Rost: Spotlight is on Seahawks’ QBs, but focus should be on talent around them
If it wasn’t clear earlier this offseason, the message was sent when the Browns finally traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers: The Seahawks immediate answer at quarterback will come from within the building.
Browns trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to Panthers
For many, that’s hardly a shock. Both Pete Carroll and John Schneider were complimentary of Drew Lock in their first press conference following a blockbuster deal that sent Russell Wilson to Denver. In that same press conference, Carroll made it clear the team wanted to bring the then-unsigned Geno Smith back to Seattle, his familiarity with Seattle’s offense now an invaluable weapon without Wilson.
But neither there were enough concerns with both passers to leave many fans and critics wondering whether Seattle would indeed continue to add. At the time of that press conference, Deshaun Watson remained with the Texans and facing a certain trade. Might Schneider entertain shipping Seattle’s two first round picks and more to Houston, and would Watson waive his no trade clause to land in Seattle? Those were the basic considerations; there was another more important layer, that of whether fans would welcome a player facing 26 civil lawsuits. In the end, Watson ended up in Cleveland (a trade that ultimately cost three first round picks and a monster deal), which left incumbent starter Baker Mayfield and 49ers veteran Jimmy Garoppolo as the two best options.
Now Mayfield is in Carolina, Garoppolo is working his way back from shoulder surgery, and Lock and Smith are the two remaining candidates in Seattle.
Wondering whether either, particularly the younger Lock, could find renewed success in 2022 is a fair view, and there are certainly many fans holding out hope that the Seahawks can tap into the version of Lock the Broncos saw in 2019. Also valid, though, is remaining concerned about whether they will lift or sink the team around them.
Lock was a prolific passer at Mizzou and strung together a promising five-game stretch in his rookie season with the Broncos, though he has also struggled with decision-making since then. At one point, he led the league in bad-throw percentage through nine weeks. Is that the result of cycling through multiple offensive coordinators and seeing limited in-person reps during a vitally important second season? Or is it something that will always be a crutch? Meanwhile, Smith has had his own stellar moments: adding to his highlight reel is a game in which he finished with a perfect passer rating. However, he too has struggled with inaccuracy; in his two full seasons as a starter, he never completed more than 60 percent of his pass attempts and never finished with fewer interceptions than touchdowns.
One lingering hypothetical: There’s a chance Seattle was interested in Watson and didn’t want to give up the capital (or perhaps Watson was unwilling to waive his clause), and there’s also a chance they entertained adding Mayfield but couldn’t stomach his $19 million cap hit. But we don’t know that. All we know is that the Seahawks felt more comfortable riding with Lock and Smith than they did taking a bigger risk to add a better quarterback.
And in the end, that might say more about how they view the rest of this roster.
Carroll is a head coach who values balance: excellence in all three phases and contributions from both the run and pass on offense, with a solid run game unlocking potential for bigger plays downfield. And to his credit, there are plenty of examples of successful teams with more talent elsewhere than at quarterback.
The Tennessee Titans have finished with 11 or more wins in each of the last two seasons thanks to standout performances from running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver AJ Brown, the former of whom rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2020.
There’s also the group surrounding another trade candidate, Jimmy Garoppolo: San Francisco made it to a Super Bowl and another NFC Conference Championship game on the backs of an elite defense, a strong rotation of halfbacks, and one of the game’s best offensive players in Deebo Samuel.
Edge T.J. Watt, last year’s defensive player of the year, and running back Najee Harris, a candidate for offensive rookie of the year, carried an aged, battered, and struggling Ben Roethlisberger to the postseason.
Many of the players on Seattle’s roster have yet to consistently perform over the course of several seasons the way Henry or Watt has. But the potential is there for rookie Ken Walker, for a healthier Rashaad Penny, for a developing Darrell Taylor and young Boye Mafe, and for Jordyn Brooks, who’s taking on a new role in 2022. There’s also proven talent: Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been stalwarts.
Seattle likely won’t need to worry about it this year, but eventually they’ll need to revisit the question about whether that’s enough. It wasn’t for the 49ers, who lost in the Super Bowl and NFC Conference game despite having one of the best defenses and offensive players in all of football. It wasn’t for the Titans, who finished the 2021 regular season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC but were knocked out of the Divisional Round after three interceptions from Tannehill. It did work for Trent Dilfer, who took home a Super Bowl ring thanks to one of the best defenses in NFL history in 2000, though that feels more like the exception to the rule in the last two decades.
The spotlight will be on Smith and Lock, but the magnifying glass should be held to the talent around them. Until the Seahawks can find their next franchise quarterback, those are the pieces that will need to be the building blocks of another championship team.
Listen to Stacy Rost and Michael Bumpus every weekday on Bump & Stacy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
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