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Can the Seahawks run a more effective offense even with a downgrade at quarterback?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks OTA Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are obsessed with their new quarterback. Russell Wilson throws the ball very far, and it’s pretty, and the team can’t quit their new addition.

But that big-play obsession - whether Wilson’s or Pete Carroll’s - resulted in an inefficient and ineffective offense for the Seattle Seahawks of late.

In fact, either Drew Lock or Geno Smith could be inferior quarterbacks running superior offenses in 2022 for Seattle.

Being good all the time is nice

Russell Wilson’s first half of 2020 was unquestionably MVP level. He had 14 TD in the first three games and put up over 100 points. Then the train fell off the tracks. At one point he threw seven interceptions in four games, and finished the year with 62% and 55% completion percentage in the final two games.

Wilson’s first...game of 2021 took off at the same scorching level, before the unraveling that ultimately led to a 7-player swap with the Denver Broncos and the most unenviable competition of backups this summer.

Wilson came under fire from fans - again, but also by his own coach for really the first time in his career, for a sudden inability to mount more of those staple game-winning drives.

Here’s the reality of last season: In the early weeks the Seahawks went 4-12, 3-8, 2-10, and 4-10 on third down.

Let’s start with something an every-week Seahawk fan might have forgotten: Russell Wilson was once good at third down!

Well, maybe. It turns out, this desire to hit the big one on third is not without risk, and for the past two seasons it slowly imploded on Wilson, and the Seahawks offense as a result.

But if you can’t, be good on third down

In 2020, Wilson’s 3rd down percentage was 60.7. Not incredibly high on the list, but only a half-point behind Tom Brady.

In 2021, he fell to 51.5%. Worse than Drew Lock and Zack Wilson, a tick better than Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.

Bunch o’ Champions up there.

22 quarterbacks converted on more third downs than Wilson did last year. On third down, even though he missed significant time over the middle of the season, Wilson was sacked 16 times - seventh in the NFL.

Meanwhile, in three games Geno Smith converted on 68% of his third down passes. He only had 22 attempts to begin with, so take that for what it’s worth. And yet without topping 210 passing yards one time, Smith had the team within three points twice, and then a blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let this this not be overshadowed - Wilson’s Yards Per Attempt remained good during the 2021 debaclery. His 7.8 YPA was tied with Aaron Rodgers for ninth in the NFL on third down last year.

However, say (all on third down) Russ throws a 40 yard TD to Tyler Lockett, then goes 0-4 on his next four drives, he ends the day with an 8.0 YPA on third down. That would have been on pace for sixth behind all qualifying quarterbacks (100 attempts) last year. It also leaves Seattle with seven points on five drives, and let’s be honest it’s probably seven points on seven drives because I bet they tried to run Travis Homer on a draw on 3rd and 20 twice.

Going for broke has been one of the trademarks of the Seattle Seahawk offense for years. However, it’s resulted in high numbers of sacks and scary low time of possession for quite a while. It’s a little hard to tell whose fault this is. Scheme? Coach? QB?

One thing is for certain - this may have all ended as one of the worst parings in the NFL, in terms of skillset / philosophy. It simply will not do to have one of the least effective 3rd down QBs alongside the worst 4th down coach in the league. The team effectively operated like it had two chances to move the ball 10 yards most of the time.

This season teases a revelation that one party was right and the other wrong. It ultimately may not play out that way; but the possibility that “Pete was right” or “Russ can cook” should emerge by season’s end is within reach and it is tantalizing.

Regardless, neither Smith nor Lock need to make ESPN highlights, have the “Big Time Throw” numbers, or hit the charts on explosive plays. With a strong run game and even better weapons than last year, either one could reasonably throw for less yards, fewer touchdowns, smaller YPA, and yet if interceptions/turnovers are kept in check, run an offense that’s more conducive to winning the game than what we watched last year.