Barring something dramatic, Geno Smith will be the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks on Monday against the Denver Broncos. It’s the first time that Smith has been a Week 1 starter since the 2014 season, when he was with the New York Jets and entering his second year in the NFL.
It’s not every day you have a quarterback — really any position in sports — go eight years in between (presumptive) full-time roles as a starter. In fact, according to Elias Sports Bureau this is the longest gap between Week 1 starts since 1971.
Here was Geno Smith on how he’s a different QB now compared to his early days with the Jets. h/t to @bcondotta on the stat about Smith’s historically long gap between Week 1 starts. pic.twitter.com/CznzEazci4— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) September 9, 2022
There have only been three other instances of an eight-year gap between Week 1 starts. Those three quarterbacks are:
- Frank Tripucka. There’s an eight-year gap not just in starts, but American Football games played for Tripucka from 1952 to 1960. After playing the ‘52 season with the Dallas Texans, Tripucka went on to quarterback in the CFL from 1953-1959, then came out of retirement to play for the AFL’s Denver Broncos in 1960, earning All-Star honors that year. Tripucka is in the Ring of Fame and his #18 was retired by Denver — the only reason Peyton Manning got to wear it is because he’s Peyton Manning.
- Zeke Bratkowski. He was a longtime starter for the Chicago Bears, then played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1961-1963. Bratkowski was picked up by the Green Bay Packers off of waivers in ‘63 and became the backup QB to the great Bart Starr. Bratkowski retired after the 1968 season but was lured back and made six appearances and a Week 1 start in 1971 for the Pack, nine years removed from his last opening day appearance. Bratkowski is in Green Bay’s Hall of Fame.
- King Hill. The number one pick in the 1958 NFL Draft spent ten years in the league but his greater impact was signing the first CBA in league history. On the field? Ehhh. His gap between Week 1 starts spanned from 1960 (St. Louis Cardinals) to 1968 (Philadelphia Eagles). He did have 16 other starts during this timeframe. Unlike Bratkowski and Tripucka, he has no franchise distinctions or inductions to any Rings of Honor.
Another way to frame this is that in modern NFL history — we’re talking post-1970 merger with the AFL — there hasn’t been a Geno Smith equivalent in terms of gaps this long between starting jobs. A whopping 86 quarterbacks have had more starts than Smith since 2015, including Matt Hasselbeck, Devlin Hodges, and Bryce Petty. If you want to isolate to pass attempts, Smith has thrown fewer passes since losing his full-time starting job than Robert Griffin III, Tom Savage, Johnny Manziel, and 83 other QBs.
We have discussed to death the circumstances in which Smith got the job, how likely (or unlikely) it is for Smith to significantly improve upon his lackluster play with the New York Jets, but it’s no small deal that he has stayed in the NFL this long and managed to be a QB1 again. Now it’s up to him to make the most of a truly historic second chance.