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What Would Seahawks' Ceiling Be with Geno Smith or Anthony Gordon at QB in 2020?

This iteration of the Seahawks has never had to go to battle without their superstar quarterback, but common sense would indicate disaster if Russell Wilson missed significant time. How would things look with either of the other two rostered quarterbacks under center in 2020?

Let’s just kick this off by saying that, if there is an NFL season to be played in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Russell Wilson, baby on the way and all, is all but guaranteed to be there. The Super Bowl champion quarterback is now seventh on the all-time list for most consecutive games started and has fought through significant injuries to sustain that record. And despite publicly voicing his concerns about the NFL’s fumbling of health and safety discussions with the NFLPA, Wilson is staying prepared for a far different season than any other he’s ever played, telling Joel McHale on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he’s been practicing with a mouth shield attached to his helmet daily.

Suspending disbelief for a moment here, however, what if Wilson grows more anxious as we move closer to the start of the season? What would the Seahawks do if their most prized - and most expensive - player blindsided them by opting out in favor of his family’s safety? Our own Colby Patnode recently looked at a few options they would have in response to this potential nightmare of a situation.

Because of Wilson’s consecutive starts streak, we have no data to really work off here to determine how exactly the Seahawks would do without their future Hall of Fame quarterback. We’ve never seen this iteration of the Seahawks without Wilson, who’s started every regular season and playoff game of theirs since Week 1 of the 2012 campaign, his rookie year. So we’ll have to use common sense here, which should tell us that Wilson opting out would ultimately spell doom for the Seahawks, no matter who they would bring in at quarterback.

That said, in all likelihood, the Seahawks would still look outside of their current quarterback room in hopes of acquiring someone like Jacoby Brissett or Colin Kaepernick in order to remain competitive in 2020. But, in the example of a Brissett deal, why trade solid draft capital for a quarterback whose only contributions may come in a season that could abruptly end at any given time? Signing a free agent, a la Kaepernick, could also present problems for the Seahawks, as Wilson’s hiatus may put more of an emphasis on saving as much cap space as possible to shore up some of their other weaknesses on the defense and try to make up some of the difference that way.

Frankly speaking, the Seahawks wouldn’t seem to have a promising course of action to even slightly compensate for the loss of Wilson, and could do long-term damage in the process. In that case, perhaps the best option would be to unofficially forfeit the season and ride things out, for however long they may last, with Geno Smith at quarterback.

Smith hasn’t started in more than one game in a season since 2014, in which he appeared in 13 games. Through his first 29 starts in the NFL, Smith threw for 5,571 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions. Since then, he has four touchdowns to two interceptions and 611 passing yards in 10 appearances. On a career passer rating of 72.7, Smith unfortunately inspires little-to-no confidence in his ability to cover up any of the dysfunction Wilson’s absence.

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The Seahawks are notorious for their underutilization of Wilson’s talents, however, and likely would invest as heavily as they could into the run game, taking as much responsibility off of Smith’s shoulders as possible. With Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde as a one-two punch, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer providing solid, young depth behind them, and Rashaad Penny expected to return at some point from a torn ACL, the Seahawks have a stable of backs to help carry a dominant run game. But with a retooled offensive line that’s now more tailored towards the passing game than ever, the Seahawks may struggle to dictate games on the ground.

Looking at their 2020 schedule, there are a few games that would still realistically be in reach for them without Wilson. The Seahawks are not a bad team outside of Wilson and they have elite talent at other positions, but also have some concerning holes along their roster as well. With games against the Dolphins, Jets, Giants, and Washington, and accounting for a possible fluke or two, the Seahawks have enough to notch four or five wins on the year, but that would seem to be their ceiling.

Taking all of this into consideration, it begs to ask the question of how much worse the Seahawks would actually be off by starting Anthony Gordon instead. Gordon may be a project, but if the plan is to lean into the run game no matter who’s under center, leaving the quarterback fewer opportunities for mistakes, is there much of a difference between Gordon and Smith? They're not making the playoffs either way.

In fact, Gordon may be a far better option because there’s at least upside there. Smith may give the Seahawks a better chance to win four games than two, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest, and Gordon could develop into a solid long-term backup option with legitimate starting experience.

Some fans may be perplexed that the Seahawks aren’t better equipped for life without Wilson, especially after seeing what the Eagles accomplished with Nick Foles in 2017-18. Blame it on coaching, blame it on the front office, blame it on personnel, but the Seahawks are ultimately victims of the natural circumstances of team building in the NFL.

In the 2017 season, Carson Wentz accounted for just 3.4 percent of the Eagles’ cap; Russell Wilson is set to eat 15.5 percent of the Seahawks’ cap. This isn’t to entirely diminish some of Seattle's missteps and misfortunes in adding talent to their roster, especially this past offseason, but there’s a massive financial hurdle for them way that a team like Philadelphia didn’t have to overcome. Present a similar scenario but with the Seahawks’ 2013 roster and resources and we’re probably having a much different conversation.

Thankfully for Seahawks fans, this doesn’t seem to be a reality any of us will have to live in, at least not in terms of an opt-out. But it should put in perspective the harsh reality a potential injury could bring and how critical Wilson - and other high-paid NFL quarterbacks - are to the operation.