RENTON — Two quarterbacks. Two competitors. Two friends. One spot.
Disappointing as Russell Wilson’s departure may be to some, it has created a situation unseen with the Seahawks in 10 years: A legitimate quarterback competition.
In one corner is Geno Smith — a former starter for the Jets who has spent his past seven seasons as a backup, compiling just two wins as a starter during that stretch. In the other corner is Drew Lock — another former starter who was demoted last season and has gone 4-12 in his past 16 starts.
It’s not exactly a race between two top-fuel dragsters. More like showdown between a pair of racewalkers. But someone has to win. Who has the upper hand?
The case for Smith
To make sure we’re all on the same page here: Yes, it’s only June. Jobs aren’t won during minicamp, but impressions can be made. And Smith’s familiarity with the Seahawks’ system likely gives him an ever-so-slight advantage over Lock at this point.
Geno has spent the past three seasons in Seattle. He has grown accustomed to offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s system. He started three games last season and, despite going 1-2, had a gem of a game against Jacksonville in his final start, when he completed 20 of 24 passes.
On Wednesday, Smith was asked how he thought he performed in the three games that Wilson was out because of a finger injury.
“I think I did well enough to get this opportunity, but the wins are the only thing that mattered,” the 31-year-old said. “We lost two games to some playoff teams, really good teams. And I really think that if I had executed a few things better, that we could have won those games, and I know every single guy feels the same way.”
There is little to indicate that Smith can become one of the better quarterbacks in the league should he win the job. But he might be serviceable enough to squeeze the Seahawks into the playoffs should the defense prove elite. If the season started tomorrow, he’d probably have the job. Unfortunately for him, that is still three months away.
The case for Lock
Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf took to Twitter in March to say “Let’s chill on the Drew Lock slander.” A month earlier, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said the quarterback had taken an unfair shellacking in the media.
No doubt the heat stems from Lock winning in just four of his past 16 starts and leading the league in interceptions in 2020, but he has had more recent success as a starter than Smith.
When he finally got an opportunity his rookie season in 2019, Lock went 4-1 as a starter for the Broncos while posting a passer rating of 89.7. Pro Bowl worthy? No. But he proved that a team could win consistently with him behind center.
Lock doesn’t quite have the familiarity with the system that Smith does. And he admitted to being overwhelmed with everything he had to learn when he first got to Seattle. But now he said he is feeling much more comfortable with everything on his plate.
More significantly, his attitude toward a QB competition seems to have shifted. Last year in Denver he found himself in a similar situation when battling Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job. He ended up losing. Was it because Bridgewater was better? Perhaps. Or maybe Lock was putting too much pressure on himself.
“I tried to compare the whole time — ‘All right, did Teddy beat me that day, or did I win that day?’ And overall, if you start thinking like that it’s just not good for your mentality,” Lock said. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It might be, but it’s hard to think Lock doesn’t notice when he outshines Smith or is the one outshined. This is likely going to be close.
The Seahawks’ ideal scenario
Coach Pete Carroll is going to go with whomever he thinks gives his team the best chance to win, but I suspect he and the brass are secretly pulling for Lock to stand out. At 25, he is the one with the chance to be the quarterback of the future. He is the guy who, if he returns to his rookie form, can make the Seahawks a consistent playoff contender.
It’s not that Smith is over the hill, but nine years into his career his ceiling is well understood. Lock’s is still somewhat of a mystery.
Neither of these guys is Russell Wilson, but few quarterbacks are. At least they are providing fans with some intrigue.
Smith gained a reputation for winning coin tosses before overtime. But right now, the situation between him and Lock is a true 50-50.