterback Brett Hundley also set to be an unrestricted free agent, the Hawks were obviously in the market for a backup, and while there will certainly be at least another arm or two added between now and training camp, this at least answers part of the question.

However, adding Lynch brings up another important question, specifically, why would they bring him in? What value does he add? Does he have any kind of potential whatsoever? To take a tiny glance into answering this, I turned to the trusty film of NFL Gamepass to see what they could potentially have seen in his game. I instantly dove right in to his most recent NFL regular season tape, his Week 17 start in 2017 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

What did I find when I watched the film?

Well, as one would expect of a quarterback drafted in the first round who was cut prior to his third year in the league - who was cut in spite of a fully guaranteed base salary of $1,911,482 for the 2018 season - Lynch did not look good. It didn’t even require watching a handful of dropbacks before his lumbering, uncoordinated drop in the pocket that Broncos fans have complained of was apparent. It jumped off the tape on the very first pass attempt.

That attempt was a poorly placed sideline route that was incomplete, and from watching the tape it almost made me wonder if Lynch had received any kind of quarterback coaching during his two seasons with Denver. In fact, I stopped watching tape after the second drive to go find out who had been the Broncos quarterbacks coach for 2016 and 2017 because I was so put off by what I was watching.

On a brief side trip from my review of Lynch’s tape against the Chiefs, it turns out he had two separate quarterbacks coaches in 2016 and 2017. In 2016 it was Greg Knapp and in 2017 it was Bill Musgrave. Some Seattle fans will recognize Knapp’s name as the offensive coordinator during the forgotten 2009 Jim Mora season, while Musgrave’s claim to fame may be his development of Christian Ponder in Minnesota.

Getting back to the film review, I’m not going to dwell on the point because the tape on Lynch can be described with just a single word, ugly. His mechanics come across as uncoordinated and labored, while his pocket presence is lacking and his footwork atrocious.

If that’s the case why did they bring him in? I can’t know the true answer to that, but what I can answer is that I was extremely impressed with one aspect of his game - slants and using the middle of the field. Just to put this into pictures for fans, here is a copy of Lynch’s passing chart from the 2017 season finale against the Chiefs.

Specifically, focus on all those green dots that litter the middle of the field and the short left. A lot of them are the exact type of throws that many have been critical of Wilson for not throwing. They jump off the tape, as even in spite of his atrocious mechanics, his complete lack of coordination and his seeming lack of pocket presence he repeatedly delivered pass after pass after pass on time and on target to the short middle and short left.

Take another glance at that passing chart and find the incompletion to the short middle or the short left. You can’t. They don’t exist. He was 13 of 13 to passes to the short left and short middle, and only 8 of 18 to the rest of the field. (Author’s note: Nobody tell Brian Schottenheimer about this because multiple of those 13 completions to the short left and short middle were 6 yard curl routes, and the 6 yard curl route to the short left is the pick-6 play.)

Here’s a glimpse at some of these passes, starting with some ugly mechanics on a beautiful slant to the left.

Here’s a beautifully delivered pass on a rub concept.

Here he somehow managed to squeeze this ball in to someone named Jeff Heuerman on a quick out route.

Here’s another threading of the needle on a slant to the left side of the field.

Here he successfully hits the receiver that is between the hashmarks on a crossing route for a one yard gain.

On this one he drops a pass perfectly over the top of the linebackers as he’s rolling to his right.

Let me just say that watching a quarterback complete passes to receivers in stride over the middle of the field gets me excited. He may not be very good at most things, but this middle of the field and slant stuff is at least a place to start.

And this is something I love to see from a quarterback, as he’s passed up the wide open five yard curl on the left side of the screen for the slot receiver with inside position on a post route.

Now, I’m not trying to say in any way shape or form that Lynch has any shot at unseating Wilson as the starter. He most certainly does not, and if he’s the starter in 2019 then there’s a good chance Seattle fans aren’t talking about a loss in the Wild Card round of the playoffs because there won’t be any playoffs.

I’m not even trying to hint that he is a lock to make the roster in 2019, as there’s the distinct possibility that he does not. Especially given the fact that he was out of football for 2018 combined with the fact that he still has practice squad eligibility left since he only has two accrued seasons. However, what I will say is that if he can learn some actual quarterbacking fundamentals and pocket mechanics, it could improve his game, and quarterback mechanics is an area where we saw a huge step forward from Russell Wilson in 2018.

Obviously it will require more than just fixing mechanics to bring Lynch’s game to the NFL level, but Paxton is still young. He doesn’t turn 25 for another three and a half weeks. Thus, while he has put together some ugly tape in his still young career, he’s still young enough to be in a position where the book on his development may not yet be finished.