SEATTLE – When Geno Smith takes the first snap for the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night in Pittsburgh, he will become the team’s 23rd starting quarterback in Seattle’s 46th season in the NFL.
And if that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s not.
For all that the Seahawks might not have had since joining the NFL in 1976, one thing they have had – when compared to other franchises, anyway – is relative stability at quarterback, thanks to the long tenures of Jim Zorn, Dave Krieg, Matt Hasselbeck and Russell Wilson.
Wilson most of all, as he had started 149 consecutive games, the sixth-longest streak in league history, before suffering a middle finger injury Thursday against the Rams that is likely to cause him to miss at least three games.
Consider that Tampa Bay, which joined the Seahawks as an expansion franchise in 1976, has had 39 starting quarterbacks.
While Seattle has had four QBs each start at least 100 games – the four mentioned above – the Bucs haven’t had a single quarterback start more than 76 (Trent Dilfer, interestingly enough, who would go on to later start 12 with Seattle).
Consider further Seattle’s three rivals in the NFC West– Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
While Seattle has had just one starting QB since 2012, each of the other three has had eight or more (the 49ers eight, the Rams and Cardinals each 10) in that time.
Or consider the history of the three since 1976, when Seattle entered the NFL.
Arizona and the Rams have each had 39 starting QBs since Seattle entered the league while the 49ers have had 31, despite having lengthy tenures during that span from two of the greatest in league history in Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Here’s one more way to put it – while each of the other three franchises in the NFC West is at least 30 years older than Seattle, none has as many QBs who have started 100 games or more as the four of the Seahawks (Wilson, 149; Hasselbeck 131; Krieg 119; Zorn 100).
The 49ers, who began in 1946, have three – John Brodie (158), Montana (139) and Young (124).
The Rams, who began in 1937, have just two – Roman Gabriel (119) and Jim Everett (105).
And the Cardinals, whose history dates to 1926, have had just two – Jim Hart (180) and Neil Lomax (101).
So yes, Seahawks fans, it hasn’t been all that bad at the team’s most important position through the years.
And as Smith prepares to join the list, here’s one man’s rating of every Seahawk to have started at least one game at quarterback with career record included (and a hefty thanks to Pro Football Reference for the stats).
1. Russell Wilson, 2012-present (100-48-1). May always be the gold standard at the position in Seattle.
2. Matt Hasselbeck, 2001-10 (69-62-0). Rightfully joining the Ring of Honor later this month.
3. Dave Krieg, 1980-91 (70-49-0). Krieg is 20th on the all-time QB wins list with 98.
4. Jim Zorn, 1976-84 (40-60). Started career 6-20 as team’s first starting QB, then was 34-40 the rest of the way with Seattle.
5. Jon Kitna, 1997-2000 (18-15). One of just four Seattle QBs to start a playoff game along with Wilson, Hasselbeck and Krieg.
6. Warren Moon, 1997-98 (11-13). One of just four Seattle QBs to earn a Pro Bowl invite, doing so in 1997, along with Wilson, Krieg and Hasselbeck.
7. Trent Dilfer, 2001-04 (8-4). Was a stabilizing presence at the position for four years and won both his starts late in 2004 as Seattle won first division title of the Mike Holmgren era.
8. Tarvaris Jackson, 2011, 2013-15 (7-7). Earned eternal respect of locker room for the way he played through injury in 2011, and was a popular backup to Wilson for three more.
9. Rick Mirer, 1993-96 (20-31). Career started well but ended in a thud before Seahawks got a first-round pick from Chicago that was used to trade up and get Shawn Springs.
10. John Friesz, 1995-98 (6-5). Those who were there in 1996 may always wonder what might have been had he not been hurt (Seahawks were 4-1 in his five full starts that season but finished 7-9).
11. Seneca Wallace, 2005-09 (5-9). May be most remembered for 28-yard reception that set up first TD in 2005 NFC title game win.
12. Kelly Stouffer, 1988-92 (5-11). Went 3-3 in place of injured Krieg in 1988 when Seahawks won first division title.
13. Jeff Kemp, 1987-91 (3-4). Best remembered for throwing for 344 yards and four TDs – three to Steve Largent – in a win over Detroit during the 1987 players strike in a game in which Largent set team records with 15 receptions for 261 yards before leaving with 9:26 left in third quarter.
14. Charlie Whitehurst, 2010-11 (1-3). The Beast Quake run doesn’t happen without Whitehurst holding down the fort for the regular-season finale in 2010 against the Rams.
15. Stan Gelbaugh, 1992-96 (1-8). The record is not glittering, but Gelbaugh was a beloved locker room presence during some dark years.
16. Steve Myer, 1977-79 (1-3). Zorn’s primary backup in the early years, threw three TDs to Largent, more than anyone other than Krieg (46) and Zorn (43).
17. Glenn Foley, 1999 (1-0). Answer to a fun trivia question – Foley was the starting QB for Holmgren’s first win as a Seahawk, stepping in for an injured Kitna to lead Seattle to a victory at Chicago in the second game of the ’99 season. He never threw another pass in the NFL.
18. Brock Huard, 1999-2001 (0-4). It may be easy to forget now that the Seahawks were ready to turn the starting QB job over to Huard for good after benching Kitna following a slow start to the 2000 season. But a concussion helped derail Huard’s season after four starts and then Seattle traded for Hasselbeck the following offseason.
19. Gale Gilbert, 1985-86 (0-2). One of Chuck Knox’s most controversial decisions was benching Krieg for two games in the middle of 86 season for Gilbert. After two losses by a combined 65-14, Knox went back to Krieg to complete a 10-6 but playoff-less season and Gilbert never threw another pass as a Seahawk.
20. Charlie Frye, 2008 (0-1). Frye’s only start was a 27-17 loss to Green Bay that was the third career win for Aaron Rodgers.
21. Dan McGwire, 1991-94 (2-3). Others have worse records. But given what the team invested in McGwire – the 16th overall pick in 1991, and depending on who you believe, taking him instead of Brett Favre – McGwire’s Seattle legacy will always be a tough one.
22. Bruce Mathison, 1987 (1-1). Maybe he deserves an asterisk as his only action came during the 1987 strike games. But the NFL counts them, so we will, as well. He also started seven games for the Bills in 1985.
And to answer a question sure to come, popular former Seahawk Sam Adkins never did start a regular-season game, though he played in 11 from 1977-81.
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