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Seattle Seahawks

Dave Boling: Hold the tears over Seahawks quarterbacks, this season was always going to be a rebuilding effort

By Dave Boling For The Spokesman-Review

Be on the lookout for imminent Quarterback Tiers stories, in which analysts rank NFL quarterbacks on their expected production for the season.

Since this column examines the 2022 Seattle Seahawks’ prospects, it might more accurately be titled a Quarterback Tears report.

Communal blubbering reached a modern-era peak among many when Russell Wilson, the franchise’s most accomplished quarterback, was traded this spring to Denver. It was the first major move in a rebuild mandated by the Hawks’ last-place finish in the NFC West.

Barring the unlikely availability of a more promising veteran at a reasonable price, the Seahawks seem content to go with incumbent backup Geno Smith, age 31, or Drew Lock, 25, received in the Wilson trade with the Broncos.

A couple of early Tiers reports for the Seahawks are unkind, but not unwarranted. One put Lock in the “Last Chance” tier. Another had both Lock and Smith in an “Emergency 911” tier.

Meanwhile, given the unsettled quarterbacking situation, the Vegas over/under on wins was set at 5.5 – which predicts the worst Seahawks’ season since 2009.

A few realistic expectations to consider to help forestall at least some of the tears.

1) Wilson wasn’t going to get them to the postseason this year, either, with all three other division teams coming off playoff appearances.

2) Wilson’s upcoming contract would have reached a cost/dividend tipping point and been an obstacle to rebuilding a roster with widespread needs.

3) The quarterback scramble in Seattle was overdue. It was their turn. The three other division teams have shuffled through an average of 10 starting quarterbacks since Wilson took over in 2012 and started 158 of the subsequent 161 games.

The Seahawks’ staff voiced customary confidence in the skills the potential replacements demonstrated through off-season training and minicamp. Coach Pete Carroll said both have impressed, with Smith having comfort with the scheme and Lock being a quick learner with arm skills, mobility and a competitive attitude.

Lock is younger with greater upside, with 21 starts in the past three seasons, although that includes a 4-12 record as a starter the past two. Smith looked mostly competent in three games he stepped in when Wilson suffered a finger injury last season.

Both Lock and Smith were second-round draft picks, and both enjoyed some early success before struggling and finding themselves on the market.

The decision will be made on training camp and preseason production, but until then, Carroll gave an interesting insight into Lock’s development, hinting that his stalled advancement in Denver might have been a product of circumstances rather than a lack of skills.

“We’re showing him that we believe in him as a player and we believe that he can get it done … I don’t know that he always felt like that,” Carroll said.

Like most quarterbacks, regardless of tier rankings, a good deal of Smith’s and Lock’s fortunes will depend on the performance of the defense and offensive colleagues. Neither will replace Wilson in the short term.

But they don’t have to. The threshold for realistic success is: Can one of them be as good as Tarvaris Jackson was in 2011?

Moving on from the proven quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was controversial after the 2010 season. Hasselbeck had taken them to a Super Bowl and was a huge Seattle favorite. But he was 35 and went unsigned as they brought in Jackson as a free agent from Minnesota to compete with backup Charlie Whitehurst.

Jackson had started just six games in the three seasons before coming to Seattle, while Whitehurst had a thin portfolio and a conspicuous head of hair.

Jackson was hardly elite that season, but he had a strong arm and won over the team with his toughness. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and the Hawks went .500 in his 14 starts. Was he as productive as Hasselbeck would have been that year? Probably not, but it opened the way for the Hawks to draft Wilson in 2012 and build a championship roster while he was on his cheap rookie contract.

Drafting Wilson wasn’t just lucky, it was a master stroke. And starting over, now, without his cap-gobbling contract, might also prove to be the necessary timing.

The 2022 draft class looked weak for quarterbacks, but in 2023, when Seattle has four first- and second-round picks, predictions are for an impressive crop of quarterbacks.

The blueprint has worked before. Still, it’s likely to be painful at times this fall.

Maybe Smith or Lock will surprise, but it seems a stretch to expect an immediate leap back into division contention.

But if they can manage to get back up to the Tarvaris Jackson Line of seven wins, it will defy the odds that are being set at this point, and not require the calling of any emergency services.