MIKE SALK

Salk: Could Seahawks find an elite QB in draft? They shouldn’t try

Dec 29, 2022, 12:03 AM
Seahawks Pete Carroll Geno Smith Drew Lock...
Seahawks coqch Pete Carroll with QBs Geno Smith and Drew Lock on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

I can’t believe I am writing this column. I never thought I would believe what I’m going to say. But the Seahawks probably shouldn’t draft a quarterback in 2023. Even if they end up with the top pick in the draft.

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That’s not because I think Geno Smith is elite or even that he is definitively better than the top passers available in April. This comes down to a matter of practicality: it is simply easier to build a great roster with the picks they have than to identify and pick an elite quarterback.

First of all, what constitutes an elite quarterback? To define it most simply, it is a player that elevates everyone around them. And in today’s NFL, there are only a handful of signal callers who can make that claim. Patrick Mahomes is definitely on that list. I think Josh Allen is, too (although he hasn’t had the same success so far this year). I’d put Aaron Rodgers there because of what he’s done with unknown players around him. And Joe Burrow seems to be on his way. If you want one more, I suppose Justin Herbert is approaching this class. But that’s it.

And while all of those players will likely be in the playoffs, they don’t represent the only teams with a legit shot to go all the way. Philly, San Francisco, Dallas, and Minnesota have equally good chances and all are doing it with good quarterbacks who most wouldn’t qualify as elite.

So while having one of those elite quarterbacks is an enormous advantage, it isn’t the only way to build a contender. In fact, more playoff teams will have non-elite quarterbacks than elite ones, and a few of them might have better chances of winning than the elite guys do.

That leads us back to which is easier to accomplish. Based on the 27 teams without an elite quarterback, it sure seems like that one is awfully challenging. But the bigger issue is what happens when you attempt to find that elite guy and fail. Because for every Burrow, there is a Kyler Murray. For every Mahomes, there is a Zach Wilson. For every Rodgers, there is a Sam Darnold. And for every Allen, there is a Trey Lance or a Carson Wentz.

In fact, there are a lot more early draft picks who never pan out under center than there are ones who become elite. But that isn’t the whole problem. When you draft one of those guys in that spot, you have to commit to him. You have to build around him and his skills. You have to give him time to develop. You have to let him make some mistakes. You have to spend a lot of time and energy on making it work.

And if it doesn’t work, you have wasted all of that time and energy.

The Cardinals are the best example. They drafted a player in Murray who is good but not great. Then they doubled down by paying him. They cost themselves a chance to get better and then they made it worse by committing cap space to a guy who simply isn’t good enough to carry them. And by the time they get a chance to correct this, it will be at least five years since they selected him.

It’s great to have an elite quarterback. You can win with a good quarterback if you build your team right. But committing to a guy you think is elite and being wrong is a compounding problem that sinks your franchise for half a decade.

I understand why desperate teams reach for potential franchise quarterbacks. They don’t have a good one and they are hoping to shoot the moon. Sometimes it works, but the Seahawks aren’t in that situation. He may not be elite, but Geno Smith showed this year that he is good. He has exceeded every expectation despite a supporting cast that is well below league average.

So given the choice between reaching for a quarterback with that early pick and trying to make this roster better, I’d opt for the later. And I say this despite my firm belief that quarterback is the most important position in sports.

(Please burn this column after you read it!)

For more on this, hear Salk’s conversation with Darren McKee of The Fan 103.4 FM in Denver and the following segment where he dives more into the topic in the podcast below.

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