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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks QB Geno Smith taking ‘command’ of team in Year 2 as starter

Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith completed 24 of 30 passes for 197 yards and no touchdowns when San Francisco defeated Seattle 27-7 on Sept. 18 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.  (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – In some ways, what is one of the biggest stories of this Seahawks offseason is that what was the biggest story of last offseason – who will play quarterback – is now a nonstory.

As the Seahawks began OTAs (organized team activities) this week, there is a clear offensive leader in quarterback Geno Smith.

After winning a training camp battle with Drew Lock last summer, Smith embarked on a 2022 season in which he became one of the surprise stories in the league, named NFL Comeback Player of the Year after leading the league in completion percentage at 69.8 and joining Russell Wilson and Dave Krieg as the only QBs in team history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns (Smith threw exactly 30).

He then signed a three-year deal worth up to $105 million with guarantees of more than $27 million that by themselves almost doubled the roughly $17 million he made combined in the first 10 years of his career.

“Geno’s in a little different situation coming into this year than he was obviously this past season when they were still split reps and equal reps and the competition was going on,” offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said after Thursday’s OTA.

But if the situation is different, Waldron insisted there’s nothing changed about Smith’s attitude.

“I think Geno has maintained that professional approach and that desire to continuously improve his game,” Waldron said. “And I think football is a great game because no one’s ever really at the pinnacle as far as everything that they’re doing is perfect.”

Or as Smith said earlier this week, “It’s still year by year. That’s how I’ve got to look at it. I take it one year at a time for me.”

Smith is already well-versed in the year-to-year roller coaster of the NFL, arriving in New York as a second-round pick in 2013 and starting for two seasons, then losing the job and spending the next seven years in the relative wilderness as a backup before resurfacing as a starter last season at age 31.

That circuitous path back to stardom has some wondering if what Smith did in 2022 was a one-season fluke and if some of the team’s struggles down the stretch – going 3-6 after a 6-3 start, including the playoff loss to the 49ers – are signs of a possible regression to come.

As coach Pete Carroll said after Smith’s contract was completed, he is “gambling a little bit on himself.”

As the fine print of the contract revealed, there is no fully guaranteed money beyond this season – Seattle could cut Smith before March 19 of next year and not owe him any additional money other than what he earns this season.

On March 20, Smith is due a bonus of $9.6 million if he is still on the roster.

The same is true for the 2025 season, when Smith is due a $10 million roster bonus on March 20.

So, in that sense, as Smith alluded, he is literally playing year-to-year to remain Seattle’s starting QB despite the accomplishments of a year ago.

That contract was completed before the draft, and one reason it was written that way was to give Seattle some potential flexibility if the team had wanted to take a quarterback, and especially if one fell to the Seahawks with the fifth overall pick.

It’s thought Seattle would have seriously considered taking Florida’s Anthony Richardson had he not been taken fourth overall by the Colts, after Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

But once those three were off the board, the Seahawks looked elsewhere.

With Lock safely back as the backup, the Seahawks ended up not taking a quarterback.

Some viewed that as a vote of confidence in Smith, although it appeared to be in keeping with Seattle’s renewed emphasis on taking the best player available – and the team viewing a big drop-off in QBs after the top three.

This week, Smith reiterated he would have been fine had Seattle drafted a quarterback.

“It’s the NFL,” Smith said. “There’s a draft every year. There are players out there, guys out there working hard. That’s why I’ve got to work hard. I’ve got to be better than those guys, and I look at everyone as competition. There’s a lot of great rookies that are coming out of the draft and I think they are all deserving. So if we would have picked one, I would have given him my all just as would I do to any teammate. It really didn’t matter to me. I love competition so I’ll compete with everybody.”

But practically, this season the competition is mostly with himself.

While Smith said his approach is the same as every other year of his career, the experience of last season, he said, will inevitably help him prepare for this year.

Smith said there isn’t any one single thing he’s working on as a new year begins, instead hoping to just use what he learned a year ago to be better at everything.

“I think in every aspect of my life, every aspect of being a quarterback, being a leader,” he said. “Obviously, it was kind of different for me this year than it was last year or 12 months ago, but I think the most growth for me is just perspective. Just gaining more perspective and just learning, growing, just trying to be better every single day.”

As Waldron sees it, that attempt to simply get a little better with each practice is exactly what Smith has done in his first year as the team’s unquestioned offensive leader.

“I think every day Geno’s grinding away in the individual drills, really taking on that leadership role,” Waldron said. “Because it is a little bit different when you’re coming into it still competing for it versus now where he’s at and the season that he’s had. He’s been able to really enhance that leadership role, take command of the huddle, take command of the guys from the start in OTAs. A little different than the setup was this past year.”