Late in the Seahawks’ 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the cameras caught Seattle GM John Schneider on the sidelines grinning and laughing so hard you could see his adenoids.
There had been a few flaws by the Hawks, but all wins are beautiful, and this one seemed to carry lasting implications – especially for somebody with Schneider’s responsibilities of weighing the complex calculus of roster talent and draft equity.
By improving to 6-3, the Seahawks have a two-game lead in the win column over the nearest division foe and are very likely on their way into the playoffs. Barring a rash of critical injuries, of course.
Of the eight remaining opponents, only two (Kansas City and New York Jets) have winning records, and five of the games are at home. The team has momentum, a tenacious defense, and a stable of rapidly maturing thoroughbred players.
Those elements likely contributed to Schneider’s smiles. But the belly laughs had to come from the tickling reality that his bulging draft larder may soon seem an embarrassment of riches.
When he shipped quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver for a handful of players and first- and second-round picks in the upcoming draft, conventional thinking suggested that Schneider would exploit their total stash of two firsts and two seconds to secure one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Perhaps he’d have to package a couple to move up for his favorite.
Here’s what happened: Geno Smith. Geno Smith happened. He happened once again on Sunday in the dessert, as he had every week in this astounding season.
Leading the NFL in accuracy, and proving he has mastery of every pass required, Smith further displayed his composed presence under defensive pressure, and also unveiled a set of wheels few would have imagined (running for back-to-back first downs in a crucial fourth-quarter drive).
Smith has showed enough that he may no longer be viewed as the “bridge” quarterback, the placeholder, the fill-in until the quarterback of the future can be drafted. He’s 32, but he’s as loveable as the used car you got on the cheap but runs better than expected and has surprisingly low miles.
He’s given more than enough evidence that he can be The Man for several more years.
Suddenly, those four high draft picks can be open for top-grade talent on either side of the ball, although the young defenders already have allowed the Hawks to develop into one of the better points-against and turnover-forcing squads in the league.
The offensive line already is anchored for a decade with this year’s brace of rookie tackles. And another 100-yard rushing game by Ken Walker III makes him a certified star on the brink. Picture the speed receivers he can add, and the interior offensive linemen. So much to go around.
Geno Smith, further, has given Schneider the option of still taking a promising quarterback in the third or fourth or later, with the time to develop him for a few seasons while backing up Smith.
At halftime, commentator Michael Strahan observed that Smith “just continues to be methodical with the football.”
That implies he’s a game-manager. And in a way, it’s true, as he shrewdly takes what the defense gives and keeps moving the chains. He’s so much more, though. Against the Cardinals, again, Smith made a few passes that were as impressive as just about any quarterback in the game.
He served up a pick-six on an ill-advised flat-pass in the second half.
No sweat. After that, he led two 13-play scoring drives and the Hawks converted on seven straight third-down plays. Time after time, the Cardinal defense squeezed Smith in the pocket and he either danced to buy time to pass, scrambled for yardage, or stood tall and threw over them.
I don’t care how much talent the top rookie quarterbacks in next season’s draft have, none will have that kind of composure off the bat. None will be able to be plugged in and complete more than 70 percent of their passes with a three-digit passer rating while mastering an increasingly broad play book.
Much can happen in eight games, sure, but the Hawks are playing with house money, now, and teams like that are loose and confident and dangerous.
With a potential playoff appearance looming, on the strength of a surprise quarterback and an impressive crop of youngsters, while also having a load of high draft picks in their pocket, it’s the NFL definition of having their cake and eating it, too.
John Schneider’s response was surely predictable.
Yuck, yuck, yuck!
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.