Carroll: What Seahawks are looking for at QB, why Smith leads Lock
Ahead of the Seahawks’ third and final preseason game of 2022, the quarterback competition is still up for grabs according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll, who is entering his 13th season in Seattle, will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in a decade as the team traded longtime starter Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. Geno Smith, who was Wilson’s backup the last three years, is now competing with Drew Lock, a 2019 second-round pick who comes to the Seahawks from Denver in that trade involving Wilson, for the QB job.
So far this offseason, Smith has been in the lead, taking the majority of the reps with Seattle’s first-team offense during practices. Lock was scheduled to start last week’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, but he tested positive for COVID-19 two days prior to the game, giving Smith another start.
So what’s the plan for the Seahawks’ third and final preseason game? And what exactly is Carroll looking for from the quarterback position? He explained that and more during a Wednesday morning visit on The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
First thing first: Why has Smith continued to be in the lead this offseason?
“Well, it was pretty clear. I mean, it started out, he just knew the offense, he knew all the ins and outs, and he knew all of the insights that you need to make the calls and the timing of the cadences and all the philosophical things that take time to learn that he was very well schooled at,” Carroll told Mike Salk. “And you saw when he played, he did a lot of really good things when he was playing last year. So he’s just ahead, that’s all.”
Carroll said the competition has been structured “to give Geno the chance to stay in charge, because he has been in charge of what we’re doing.”
Additionally, Smith will start the Seahawks’ third and final preseason game in Dallas this Friday, meaning he’ll have started each preseason game for the Seahawks this year.
“He’s gonna go in there first and play a little bit, and then Drew’s gonna get to play most of the game for us and we’ll just give him a lot of play time and leave him out there and let him play football,” Carroll said. “But because of what we missed last week, we just had to adjust a little bit. We’re going to keep evaluating, keep watching, and we’re going to make the right decision for us at the time. We need as much information as possible, so that’s what I’m trying to create.”
Carroll said having Smith start but Lock play most of the game for the Seahawks is “the next step.”
“Remember that it was going to be different going into this game by what we learned last week, so we didn’t get that information,” he said. “So we just need to keep gaining information and we need to give Drew every chance to show who he is and what he’s all about.”
Carroll also said that Smith “has not done anything to take a step backwards” this offseason.
“He’s been on it throughout and he’s done a great job, so we’re really excited that he’s been able to be that for us,” he said. “But the other side of it is Drew is a very exciting football player, too, and he’s what keeps this thing alive, and it’s fun watching him practice and we’ll see what he does.”
In addition to shedding some light on the quarterback competition, Carroll really dove into what exactly he’s looking for from a quarterback both on and off the field.
“We’re looking for guys that can really take the responsibility to heart … They recognize the responsibility that they have to the entire team and the organization and all of that, and they really embrace that. Without that, you can’t get guys to be their best. They’ve got to have the motivation, they’ve got to have the vision, and then the willingness to be accountable because they’ve got to be early, they’ve got to stay late, they’ve got to practice extra, they’ve got to study more, they’ve got to ask all the questions, they’ve got to be on point with everything that’s going on, they have to be able to communicate with everybody on the offense from the centers to the receivers to the running backs, the coaches as well, all of that.”
Without those “kind of foundational thoughts” about a quarterback’s makeup, Carroll said, “you can’t go anywhere.”
In the case of Smith and Lock, those two are “particularly in.”
“We’ve known Geno for a number of years, we know who he is, we know his background, we know is his mentality, and we’re very comfortable with understanding how much work he’s put in to get to this point to really own what we do. That’s meaningful,” Carroll said. “And meanwhile, we’re trying to get Drew to get to that point just in a hurried fashion because we’ve got to rush them along, because he doesn’t have the years behind him. But our guys in particular, they check all the boxes. These guys really care, and it’s really important to them. They love playing, they’re fun to be around, they’re fun with their teammates, which is all part of the communication.”
And what is Carroll looking for on the field?
“The basics of it is guys do the right thing. They do well, they get the plays called, they stay on time, they can make the checks, they can communicate as they have to. That’s another foundational point that they have to be able to do… They have to have all those skills in hand,” Carroll said.
After that, you can start tacking more on their plate, Carroll said.
“The next thing is that they have to be able to deliver the ball … That’s another segment of it and then we just keep stacking them up,” he said. “What it gets to, though, eventually … is your quarterback has to help the team function really well. Everybody’s got to go and got to be on track and be on time and be moving. That’s a big part of this. And that also has to do with when the plays allow you to get the ball to guys, you’ve gotta get it to them. So when the concept is called and the guy is wide open, the ball has got to be delivered on time and early, hopefully, and we’ll function at a high level.”
And then there’s another level.
“The next level is when it comes down to it, can you move the club in the red zone? Can you get them into the end zone? And can you convert on third down and make your wins happen as they’re available to you?” Carroll said.
And then there’s another another level.
“The next level is when it comes time and those moments happen in the game, can you make the plays that are necessary?” Carroll said. “And is your team makeup calling on you to make those plays?”
Carroll said that teams that pass a lot will have more chances for their quarterbacks to either make the big plays or make mistakes. More balanced teams, though, will have a handful of plays a game where the quarterback has “got a chance to make something happen.”
“And over the years, I’ve tried to minimize the the outlier plays that you have to have your quarterback do because you don’t know if he’s gonna be able to do them. You don’t know if the opportunity is going to be there,” Carroll said. “So you want to be a really highly-functioning offense where you’re efficient, you run the ball, you convert on third down, you’re good in short yardage, you don’t give the football away. And that allows your whole team to have a good chance to be successful. And then there’s those other elements. Can the guys come through and make the plays when the time comes? And that’s the big challenge. And that’s why the opportunities, as we look at, for instance, in this competition, we’re trying to maximize what we can see in the moments that occur to see how the guys come through in practice and in the games.”
Carroll thinks the Seahawks have two quarterbacks who can check all the boxes, but they’re still evaluating what they can bring to the table.
“They’re disciplined players. Both our guys are strict, and they can do things, they can stay on time, they can get the ball out of their hands. They do a nice job of all of that,” he said. “So it’s the next level of stuff and awareness that we’re still trying to figure out to get really a clear sense of how far can our guys take us, if they have to. If we can play really good ball, then they just function, and they deliver the ball around and it’s kind of a workman’s-type approach. But if they’ve got to make the plays, can we put them in a position so that they can come through?”
Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player near the top of this post.
The Seahawks meet the Cowboys at 5 p.m. Friday in their preseason finale. Coverage will be carried on Seattle Sports 710 AM and KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM beginning with the pregame show at 3 p.m.
As for Carroll, his weekly Pete Carroll Show will continue during the NFL season on Seattle Sports, airing live at 9:30 a.m. each Monday during the returning Brock and Salk Show, or in the case of games played on a day other than Sunday, then at 9:30 a.m. the following weekday after the most recent Hawks game.