I think Geno Smith is a perfectly adequate bridge to the future. Getting an exceptional young quarterback is the hardest thing to do in the NFL. Pulling it off typically requires an element of fortune. It’s very easy to say ‘get a quarterback’ and very difficult to actually find ‘the guy‘.

The frustrating thing with the Seahawks in recent years has been their unwillingness to draft anyone at the position. This year they acquired Sam Howell and there’s plenty of talk about how much they liked him at North Carolina — but two years ago they weren’t even prepared to use one of two fourth round picks to draft Howell, weeks after trading Russell Wilson. If you liked him, why not draft him?

Yet unless you want to classify Brock Purdy as a miss (I don’t because Purdy unquestionably benefits from — and is ideal for — the Kyle Shanahan scheme), the Seahawks haven’t turned down the opportunity, so far at least, to draft someone since Wilson’s departure who’s gone on to be a fantastic quarterback.

For that reason, Smith as a placeholder makes sense. The Howell trade also provides a younger, cheaper alternative for 2025 if required. They aren’t completely kicking the can down the road, even if they’re long overdue taking someone in the draft.

There are, however, some people who believe Smith is ‘the guy‘. They believe he’s shown he can be the franchise quarterback and that a lot of the issues he has faced as the starter in Seattle are down to other aspects of the team (namely the offensive line).

I do think there’s some merit to this. The O-line continues to struggle, with the annual sweeping changes continuing for a unit that needs consistency. The play-calling did not help the quarterback at times under Shane Waldron. The Head Coach preached an identity focused around running the ball — yet year after year the running game struggled. None of this is conducive with an ideal environment for the quarterback.

However, I also think Smith is by nature a streaky player. He is someone who has shown in his career to have hot and cold runs. Given he has hot and cold streaks with the same O-line, targets and running game, I’m inclined to not just put the bad games down to the supporting cast.

I researched Smith’s three most compelling seasons in his career — the two years starting in Seattle and his final year in college at West Virginia.

In his first six games in that 2012 season for WVU, he threw 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His college passer rating averaged 183.4. His completion percentage was 76.5%. Smith was the talk of college football and was the expected #1 overall pick and the Heisman leader. WVU were 5-1, with a crazy back-and-forth 48-45 win in Texas seen as a crowning moment for Smith.

In the next seven games though, he threw 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. His college passer rating dropped to 155.7. His completion percentage dropped to 69%. WVU went 2-5 during this stretch and Smith’s stock collapsed. In a flash he went from being talked about as the #1 pick to potentially not going in round one, such was the dip in performance. Mel Kiper ended 2012 saying he was in a battle to be the second quarterback drafted. His NFL.com draft profile described a player who, “turned down a Senior Bowl invitation after regressing in the second half of the season following a strong start” and “seemingly regressed each week, especially when locking on to one side of the field.”

In 2022 when he won the starting job over Drew Lock, he started brilliantly. In the first eight games his PFF rating averaged 75.8. He averaged 2.2 ‘big time throws’ per game and 1.2 turnover worthy plays per game. His touchdown to interception ratio was 13/3 and the Seahawks earned a 5-3 record. Smith’s name was brought up as a candidate for NFL MVP.

In his final 10 games, his PFF rating dropped to 63.9. His big time throw average dropped to 1.8 per game. His turnover worthy play average increased dramatically to 2.1. He had 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Seahawks finished 4-6.

The 2022 season in Seattle almost perfectly mirrors his final year at West Virginia. He had a hot start, then cooled considerably.

In 2023, the reverse happened. In his first eight games his PFF rating averaged 68.1. He averaged 1.5 big time throws a game and 1.6 turnover worthy plays per game. He threw a 9/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Despite this, the Seahawks started 5-3.

In the final seven games, his average PFF grade increased to 75.2. His big time throw average jumped to 2.8 per game and his turnover worthy plays dropped to 1.2 per game. He threw 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. It speaks to how bad Seattle’s defense was that despite these dramatic improvements, Seattle’s record in the seven games was just 3-4.

I think this is who Geno Smith is. He’s physically gifted and has the kind of tools and ability to wow you over a stretch of games. He also has a propensity to go through an extended rough patch.

I have no doubt that if the Seahawks were able to deliver an excellent offensive line and if Ryan Grubb is a Shanahan/McVay level play-caller, that it’s extremely possible to extend the hot streak and limit the cold streak. I’m just not sure how realistic that is. Without this kind of environment I think Smith will continue to be a hot and cold player — thus showing the difference compared to the top-tier of quarterbacks.

Let’s use Josh Allen as an example. He went into last season with an O-line ranked 22nd in the league per PFF. He didn’t have the weapons Seattle has and the one top receiver he had, Stefon Diggs, was embroiled in a ‘does he want to be there’ summer of headlines.

Allen ranked #1 per PFF at quarterback with a 92.5 grade yet was far from flawless. He had a poor game in week one against the Jets (49.6), struggled in a loss to Denver (58.4) and had a mediocre game against the Patriots in week 17 (61.7). However, he never had an extended run of poor performances. He had isolated ‘off-days’ — which every QB will experience (even Patrick Mahomes). Overall, he elevated the Bills without an amazing supporting cast, offensive line or offensive whiz-kid calling plays (his OC lost his job during the season).

The Bills can rely on Allen to compensate for a non-ideal environment. If the O-line concedes pressure, he has the physical ability to scramble, extend plays or make magic happen. His arm talent is so rare that he elevates the performance of his receivers.

Smith is not that kind of player, which is hardly a criticism by the way. He is someone with good physical tools but requires a degree of competency around him. He’s definitely an athlete but he’s not a great scrambler or extender of plays. If Seattle’s offensive line struggles, I wouldn’t expect him to shine.

This is ultimately why I think they have to be on the look out for someone who can do what Allen can do — because it’s very difficult in the NFL to deliver quality players broadly across your roster. It’s especially hard to build a great offensive line — one of the reasons why elusiveness and improv has become so valued among quarterbacks.

I also think this is why Smith is good enough for the here and now but needs to be seen as a better-than-the-typical bridge rather than anything more than that. He is very much an Alex Smith type for Seattle. I do think, with help, he can lead this team to 10 or 11 wins. Smith had four seasons with the Chiefs where they won 10-12 games. At the same time, Kansas City were clearly very actively looking for better. When they identified Mahomes as their man, they aggressively pursued him. They traded Smith even after a good season.

I believe the Seahawks have the same mentality and are simply yet to find the guy they like to make a move (either with their native pick or by moving up).

I hope I’m wrong and the people who believe Smith is a franchise quarterback are right. That would be great for the Seahawks. I just don’t think it’s likely though, based on the things I’ve written about here and also the apparent league-view of Smith. After all, he tested free agency in 2023 and could only come away with a team-friendly, incentive-laden, minimal commitment contract with the Seahawks. It felt very much like Seattle was dangling him as a trade-chip pre-combine this year, with quid-pro-quo Adam Schefter talking up his trade value in relation to his contract. Nobody bit — meaning John Schneider and Mike Macdonald had to adjust from being noticeably non-committal to Smith during press conferences to suddenly talking him up all the time.

I get the sense Schneider isn’t totally convinced by Smith. I’ve no doubt he’s willing to adjust any opinion he might have based on his performance this year but his review of the quarterback (‘some good, some bad’) when asked after Carroll was fired kind of said it all.

My prediction for 2024 is this. I think Seattle’s offensive line is enough of a question mark that it will prevent Smith from avoiding the hot-and-cold runs highlighted earlier. I think he will have a stretch of play this year where he looks extremely competent and he produces. I also think he will probably have a stretch where he struggles somewhat.

As noted, the way to mitigate this likely would’ve been a major investment in the O-line which simply didn’t happen this off-season. There will definitely be new starters at both guard spots and center — with question marks at every position. There might be a new starter at right tackle too — or Abe Lucas will return with questions about his ability to perform at a good level so soon after recovering from surgery.

If the line struggles it’ll impact the quarterback and the running game. I don’t have much faith in a Laken Tomlinson career revival. Olu Oluwatimi is an unknown at the NFL level and has the limited physical upside you’d expect from a former fifth round pick. I really like Christian Haynes but he’s a rookie. I remain underwhelmed by Charles Cross and want to see more from him in year three. I think they did a good job signing George Fant to cover if needed at right tackle.

I think Smith’s 2024 will be similar to his 2012, 2022 and 2023. Once again, ‘some good, some bad’. That would create quite the discussion point for the next off-season, given Smith’s $38.5m cap hit for 2025. They’d likely have to make a call on a release or an extension. I bet they’ll be keeping a close eye on college quarterbacks in the meantime, looking for the player who can possibly elevate this team for the long-term. Even then, ideally the bridge is positioned for a transition rather than a clean break. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s possible from next year — unless Sam Howell can prove to be the heir apparent over the next 12 months.

If you missed yesterday’s Seahawks roundtable/crossover be sure to check it out: