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The case for Geno Smith as the Seahawks’ 2022 starting quarterback

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Let’s start with a quote from Pete Carroll, circa March 16th, 2022:

“Right now, Geno knows our offense the best. If he comes back to us, he has an opportunity to run the whole thing. We saw him do it during the season.”

Fast forward almost exactly a month and that statement no longer needs the words “If he comes back to us,” since Geno Smith agreed to terms on a 1-year extension worth up to $7M on April 14th.

Note: That $7M figure is a bit misleading since the contract structure only guarantees the $500,000 signing bonus. According to Spotrac, Geno has a $3.5M base salary in 2022 and up to $3.5M in incentives (which are presumably based on him being the starting quarterback).

Of course, this being the offseason that keeps getting weirder, the team waited 5 days to announce the signing and then did so in a super low-key way:

And within hours it was reported that the NFL had “disallowed” the initial agreement with Geno Smith.

All of that ridiculousness notwithstanding, here’s the question we’re looking at today:

Is Geno the presumed QB1 heading into training camp?

The answer appears to be, “Yes.”

Sure, the Seahawks have 2 other QBs on the roster but are Drew Lock and Jacob Eason really a better option than Geno at this exact point in time?

And, yes, the Seahawks could select a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft or trade for another team’s backup or give a certain free agent the “chance” he’s waiting for. But, again, would any of them really be a better option than Geno?

Obviously, the answer in regard to today’s article is a resounding, “No.”


Just the facts, ma’am.

Yep, I’m misquoting Dragnet (like just about everyone on the planet is known to do since that line was never actually uttered in the original series).

Geno Smith’s 2021 numbers:

  • 65 of 95 passing (68.4%)
  • 702 passing yards; 7.4 per attempt, 10.8 per completion
  • 5.3% touchdown rate and 1.1% interception rate
  • Passer rating of 103.0

Russell Wilson’s 2021 numbers:

  • 64.8% completion rate (20th in the league, per ESPN)
  • 7.8 yards per attempt (#5 league-wide) and 12.0 yards per completion
  • TD rate of 6.3% and INT rate of 1.5%
  • Passer rating of 103.1 (tied for 4th-best, league-wide)

Want another fun Geno-v-Russ comparison?

  • Geno’s sack rate in 2021 was 7.7%
  • Wilson’s sack rate was 7.6%


Which way is up?

Most 12s, myself included, believe that 2021 was a down year for RW3. But it wasn’t as “down” as you might expect.

  • Wilson’s completion percentage was 0.2% below his career average (65.0%)
  • RW3’s yards per attempt and yards per completion matched his career averages (7.8 and 12.0, respectively)
  • His TD rate was slightly higher than his career average (+0.3%) and his INT rate was slightly lower (minus-0.3%)
  • Wilson’s 103.1 passer rating was 1.3 points higher than his career average of 101.8

Leveling the playing field

There will be some who point to the level of competition that Geno faced in 2021, specifically to the fact that his one really, really, REALLY good game came against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars.

That’s fair.

But Wilson played 3 bad teams last year (the Detroit Lions, 3-13-1; the Houston Texans, 4-13; and the Chicago Bears, 6-11). He went 2-1 against them.

And it’s not like other teams and other QBs never play bad teams.

Geno played the Los Angeles Rams to a draw and the FTRs won the damn Super Bowl. He lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who made the playoffs, by 3, in overtime. And he lost by 3 points to the New Orleans Saints, who were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the season.

My point? Context matters.


Picking me some cherries

An apples-to-apples comparison of Seattle QBs has its limitations, right? Especially when we’re artificially limiting the analysis to the top-level ESPN stats. So how about comparing apples to oranges ... how does 2021 Geno Smith compare to some of his peers league-wide?

  • Geno’s 68.4% completion rate matched that of Derek Carr, who finished the 2021 season with the 5th-best completion rate in the league
  • Geno’s 7.4 yards per attempt matched TB12 and Patrick Mahomes (tied for #12 league-wide)
  • Geno’s 103.0 passer rating was only 0.1 behind Kirk Cousins (and RW3) and would have put him ahead of the other QBs I mentioned in the first 2 bullets if ESPN had included him in the rankings

A not-so-blind taste test

Here are the 2021 stat lines from 5 “nameless” quarterbacks; guess who each one belongs to.

  • Quarterback #1: 68.4% completion rate; 7.4 yards per attempt; 10.8 yards per completion; 5.3% TD rate; 1.1% INT rate; 103.0 passer rating

  • Quarterback #2: 68.4% completion rate; 7.7 yards per attempt; 11.2 per completion; 3.7% TD rate; 2.2% INT rate; 94.0 passer rating

  • Quarterback #3: 67.5% completion rate; 7.4 yards per attempt; 11.0 per completion; 6.0% TD rate; 1.7% INT rate; 102.1 passer rating

  • Quarterback #4: 66.3% completion rate; 7.4 yards per attempt; 11.1 per completion; 5.6% TD rate; 2.0% INT rate; 98.5 passer rating

  • Quarterback #5: 66.3% completion rate; 7.5 yards per attempt; 11.3 per completion; 5.9% TD rate; 1.2% INT rate; 103.1 passer rating

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s easy to see that QB1 is Geno Smith, QB2 is Derek Carr, QB3 is Tom Brady, QB4 is Patrick Mahomes, and QB5 is Kirk Cousins.

Ignoring the obvious - i.e., that Geno Smith isn’t Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes or even Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins - I don’t really see much difference between those 5 quarterbacks given the statistics shown. Do you?


Expanding the parameters

I think I’ve established that Geno’s numbers from the 2021 season were pretty good. How good? Well, here’s where he’d have ranked if ESPN deemed him worthy of inclusion in their rankings:

  • Completion percentage = tied for 5th
  • Yards per attempt = tied for 12th
  • Passer rating = 6th

Switching gears to PFF’s proprietary grades/rankings ...

Geno’s passing grade in 2021 was 71.4 which put him at #16 league-wide among QBs with at least 100 drop backs; 2 spots ahead of Russell Wilson (and only 3 spots behind Patrick Mahomes).

Geno’s overall grade was 73.9 which put him in a tie with RW3 at #19 league-wide (again, among QBs with at least 100 drop backs).

Geno’s running grade (78.4) was #9 league-wide - equidistant between Russell Wilson (#12 at 76.1) and Patrick Mahomes (#6 at 84.0).


Bottom line

Add it all up and you find a QB that may not be the one we want, but might very well be the one we need - at least in 2022.

Will the coaches have to game plan around his abilities and his limitations? Yes. But Geno did the job he was asked to do last year and he may be able to turn that 4-game sample into a 17-game adventure.

At the very least, his familiarity with the offensive scheme that Shane Waldron wants to run and his 2021 audition should afford him the opportunity to start Seattle’s OTAs as QB1.

Go Hawks!