Salk: Seahawks still need Geno Smith to show one important thing

Jun 21, 2023, 12:08 AM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Geno Smith during a 2022 Seattle Seahawks game against the Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s hard to become a star in the NFL. It might be even harder to maintain it once you get there. The league is designed to give organizations a lot more leverage than the players, which is why you often hear the real meaning of “NFL” is “Not For Long.”

K.J. Wright seeing big things with the Seahawks’ top two picks

That also means that we often talk about the players who are in “make or break” situations. They have been beat up, chronically injured, underperform, or have seen others drafted at their position. The league doesn’t let them stick around any longer than it has to.

When you look at the 2023 Seattle Seahawks, they are so young that they don’t have many players in that position. Wide receiver Dee Eskridge is the obvious case because of his two wasted years to start his career. Darrell Taylor has watched while the team drafted outside linebackers in the second round each of the last two seasons, so he is on the list. I suppose you could put safety Jamal Adams here since he hasn’t lived up to his contract the last two seasons and could be in a position where his spot isn’t guaranteed much longer. But in general, they are a team of talented young guys who have some growing to do before that clock starts ticking louder.

That is, with one notable exception: Geno Smith.

Geno might not be a traditional answer to this question. He is coming off the best year of his career – a breakout season that saw him take every snap and destroy all projections and expectations. A season so good it cemented him as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback for this year and earned him a new contract. He should be sitting pretty.

And yet…

If you listen to K.J. Wright (and I do), you know he says this team is one season through a three-year plan to get back to the Super Bowl. If he’s right, that means 2024 is their year.

One thing we know is that in the NFL, that window is never open as long as you want it to be. Injuries, salary caps and other factors tend to make it extra-urgent to capitalize when you have an opportunity.

The Seahawks seem to have a lot of young talent. If this year’s draft is as good as it is expected to be, they have a genuine nucleus that should rival most anyone in the league. Throw in one more draft and a free agent class and they are right on K.J.’s schedule. But if they are going to truly challenge for a championship, they need Geno Smith to be every bit as good as he was last year and more. They need him to be better. They need him to win close games when he has the chance. They need him to go toe-to-toe with the elites and find a way to win those duels.

I’m not saying he isn’t capable of that. He showed last year that is absolutely within the realm of possibility. He had stretches of elite play last year and never really laid an egg. He may never be a top-three quarterback in this league, but with the system around him, he has enough talent to beat the guys who are.

Geno also has a bevy of weapons in the Seahawks’ offense that make him the envy of most NFL quarterbacks. Seattle might have the best overall group of wide receivers in the league with a deep tight end room and some sweet running backs. Throw in a coach who wants to take pressure off the quarterback and an improving offensive line, and Geno is set up with a true offensive attack. It’s all in front of him.

But from the organization’s standpoint, Geno hasn’t proven that he’s the guy to lead them to the promised land. At least not yet. They paid him this spring but gave themselves an out in the contract after each year just in case. They didn’t draft a quarterback with the fifth pick, but you have to wonder how things might have played out if the draft had broken differently. The Seahawks certainly made quite a show of visiting each and every top-tier quarterback that could have been available.

This might not be a traditional “make or break” season for Geno because he has now shown that he belongs in the league. But the team has this year to decide if he is capable of taking them to the next level.

Can Geno win a Super Bowl? He doesn’t need to do it this year. He doesn’t need to accomplish that feat. But he needs to show the potential to do it. He needs to show he can beat the best, because that timeline doesn’t get longer. That three-year plan doesn’t just grow while you wait to find your quarterback.

Have the guy or look for the next guy. That’s the best policy for NFL teams when it comes to quarterbacks. And Geno will have this year to show that he is truly the guy for the Seattle Seahawks.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Rost: The good and bad news for Seahawks’ chances of dethroning 49ers
The new version of last year’s Seahawks could be NFC West rival
Should Seahawks consider blockbuster trade for Aaron Donald?
Three big swings have potential to take Seahawks from good to great
Have the Seattle Seahawks found the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ again?

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