Rost: The case for Seattle Seahawks keeping QB Geno Smith

Feb 14, 2024, 10:38 AM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith throws a TD pass against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 30, 2023. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

(Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith had as many touchdown passes this year as Justin Herbert and only one fewer than Trevor Lawrence and Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud.

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He had the same completion rate as Baker Mayfield, who helped lead the Bucs to the playoffs, and was in the bottom third of the league in bad throw percentage.

He also led a career-high four fourth-quarter comebacks and finished with fewer interceptions than in 2022, all while finishing sixth in times pressured per dropback (behind only Zach Wilson, Will Levis, Justin Fields, Jake Browning and Kenny Pickett), being sacked more than Patrick Mahomes, Brock Purdy and Josh Allen, and leading all quarterbacks in times hurried (63).

This goes to show two things.

First, that stats can tell any story. Smith’s nine interceptions were fewer than in 2022, but he also threw for 10 fewer touchdowns (last year he was the only passer in the NFC to throw for 30 or more). He threw four fewer interceptions and was pressured more often than Mahomes and Allen, but no one would argue that those two QBs produced more offense. Smith was tops in times hurried, but wasn’t a top-five sacked quarterback, and he was 16th in yards.

The second thing it tells you is that Geno Smith is whoever you want him to be. If you’re convinced Smith is an overpriced .500 quarterback, you’ll look at his statistical regression in a few categories in 2023 and point to the much cheaper Drew Lock and his comeback win over the Eagles. If you’re happy with Smith’s season, you’ll note that his $31.2 million salary cap hit – up from just $10 million in 2022 – is still just 12th among all quarterbacks – behind Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Daniel Jones – and that team wins are a horrible stat to measure quarterback success, particularly on a team that struggled as much as Seattle did defensively.

This week’s big decision

It’s hard to tell how the Seahawks themselves are feeling about Smith. Former head coach Pete Carroll was Smith’s biggest advocate, but at the helm now is general manager John Schneider – who may have his eyes set on Lock, a still largely untapped return in the Russell Wilson trade – and new coach Mike Macdonald, who owns no loyalties whatsoever to Smith and who has ties to Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, a passer who could be available for Seattle at pick No. 16.

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On Friday, Smith’s $12.7 million base salary for 2024 becomes fully guaranteed. That doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a trade, but Seattle can avoid the commitment by moving on before then.

But should they? Personally, I don’t think so.

I wish this decision was an obvious one – it’s tempting to look at teams who have recently tapped into younger, cheaper talent. But context is key for 2024.

When the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round in 2012, he joined a team with a defense that was third in yards per game and first in scoring. They also had Marshawn Lynch at running back.

This year’s Seahawks are coming off two consecutive seasons in which the defense has finished 25th or worst in points and yards. Again, Smith was far from the biggest reason for Seattle’s failure to make the postseason. But the team will roll out an entirely new coaching staff in 2024, with a rookie head coach, rookie offensive coordinator (Ryan Grubb) and rookie defensive coordinator (Aden Durde).

A rookie quarterback could be a fun way to kick off a new era, but so too would an investment in a defense that badly needs it. And in the meantime, a veteran presence and serviceable starter could be a point of stability for an evolving team.

More on Seattle Seahawks’ QB situation with Geno Smith

Why Joel Klatt thinks J.J. McCarthy fits as Seattle Seahawks QB
Kurt Warner details Seahawks’ dilemma with QB Geno Smith
Seahawks Breakdown: The 3 big roster decisions this offseason
Salk: What are Seahawks’ options with crucial QB decision looming?
Wyman: How Seattle Seahawks’ Mike Macdonald can help Geno Smith

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