As is almost a rite of passage for Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks, Geno Smith has been under siege all season. It has generally not mattered who’s been in the lineup on the offensive line.
Geno Smith has been the fifth most pressured quarterback in the NFL through the first 7 games.— John P Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 2, 2023
The protection he has been provided has been horrific.
(And the Seahawks are the highest scoring of the most pressured teams by far - because of Geno.) https://t.co/72MTKsCA6n
Pass protection composite ratings.— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) January 2, 2024
Honestly at this point in the season I think these almost entirely make sense, tho ESPN is still pretty off-consensus (of the other two) on some teams (ATL, TB, LV, PHI) and *way* different on the Dolphins pic.twitter.com/SPB4rip52k
By the way, notice the other teams ranked 26th and worse in Ben’s tweet? They’re all in the bottom six in points scored and points per drive, whereas the Seahawks are 17th in points scored and 11th in points per drive.
And yet, in a change from 2022 and really a major departure from almost the entirety of the Russell Wilson era, Geno’s sack rate is in the bottom-half of the NFL.
One of the persistent myths I’ve seen among some Seahawks fans (usually on social media, but occasionally in our comments section) is that Geno takes too many sacks and doesn’t move well in the pocket. Geno has taken untimely sacks (see: Steelers and Bengals games), comically bad sacks (see: Lions game), and some sacks where he’s held onto the ball too long, but he’s been a lot better than you may think in this department.
Pressure stats are a bit wonky because they clearly are charted differently across different statistical outlets, but for the sake of simplicity let’s use PFF.
Of the 24 quarterbacks with at least 12 starts this season, Smith has the fourth-highest pressure rate at 40.2%. The three quarterbacks ahead of him are Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Russell Wilson. Smith has only been sacked 31 times out of 210 pressures, which is a pressure-to-sack rate of 14.8%. The only QBs better in this department are Jalen Hurts, Brock Purdy, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. Meanwhile, Russ and Zach are both above 20% in the same metric, while Fields sits at 18.3%. If you want to parse the data further, 14 of Geno’s 31 sacks came in the losses to the 49ers, Ravens, and Bengals, a pair of elite defenses and (in the case of the Bengals) a standout front four.
In terms of regular ol’ sack rate, Smith sits at 6.2% across all dropbacks, below the league-wide average of 7.1%, which is also the highest league-wide sack rate since 1998. The last time the Seahawks had any quarterback under league-average in sack rate was Matt Hasselbeck in 2007, which happened to be the last healthy season of Walter Jones’ career.
Smith’s average time-to-throw is 2.73 seconds, which among all starting quarterbacks is on the quicker side, albeit not especially quick.
Lastly, you might be wondering if Geno is inviting a lot of his own pressure. That does not appear to be the case. Smith is near the bottom of the NFL in percentage of QB-caused pressures.
So what’s the secret sauce when a quarterback who doesn’t have the dynamic athleticism of Lamar Jackson is dealing with a banged up, bad offensive line that gives up a ton of pressures?
Normal quarterback stuff. The type of hallmark of good quarterbacks! Movement within the pocket and getting the ball out on time to receivers! These clips will show he’s done this all season.
Geno Smith handling the two-man blitz beautifully, rifles with pressure in his face it to D.K. Metcalf who makes a terrific grab. pic.twitter.com/tkryh8PdLC— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) September 18, 2023
This might have been Geno Smith's most impressive escape job on Sunday. Lions brought pressure from slot on both sides and even with Parkinson helping in pass pro, QB was under quick duress and slithered away from blitzers, throwing dart to Metcalf off platform. pic.twitter.com/SCZOU3A2JB— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) September 20, 2023
Geno with the nasty backpedal to avoid pressure and stay on schedule pic.twitter.com/70AObBPg3Y— Mike Barwin (@MikeBarwin) September 25, 2023
Geno Smith's entire vibe these days is "Fuck you. Watch this."— Robert Mays (@robertmays) October 10, 2023
And I'm so here for it. pic.twitter.com/jqHfGE4yTe
Ball placement on Geno’s first touchdown to DK is some special stuff pic.twitter.com/89MuVOCp6n— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) December 2, 2023
This Geno Smith decision & throw before the half is why he rocks.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 1, 2023
Seahawks run a Flood concept with 3 outbreaking routes to create a chunk play and get out of bounds.
With a rusher in his face, Smith takes the highest level on the concept, and the Seahawks get a near-TD & DPI. pic.twitter.com/9MpjLVOrqw
This is A+ pocket movement by Geno Smith evading T.J. Watt, but the throw is even more impressive. Fired this pass 35+ yards downfield off platform with perfect accuracy. pic.twitter.com/ejsEHAhxVz— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) January 3, 2024
This throw to Noah Fant might be even better. Another off platform chef's kiss here by Geno... pic.twitter.com/P97cONg4dU— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) January 3, 2024
Waldron was really all about flood concepts this game. Got into them out of different combinations of formations with the routes coming from different places. Same read at the end of the day. Geno splits the distance between the over-expanding flat player and near-hook. pic.twitter.com/XTgThSjEW0— thinking (@cmikesspinmove) January 3, 2024
Tough night for Charles Cross pic.twitter.com/a0yOSUzV2s— Rapinas do Mar (Cortes) (@cortesrapinas) January 3, 2024
The emphasis from Pete Carroll (and therefore offensive coordinator Shane Waldron) on getting the ball out even more quickly since the 49ers loss has paid dividends. He is playing his best football at a time when the defense is playing at its absolute worst.
Looking up numbers in @TruMediaSports and this stood out: Geno Smith leads the NFL in QBR since Week 13. That stretch began with the DAL game and includes the two he missed— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) January 4, 2024
11 G, 65.4%, 12 TD/8 INT, 49.6 QBR (20th)
3 G, 64.5%, 6TD/1 INT, rush TD, 82.9 QBR (1st)
There is a natural inclination to view Geno Smith through the prism of Russell Wilson. After all, he was this team’s quarterback for a decade and the results were mostly excellent. Wilson’s primary way of dealing with bad offensive line play was to create the world’s most exciting scramble drills, whether to run for first downs, complete a pass on an off-script play, or just throw it out of bounds. Moments like these were incredible to watch.
But as we’ve seen with late-career Wilson, it’s not sustainable. His P2S% has been among the highest in the NFL for three straight seasons. The magical plays that used to prevent sacks are now usually just sacks, for a quarterback whose sack rate was been consistently high for his entire career.
Geno represents a different style of quarterbacking. Just because his maneuvering in the pocket isn’t as flashy doesn’t mean it hasn’t been highly effective and often times play-salvaging. There’s no question that Seattle’s offense has had major hiccups throughout the season, particularly in the red zone and on 3rd down, that have hurt the team’s chances of making the playoffs. Geno has had issues with bad/missed reads and chancy passes that have led to turnovers, so I’m not completely absolving him of blame as if he hasn’t had bad plays, moments, or games. What I will fervently push back against is the idea that he takes too many sacks and that he can’t navigate a pocket. The tape and the advanced stats show overwhelming evidence to the contrary.