Lefko: Seahawks risk being stuck in mediocrity, should look for future QB

Dec 13, 2023, 8:46 AM | Updated: 11:21 am

Seattle Seahawks...

Pete Carroll Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 1, 2023. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

A month ago, as the Seattle Seahawks were about to face the Rams, I wrote that this five-game stretch could be revealing as they chart the course of the franchise for the next two seasons.

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Unfortunately, the first four-game losing streak of Pete Carroll’s tenure has made it abundantly clear that the Seahawks must make bold decisions this offseason if they want to avoid falling into the pit of mediocrity.

The most frustrating position in the NFL is being mediocre. It is an existential crisis about whether to embrace the painful process of turning over the roster to acquire high draft picks and a plethora of cheaper players in order to build a contender, or continue in the rut of consistent winning seasons where the ceiling is the first or second round of the playoffs.

It is a tough realization, but these four losses laid bare any guise of the Seahawks believing this group, as currently constructed, is close to being a Super Bowl team. The 49ers, Cowboys and Eagles are Super Bowl-caliber. The Seahawks are decidedly lacking when it comes to matching up against those teams.

Sure, another year for this young core could help, along with better injury luck, but this growth now feels more in line with the Vikings, Saints, Bucs (insert your favorite .500-level team here) if the Seahawks don’t make a change at the most impactful position in the NFL: quarterback.

Geno Smith is a fine quarterback. But when your defense is this porous, you have to do things to overcome that. And the best way to do it is at a position where one guy can have the biggest impact. Yes, the defense has a laundry list of problems that also require fixes, but the league is ripe with examples of how a true franchise quarterback can lift a team into another stratosphere.

The Kansas City Chiefs faced a similar quandary after the 2017 season after three straight 10-plus win seasons led to early playoff exits, including losing in their first game of the postseason in consecutive years.

Alex Smith was solid (in fact really good in 2017!), but the decision that was made a year prior, trading up to draft Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft, led to them moving on from Smith… which turned out to be a generation-defining decision and the greatest move made in the history of that franchise.

From a draft standpoint, the Seahawks will be in similar position this year – somewhere in the middle to back half of the first round. In what is expected to be a QB-rich draft, you don’t have to be picking in the top five to land a potentially transcendent quarterback. Both the Texans and Chiefs proved that with their trades in that 2017 class that led to them landing Deshaun Watson and Mahomes, respectively.

The Cincinnati Bengals are perhaps the best example in the NFL right now as to how a quarterback can be the defining factor in making a team into a Super Bowl contender. It’s not the best comparison for where the Seahawks are right now because Cincinnati did bottom out in order to get Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall. But that decision sprung from a half-decade of wild card berths to nowhere. Now, two AFC title game appearances in his first four seasons has the Bengals’ floor at a higher level than it had been in 30-plus years.

That path of bottoming out isn’t feasible for the Seahawks because of the money they have invested in a handful of players, along with a strong core of back-to-back draft classes that would price themselves out by the time Seattle had built itself back up. Plus, we’re talking about a change needed this offseason, and at this point the Seahawks have too many wins to naturally get to the top of the draft board.

Luckily, it’s a good draft to need a quarterback. In fact, the Seahawks could match what the Chiefs did in drafting a rookie and sitting him for a year in order to keep building around him. With the holes on this team, it will not be a one-year fix, but it certainly can be the catalyst needed for a quick boost into contention.

The Seahawks have been here before – in fact they might still be in the post-Super Bowl-runs malaise of early playoff exits that have hung over this team since 2015 (although I would argue the Russell Wilson trade was a reset and this is now a new era). And we know how quickly it goes from “just being glad to make the playoffs” to mounting frustration as the early playoff losses pile up.

That is the fundamental crux of what the Seahawks have to weigh: What is the best path back to the Super Bowl? This current stretch has shown that the Seahawks are not on the same level as the top tier of teams in the NFC or around the NFL.

At this point, there is enough of a sample size to believe that this current roster lacks the game-separating talent needed at quarterback in order to get there.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Rost: One thing clearly separates Seahawks from NFC’s best teams
• Salk: Truths are being hammered home by Seahawks’ losing streak
• Rost: Three words that underline the state of the Seahawks’ season
• Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll has interesting answers to two tough questions

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Lefko: Seahawks risk being stuck in mediocrity, should look for future QB