Skip to main content

'Think the World Of Him': Seahawks QB Sam Howell Eager to Learn From Geno Smith

While Sam Howell will go from a full-time starter a year ago back into a backup role with the Seattle Seahawks, the third-year quarterback is grateful for his next opportunity to work with a seasoned veteran in Geno Smith.

As Sam Howell made pre-draft rounds speaking with prospective teams back in the spring of 2022, the North Carolina star spent as much time with the Seattle Seahawks as any organization, building a strong relationship with then-quarterback coach Dave Canales along the way.

Leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, based on his extensive time getting to know Canales and other members of the coaching staff and personnel department at the Senior Bowl as well as the NFL combine, Howell circled the Seahawks as one of the teams most likely to select him after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos earlier in the offseason. But he slid into day three before eventually being selected by the Commanders in the fifth round, eventually becoming their starter last season.

Two years later, Howell has now come full circle after Seattle swapped third and fifth-round picks with Washington to acquire the third-year quarterback, a fourth-round pick, and a sixth-round pick. Passing his physical to make the trade official on Friday, he's thrilled for the opportunity to finally join the team.

Sam Howell enjoyed one of his finest performances at Lumen Field last season and now will get to play on the home side as a member of the Seahawks.

Sam Howell enjoyed one of his finest performances at Lumen Field last season and now will get to play on the home side as a member of the Seahawks.

"I thought this was a team I might come to, but I didn't," Howell told John Boyle of "But I'm here now, and I'm excited to be here and excited to be a Seahawk."

Among the many reasons Howell couldn't be more ecstatic about a change of scenery, he will have the privilege of working with Geno Smith, who rebounded from his own early career struggles with the Jets to win Comeback Player of the Year with the Seahawks in 2022.

Last November, Howell and Smith dueled in an exhilarating back-and-forth battle as the Seahawks edged the Commanders 29-26 at Lumen Field. Smith turned in one of his finest performances of the season, throwing for 369 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, but Howell was equally impressive throwing for 314 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions with both offenses moving up and down the field all afternoon long.

Having faced off against Smith between the lines, Howell holds the veteran signal caller in high regard for the journey he has taken to become a Pro Bowl quarterback and as he transitions into the next stage of his career, he eagerly awaits the chance to learn from him on the practice field and in the film room.

"I've got a lot of respect for him, he's a heck of a football player, and he's had a good career," Howell said of playing with Smith. "He's battled through some adversity and come out on the other side, so I definitely have a lot of respect for what he's done throughout his career, and I think the world of him as a player."

Just 23 years old, Howell will provide the Seahawks with a young, high-upside backup to develop behind Smith who offers ample starting experience. Thrust into the lineup last year with the Commanders after starting a single game as a rookie, though he threw a league-high 21 interceptions and took a league-worst 65 sacks, he also nearly passed for 4,000 yards, tossed 21 touchdowns, and added five rushing scores in a promising sophomore campaign.

Already a big fan of Howell dating back to scouting him at North Carolina, general manager John Schneider saw what the tough-minded gunslinger can do in person at Lumen Field, including a spectacular touchdown pass to running back Antonio Gibson while having his hand hit before he could follow through. After losing Drew Lock in free agency, he shifted his attention towards trying to deal for Howell and Seattle was left "sweating it out" as other teams pursued him.

“The day we played here, that hit home how tough he was, how strong he was,” Schneider remarked on Seattle Sports 710 on Thursday. “Keeping his eyes downfield, finding the open receiver and, yeah, shoot, almost winning the game there at the end. We got great reviews on him and we loved him coming out of college. We’re happy to get him in the mix.”

Blown away by his performance in front of the loud 12s in a hostile road environment, Schneider described Howell as a "football player" rather than just a quarterback, referencing his toughness throughout the interview. Circumstances weren't ideal in Washington last season, as offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy struggled to establish a competent run game and had his first-time starter throw a league-high 612 pass attempts, including eclipsing 40 pass attempts in eight games.

While critics have dogged Howell for leading the league in picks, his 3.4 percent interception rate was lower than Dan Marino, John Elway, and Brett Favre in seasons where the three Hall of Famers threw more than 600 times. Seeing far more positives than negatives assessing his overall play, Schneider took advantage of the chance to land a quarterback who is actually younger than several top prospects in this year's draft class at the position.

“He has 18 starts in the league already, and he’s the same age as like [Jayden] Daniels from LSU and [South Carolina QB Spencer] Rattler and [UW Huskies QB Michael] Penix, and he’s a year younger than [Oregon QB] Bo Nix. We were just really excited to be able to acquire him. We know he’s a serious dude and into it, he works his tail off," Schneider said.

With Smith coming off another fine season throwing 20 touchdown passes and engineering an NFL-best five game-winning touchdown drives, Schneider shot down any speculation about who will start for the Seahawks next season on Thursday, acknowledging Howell wasn't acquired to compete for the job and will fill Lock's previous role as the experienced backup.

However, given his age, inexpensive rookie contract, and promising performance as a first-time starter in Washington last season, Howell's arrival will undoubtedly apply some pressure on Smith from a long-term standpoint. Seattle will give him ample opportunities to show what he can do during the offseason program leading up to training camp and depending on how he fares, the franchise may eventually be ready to turn the keys to the offense to him.

Of course, Howell isn't coming to the Pacific Northwest with the wagon out in front of the horse. Landing in one of the places he hoped to be once it became apparent the Commanders could move him with a top-five pick in hand to draft their next quarterback, he isn't worrying about stealing a starting job and simply wants to be a great teammate while giving his new team "all I got."

"Once I figured out that me being traded was a possibility, this was one of the teams that I kind of had circled and was hoping for. I'm just very happy to be here, very thankful to John [Schneider] and to Mike (Macdonald) for giving me this opportunity. I'm just ready to go to work."