Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now
Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: While the Broncos release Russell Wilson, Seahawks have their own quarterback question

Seattle QB Geno Smith speaks after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lumen Field on Dec. 18 in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The guy who left a long time ago is the spicy Seattle story, but the guy who’s still here is the substantive one.

The Broncos announced Monday that they plan to release Russell Wilson – punctuating one of the more striking two-year downturns in NFL history – but Geno Smith remains a Seahawk.

The team restructured Smith’s contract last week, and there was a Bleacher Report post on X saying Seattle is committed to keeping him on the roster next season. That report has not been confirmed, but it doesn’t make this question any less relevant: Can the Seahawks win with Smith?

I don’t mean win as in put together another 9-8 season as they have done in each of the past two years. If such a record were sufficient, it’s unlikely Pete Carroll would have been axed as coach this offseason.

There is a standard that has been set in Seattle since current general manager John Schneider was hired just after Carroll in 2010, and the Seahawks haven’t been meeting it. So what’s to say they can if Smith is their starting quarterback in 2024?

The “if” in the above sentence is relevant. Because even if Seattle is, indeed, committed to Geno being on the roster – you never know if the club will snag a signal caller in the draft. But let’s say the Seahawks adequately fill the majority of their offseason needs before the season opener. Here’s the case for, and the case against, Smith leading them to something meaningful.

The case for Smith

Despite Smith dropping off from his Comeback Player of the Year season in 2022, he was a serviceable quarterback last year. He was a Pro Bowl quarterback, in fact – although that’s not particularly significant given that 11 QBs earned that nod.

Smith’s 92.1 passer rating was 15th among quarterbacks who played at least 10 games. He was 17th in touchdown passes and 15th in QBR – a more analytically based statistic for the position.

And this is one year after he was fifth in passer rating, fourth in touchdown passes and seventh in QBR. Yes, Smith regressed – but not to the player who was relegated to the bench for seven years before getting another shot with the Seahawks. The two-year aggregate is still among the top third in the NFL, and seeing how he’s 33, not 38, there’s no reason to think he is done.

Additionally, Smith has repeatedly shown poise in the most pressure-filled situations. His five game-winning drives led the NFL last season. Success as a quarterback is as much dependent on what happens between the ears as it is between the tackles, and Geno has displayed a clutch gene that Wilson, his old teammate, built his reputation on.

Perhaps more than anything, though – Smith managed to go 8-7 as a starter despite his team finishing 30th in total defense. This is a quarterback-driven league. If you look at the four teams to make their conference championship games last season, two (the Chiefs and Ravens) had two-time MVP winners, and the other two (49ers and Lions) had productive years from their signal callers.

But the key word is productive – not majestic. Stalwart defenses with solid quarterbacks can win. The question is whether this Seahawks team is capable of the former.

The case against Smith

A lot of those aforementioned numbers – the 15th-best passer rating, 15th-best QBR and ranking 17th in touchdown passes – came with one of the league’s best receiving corps. You’d think having Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba might yield better results. Perhaps it didn’t help that the Seahawks were 28th in the NFL in rushing and failed to keep defenses honest. Or that they had one of the lower-ranked offensive lines, according to Pro Football Focus.

Still, Smith had a rare trio of weapons and was just OK. Who’s to say a rookie couldn’t do better?

Additionally, the fact that Geno needed five game-winning drives just to get his team one game above .500 signals how nonthreatening the Seahawks were for the first three quarters in games throughout the season. They squeaked by the lowly Cardinals by one point, the lowly Titans by three and the lowly Commanders by three. This was not dominance – it was survival.

I’ve written this before and will likely write it again: Smith is one of the more genuine athletes I’ve covered, and his story from seven-year benchwarmer to two-time Pro Bowler is one of the more inspiring in sports.

Yes, he can win. But is he a winner? That I’m not so sure of.