In the aftermath of trading nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson to the Broncos in March, many expected the Seahawks to aggressively pursue a replacement either through the trade market or the NFL draft.
But with OTAs set to kick off on May 23, Seattle instead looks poised to roll into the 2022 season with veterans Drew Lock and Geno Smith competing to replace Wilson. General manager John Schneider opted not to use one of his nine selections in the 2022 NFL Draft on a quarterback and while rumors have persisted about Baker Mayfield winding up in the Pacific Northwest, the team has not shown interest in trading with Cleveland to acquire him.
Over the past few months, while many analysts and fans alike have panned the Seahawks for opting to move forward with Lock and Smith, coach Pete Carroll has remained steadfast in his confidence in both signal callers. Most recently, he told reporters during rookie minicamp Smith held the edge given his experience running their offense, only to turn around and tell 950 KJR's Ian Furness days later that he believes Lock would have been the first quarterback selected in this year's draft.
“I think he’d have been the first guy picked, of quarterbacks anyway,” Carroll told Furness. “He’d have been the first guy in this draft. I don’t have any hesitation saying that.”
During that same interview, when pressed about the possibility of trading for a quarterback before the start of the season, Carroll shot down the idea. Even with Mayfield still being dangled by the Browns, if he's going to eventually wind up with the Seahawks, it doesn't sound like it will happen unless he's released.
Based on his remarks over the past couple of months, Carroll's optimism about Lock and Smith doesn't look to be fictitious. Both he and Schneider seem genuinely intrigued by the 25-year old Lock's physical tools and believe difficult circumstances with changing coordinators and the COVID-19 pandemic played a big role in his struggles in Denver. As for Smith, he's lauded him for his leadership and handling an adverse situation effectively replacing an injured Wilson in three starts a year ago.
Given Carroll's track record of building winning football teams at the college and NFL level, fans shouldn't dismiss his comments. It's possible Lock or Smith could do a good enough job running Shane Waldron's offense coupled with a strong running game and an aggressive defense for the Seahawks to exceed expectations and be far more competitive than anticipated in the NFC West. In the case of Lock, considering his youth, he could still be a long-term answer if everything clicks for him.
But at the same time, Carroll has always been a glass half full type of coach. Optimism and positivity are his persistent calling cards, sometimes to his own detriment. And on paper, with Wilson now set to cook in the Mile High City, it's hard to find an NFL team with a less desirable quarterback room.
If the Panthers stubbornly go into another year with Sam Darnold - who has only completed north of 60 percent of his passes once in four seasons - as the starter while third-round pick Matt Corral develops behind him, that may be the only team with a more discouraging situation at the most important position in professional sports. In time, Corral could emerge as the long-term solution they have been looking for since releasing Cam Newton.
With Mitch Trubisky being the only experienced starter on their roster, the Steelers could also be in the discussion. But first-round pick Kenny Pickett will get a crack at replacing Ben Roethlisberger right away and since he starred at Pittsburgh, his arrival has united the fan base with hopes of a bright future.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Seahawks in the present, who will be trying to hang tough with two failed starters vying to succeed Wilson and no incoming rookie to groom behind them. In many ways, it parallels to the 2011 season when Carroll rolled out Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as starters.
Both Lock and Smith broke into the league as second-round draft picks with expectations they could become franchise quarterbacks. Each player showed some promise as rookies, with Lock going 4-1 in five starts for the Broncos in 2019 and Smith passing for over 3,000 yards in 16 starts for the Jets in 2013.
From there, however, neither Lock nor Smith emerged as the long-term starter their respective franchises hoped for. Regressing in a new offensive scheme, Lock uncorked an NFL-worst 15 interceptions in 2020 and lost his job to Teddy Bridgewater last August. Smith cut down on his interceptions in his second season, but the Jets went 3-10 in 13 games he started, and after suffering a broken jaw in a fight with a teammate, he never recaptured the starting job.
Looking at their respective resumes as NFL quarterbacks, Lock has compiled an 8-13 record as a starter and thrown 25 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions with a pedestrian 79.3 passer rating and 59.3 percent completion rate. Six years old, Smith has posted a 13-21 record as a starter with 34 touchdowns, 37 interceptions, a 75.7 passer rating, and a 58.8 percent completion rate.
Neither of those career stat lines should inspire much confidence, even if Carroll thinks both will be able to perform at a higher level with a better supporting cast around them in Seattle.
When it's all said and done, Carroll and Schneider may restore their label as NFL geniuses. With their backs against the wall coming off a 7-10 season, they are eager to show they can build a contender once again and don't believe they need an elite quarterback to win games. If Lock or Smith takes cares of the football and plays the role of point guard facilitating the offense, they could surprise battling for a playoff spot and Seattle's brain trust could get the last laugh.
The end game also has to be kept in consideration, as Seattle holds two first and two second-round picks in next year's draft, which is expected to feature a far superior quarterback class compared to this year. Carroll and Schneider would never tank a season, but behind the scenes, they may be content with the idea of playing out this year with a stop gap at the position before getting their future starter next spring.
It's also possible Mayfield, who is due nearly $19 million in fully guaranteed salary in 2022, could be cut by the Browns before training camp. If that happens, the Seahawks may pounce and suddenly, their situation wouldn't be quite as disconcerting.
Regardless, based on what Lock and Smith have demonstrated in their careers thus far, fans shouldn't be criticized for being down on the quarterback group and the team's plans at the position. Until either one of them proves to be a capable starter beyond a couple of games, the widespread skepticism about the Seahawks' immediate future is more than warranted.