If the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs with Geno Smith at the helm, they will be in rare company. In his tenth season as an NFL quarterback, he is in a position to lead his team to the postseason for the first time in his career. This is clearly a pretty remarkable performance regardless of the outcome, but a playoff berth would be at least somewhat historic. Check out the lists below.
Here is the Divisional Round list. The only guy who hadn't started at least one playoff game? Steve Bono. Had to disregard draft status, as he was the only guy to not be a 1st or 2nd round pick. Thanks for the data, @Stathead— Stan "the Soy Boy" Taylor ️⚧️ (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 31, 2022
Many of the QB greats have played well into their 30s (and in some cases, beyond...), but these players are typically entrenched starters, or long-term veterans with ample starting experience. But Geno Smith is in a pretty unique position. After combing through StatHead, the only players I could find since the year 1990 who even generally fit the above criteria are:
- Alex Smith (drafted in 2005 1st overall, started 1st playoff game in 2011)
- Vinny Testaverde (drafted 1st overall in 1987, started 1st playoff game in 1994)
- Tommy Maddox (drafted 25th overall in 1992, started 1st playoff game in 2002)
Tommy Maddox may be the closest comparison, but he was literally out of the league for several seasons before returning in the early 2000s to help the Pittsburgh Steelers reach the playoffs in 2002. You could make a case that Geno — while not out of the league — was still very much not considered a starting-level signal caller for quite a few years, but he was still on NFL rosters the whole time. Testaverde and Alex Smith are close as well, but even they were generally starters during their careers leading up their first postseason run, and it took fewer than ten years for either of them. Geno Smith hadn’t started a game since 2017 prior to coming to Seattle, when the New York Giants decided to unceremoniously end Eli Manning’s streak of consecutive starts as punishment for his performance. Each of the three aforementioned guys won Comeback Player of the Year following the above listed seasons.
I have heard mentions of players like Rich Gannon, but his situation is unique in its own way; he was drafted in the 4th round of the 1987 draft, so he outperformed expectations when he won league MVP and led the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl. There are guys like Chad Pennington, who was a reasonably effective journeyman who held the NFL record for career completion percentage until Drew Brees took the lead in 2014. He was drafted in the 1st round, but his career was more up-and-down and marred by injury than a total bust, as we was generally a starter while healthy. Ryan Tannehill is another QB who shares some similarities with Geno, in that he was drafted early in 2012 but didn’t reach the playoffs until 2019; but he is a unique case as well. He struggled in Miami, but still remained the starter while healthy.
Many players take time to develop, and some guys just get put into a situation where they were never set up for success. I honestly don’t know which camp Geno is in, but it is likely a bit of both. The New York Jets have struggled to find consistency at their quarterback position for years now, and while their is excitement around the performance of Mike White, he is a ways away from becoming an entrenched starter. Instability in an organization can have a major impact on how players develop. But this is all getting a bit ahead of ourselves... If Geno Smith wants to reach this illustrious goal of doing what basically nobody else has done before, it is going to start with beating his former team on Sunday. If you think that I missed anybody, or think there are closer comparisons that what I listed above, let me know in the comments below!