Yes, Seahawks Fans, Geno Smith is for Real

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 10 - The Geno Smith Revival Tour isn't a fever dream. It's not a fluke or the product of an unsustainable model of offense (sorry, Daniel Jones) or any other explanation that takes credit away from the individual. Smith, with nearly a decade of NFL knowledge and training pent up just waiting to be unleashed, has become one of the league's preeminent pocket passers.

Smith's emergence is that much sweeter, at least for the Seahawks, because he is winning in all the ways Russell Wilson rarely did. Wilson, at his best, was obviously a better player and an MVP candidate, but he flew by the seat of his pants, trading three-and-outs for moonball deep passes and miraculous plays from outside the pocket every other drive. Smith, by contrast, is a prim and proper passer. He commands the pocket, he exhausts all of his progressions down to the humble checkdown, and, yes, he throws the hell out of the middle of the field.

The Rams won a Super Bowl last season by spamming and converting on plays like the one above. Backed up on third-and-12, the Seahawks come out in a 3x1 set with Tyler Lockett as the isolated receiver running an in-breaker right at the sticks. The idea is to stretch the weak side of the Cardinals strong-rotation Cover-3 and hit the in-breaker between the cornerback, the flat defender, and the weak hook player, but that's no easy task. It requires great timing, zip, and ball placement, a combination Matthew Stafford played with at an incomprehensible level last season. Smith isn't quite peak Stafford, but he has enough of the right stuff. Smith peeks at the deep safety through his initial drop to see if he can hit the post down the middle, but wastes no time at the top, hitches quick as a wink, and lets it rip as the receiver is barely coming out of the break. Smith's target takes a pop on the receiving end of the throw, but sometimes that's the price of converting third-and-long in the NFL.

Smith isn't just a "see window, throw window" type of passer, either. His timing and anticipation are as impressive as anyone's right now, but he's also quick to adapt to the circumstances. It's not as simple as going through the progressions as they are drawn out on the chalkboard and operating in a timely manner. Smith gets how the picture changes and how that calls for different types of ball locations. He knows how to throw his receivers open.

The Seahawks start in an empty formation with a bunch set to the left, but motion running back Kenneth Walker (9) across at the snap. The two remaining receivers, Lockett (16) and DK Metcalf (14), run a flat/corner Smash variation, a common red zone concept. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton (33) has outside leverage on Metcalf's corner route from the snap, though, and fights to stay outside and underneath the route in an effort to squeeze Metcalf to the back of the end zone and force the overthrow. Smith, as well as Metcalf, had another idea. Without any panic in his heart, Smith reads the corner's leverage and, even before Metcalf is out of the break, throws the ball in such a way that forces Metcalf to settle and pull away from the cornerback. To make that kind of in-the-moment read of the cornerback's leverage and let the ball go that quickly, with the pocket closing in, is as good as it gets.

The strides Smith has made as an aggressive, nuanced pocket passer are unbelievable. That was always going to be his path to success based on his college profile. Of course, nobody knew how good he would emerge on the other end of the eight-year long hiatus he took as a full-time starter, but those particular strengths at least square with the idea of Smith as a prospect.

What doesn't square at all is Smith's complete control under pressure. Both in college and during his early days with the Jets, Smith was numb to pressure in the worst way. He would hold the ball and wait for his primary targets down the field to come open, often without even trying to slide around in the pocket or find his checkdowns. Occasionally he would bail to scramble, but Smith was more often than not a sitting duck waiting to be strip-sacked. That's no longer the case. Smith is still numb to the bodies around him, but now in a productive manner. Smith sees, feels, and reacts to pressure now, but he doesn't let it derail him from getting to the right play.

Smith ranks seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt and fifth in EPA when pressured, and plays like this one make it easy to understand how that's been possible. Left tackle Charles Cross loses the rookie-on-rookie battle with Cardinals pass-rusher Cameron Thomas and gets bull-rushed straight into Smith's back. Despite the walls closing in, Smith shows no fear. He continues to slide up, brings his eyes off the crosser over the middle, and flicks the ball to George Fant (87) on a curl route. Smith had no chance to turn and bail, no room to slide back, and nowhere to step up for a throw, and yet he found a way to wiggle around the mosh pit to find his target between zones. A lot of other quarterbacks, even good ones, would collapse or fire an errant pass under that kind of pressure, but Smith continues to find ways to make something out of nothing from within the pocket more than most of his peers.

To the same point, Smith isn't as stubborn about hanging around and waiting for things to happen as he used to be. Now, he makes things happen on his own. Smith is not and never will be a top-class scrambler, but he has enough razzle and dazzle to make defenses pay for playing man coverage or getting too deep in their zones. The Cardinals didn't learn that lesson the first time around this season and paid for their sins again on Sunday.


On both of these plays, Smith doesn't waste any time switching gears from passer to ballcarrier. Versus zone coverage in the first clip, Smith makes his way through his entire progression, finally landing on Metcalf on the right sideline. Metcalf is sandwiched between two defenders, though, and Smith takes off as soon as he realizes it. In the second clip versus man coverage on third down, Smith doesn't even waste time letting all the routes develop. There's no need; he can get the yards himself. Maybe Lockett's route to the top of the screen would have been throwable if Smith had waited a tick, but there's no point in waiting for a maybe when there is a guaranteed first down to be picked up on the ground.

Smith has most of the answers a quarterback needs to play at a high level week-in and week-out. He isn't the most creative passer outside the pocket, nor is he the true rushing threat that guys such as Jalen Hurts or Lamar Jackson are, but he is fearless, he processes well, he understands how to adapt on the fly, and he's as accurate as anybody in the league right now. It feels like that can't hold up, and maybe it won't, but nothing about Smith's film to this point in the year suggests he's going to turn into a pumpkin again. He's just plain good right now.


42 comments, Last at 11 Nov 2022, 7:47pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 09, 2022 - 10:26am

Wilson, at his best, was obviously a better player and an MVP candidate

Wilson, famously, has never been an MVP candidate.

His peak also isn't much higher than Smith this year. 2019 at 1265 DYAR was his best year, I think. Smith is on pace for about 1000 DYAR over a 16-game schedule.

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#8 by Aaron Schatz // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:45am

Wilson was absolutely an MVP candidate. Just because he didn't get any votes doesn't mean he wasn't playing well enough for voters to consider him. Remember, we are only allowed to vote for one person. This isn't ranked choice like the baseball MVP voting.

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#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:08pm

My having garnered a write-in vote for governor doesn't make me a candidate. And that's better than Russ's cooking has ever done.

\a single write-in vote for auditor did once make my wife a candidate, though.

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#2 by Sethtcoleman3 // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:03am

Geno's play has been remarkable and such a key to what the Seahawks have been able to do as a team. The Defense and running game have steadily matured as well which makes them one of the very few well-balanced teams as we get into the most meaningful part of the season. I seem to recall commenting here on another FBO article about Smith throwing DK open on that TD. Great stuff! Also, there's a typo where you mention George Fant and you mean Noah Fant!

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#22 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 09, 2022 - 1:10pm

Although finding George Fant on a presumably tackle-eligible curl route would be much more impressive.  Especially since he now plays for the Jets.  And is on injured reserve.

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#3 by KnotMe // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:07am

I think the main concern with Geno is that we see guys put it together one year and then can't seem to do that again. (Mac Jones for an example from this year), It makes the contract situation really interesting but it does seem like he is totally legit for this year. 

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#4 by Sportszilla // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:15am

Geno has almost as much DYAR in 9 games as Mac had all last year. Mac was a rookie. This comparison makes zero sense.

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#6 by ImNewAroundThe… // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:32am

In reply to by Sportszilla

Is probably the concern. 

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#13 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:11pm

2020 Tannehill was pretty good, too.

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#16 by Sportszilla // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:25pm

Tannehill generated a ton of his value on play action/single read plays, stuff that better defenses could take away. That has not been the case with Geno, as the piece explores.

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#15 by Sportszilla // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:25pm

Tannehill generated a ton of his value on play action/single read plays, stuff that better defenses could take away. That has not been the case with Geno, as the piece explores.

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#7 by KnotMe // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:34am

In reply to by Sportszilla

I meant as an example of a guy being good one year and not being able to sustain it the next. Wentz had one good year too. Tannehill is another one.  It's not a knock on Geno, it's just you can NEVER really tell how good a player will being going forward based one year. (This is why the Watson contract was a huge risk. He only had one year at that level). Mac was an example bc he seems to have lost decision making ability, which is rare. 

Still, Geno is good enough this year that even with some regression(say he settles around 800 DYAR) he would still be a good starter, and he could also improve to the Warren Moon path.  There is also cases where guys are great, regress for a while and then put it together again. Lamar this year may be an example. What makes the really great players great is they pretty keep at a high level year after year.  When you get a career's really, really good,(Manning 2013)     You never know, which is what makes it interesting. 

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#31 by theslothook // Nov 09, 2022 - 6:54pm

Jared Goff had TWO good years, finishing #5 in DVOA back to back. 

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#26 by MJK // Nov 09, 2022 - 4:52pm

In reply to by Sportszilla

Also, it's highly unlikely that Pete Carroll will hire Joe Judge and Matt Patricia to co-run the Seahawks offense next year.  

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#9 by johonny12 // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:45am

Is Pete a HOF level coach? 

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#10 by KnotMe // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:56am

In reply to by johonny12

He's got a ring(helps).  .596 WP is good, but not great. No COY yet.  

He's not slam dunk guy but would get consideration.. (Only active ones would be Reid and BillyB), HoVG at least I think,  I would give him a "probably" for HOF, esp if he has another decent run of success with a different QB. 

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#35 by BJR // Nov 10, 2022 - 5:12am

To a large degree yes. I suppose Jimmy Johnson or Tom Flores would represent the lower limit of what could get you into the HOF in terms of longevity.

As a hypothetical, if Sean McVay were to retire at the end of this season would he warrant serious consideration? 

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#41 by Tamerlane // Nov 11, 2022 - 6:42pm

Are Carroll's HoF credentials seriously being debated here?  IMO he is is a complete lock.  On one level, you can look to the bar just set by Dick Vermeil, another coach with two appearances and one Super Bowl win.  Every coach with two appearances and one win, who isn't still coaching, has made the HoF.  It's simply that hard to make it to SBs.  But let's consider the case in more detail.

Carroll was already named one of two All-Decade Coaches for the 2010s by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having turned around a middling Seahawks franchise into one of the top 2 or 3 most successful teams since 2010.  Before Seattle he did the same thing at USC, creating one of the most dominant runs in college football history.  Incidentally he's one of three coaches to win both a Super Bowl and college National Championship (nearly a three-peat of NCs actually).  His college record is not supposed to count for anything, but you can bet it will not be forgotten.  Before USC Carroll never had full control as a head coach, but he did lead the Patriots to 2 out of 3 playoff seasons.

What was Carroll's impact on the league and historical achievements?  Brick by brick he built an historic defense, one that was the bedrock of arguably some all-time great teams overall.  When FO did its own historical estimates not long ago, didn't it say Carroll's Seahawks had 3 out of the top 20 most efficient teams among 1,800+ teams over a 70 year period?  A similar model used at The Athletic recently found the 2013 Seahawks tied for the highest team efficiency of the last 20 years.  In any event, as a consequence of Seahawks success on defense, Carroll is widely credited with influencing league-wide schematic trends in the 2010s, triggering a 'Cover 3 revolution' that has only recently given way to new cyclical trends.

Fast-forward to mid-2022.  Now that we can put to rest the lingering but phony thesis that Russell Wilson carried Pete Carroll teams all these years, we can actually look back with fresh perspective at how Carroll has been able to build highly successful teams around so many different quarterbacks who were not successful otherwise:  from Booty and Leinart, to Sanchez and Geno.  It's obviously hard to separate head coach from quarterback from team success, but Carroll's longevity and success in diverse circumstances makes it easier to identify his value added.  Anyway, more could be said but as I see it, this Seahawks 'rebuild' is just the icing on the cake of what is a slam dunk case and nothing that happens from this point forward is likely to change that.

(As for McVay, he's already built a strong case by ticking many of the boxes above:  two appearances and one SB, and a noteworthy impact on league-wide schematic trends, but I suspect he would still need to add a few more years of moderate success to seal the deal.)

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#18 by Sethtcoleman3 // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:43pm

In reply to by johonny12

If Pete has playoff success with a different QB and rebuilt roster (and a bunch of later round picks that turned into stars), he cements his status as a HOF coach. Still a big IF, but it's looking like it's headed that direction so maybe he should get some credit for doing it again with different names and faces!

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#11 by ian // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:06pm

Tim Duncan - never breathtaking but steady, consistently, winning at the small things until they add up on the scoreboard.  ESPN could never love Tim Duncan because he didn't produce highlights, and I kind of get the same vibe about Geno Smith and NFL pundits -- something about his success is an indictment of how talent is evaluated and developed, so he can't be loved, tautologically.

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#17 by robbbbbb // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:26pm

As a Seahawks fan, I'll say that watching Geno this year is like watching someone methodically do the right thing every time.  He's consistently making the right decision with the ball, and that leads to steady gains.  He gets a big pass play every now and again, but what really makes the offense hum is that he's ripping off regular 8-12 yard chunk plays over the middle of the field.  Oh, and the bootleg.  He's killing it on the bootleg pass, over and over and over.

He's not completely immune to the occasional boner; his interception-for-a-TD this week was just a bad decision, badly executed.  But he is consistently choosing to do the right thing with the ball, every time he drops back to pass.

The highlight reel plays come from the receivers and the running backs this year.  (Especially Walker; that kid has great moves.)  Geno is putting them into position to be successful, time and again.

This offseason's contract is going to be very interesting.  Geno is playing above-average, with a talented offense behind him.  He's shown he can be successful with good receivers and good protection.  (Seriously; the Seattle offensive line has been rock solid this year.)  What kind of contract does  that deserve?  I wonder how much discomfort the front office is willing to swallow to re-sign Geno.  Does that look like a 2 year contract at $20M per?  Or a 3 year contract at $30M per?  Tannehill got 4 years at $30M per, and I feel like that's the baseline for Geno.  Maybe?

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#20 by ian // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:59pm

I'm comfortable re-signing him, within reason, because (presumably) they are better with him than with a rookie under center.   I think paying $8-12 Million / year is fine; they have the cap room.  I also think that they should draft a future QB, and that the Geno contract should be a year shorter than that guy's rookie deal.

Or maybe drinking the water in Renton for another year is what it takes for Drew Lock to become a 73% passer and they just sign him for $3 Million / year and take the two best defensive tackles in the draft instead of a QB. Predicting the Seahawks off-season is hard.  :)

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#37 by fyo // Nov 10, 2022 - 6:11am

Even the high end of your pay range ($12 million) is below the top 16 QB cap hits for this season. Obviously, there are some very talented players on rookie contracts and a bunch of players at the end of old contracts, so that number is somewhat misleading.

Basically, you are proposing to pay him as a well-below-average quarterback.

A low-end top 10 quarterback signed at current rates is around $20 million a year.

If you look at total contract length instead, which obviously includes a bunch of bogus money tacked on at the end, you need to get outside the top 15 to get below $25 million a year.

In other words, you are more realistically looking at $15-$20 million a year actual money.

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#42 by Tamerlane // Nov 11, 2022 - 7:40pm

It's difficult to come up with an exact parallel to the Geno case but one thing I see commonly ignored when considering past precedents is a failure to adjust for salary cap increases.  Contract discussions might make comparisons but they will use the cap% earned, by Tannehill or whoever, not the actual dollar figure.  This is all to say that inflation is real.

I'd be shocked if Geno, continuing to play this way, will not get a contract over 20m, very possibly well over.  The only complication from Geno's perspective is whether there are GMs (owners) out there willing to stick their necks out to bid against the Seahawks, knowing that if Geno leaves Seattle and fails, everyone will say I told you so (whether or not that's true).

Even if there's little competition out there the Seahawks will not disrespect Geno with a backup QB offer.  The Seahawks are well positioned to take a QB high in the draft if they love one, but how can you, given how Geno has played this season (top 5, not just top 10).  He's become quite the fan favorite too.  No matter what the risk of regression, they will surely try to extend him, and hopefully hedge with a promising project QB in round 2 or later.

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#14 by Ben // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:16pm

And he’s spectacular?

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#19 by Raiderfan // Nov 09, 2022 - 12:52pm

A useless film room article when all the film clips are “This video has been removed for violating our Terms of Service.” :(

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#24 by mehllageman56 // Nov 09, 2022 - 2:25pm

Did FO run afoul of the NFL lawyer who messed with the Pat McAfee show?

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#25 by mehllageman56 // Nov 09, 2022 - 2:26pm

Seriously thinking about this- this website is connected to ESPN, what is the NFL doing?

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#30 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 09, 2022 - 6:00pm

It is the noseless face of the spiteful man.

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#21 by scraps // Nov 09, 2022 - 1:03pm

Can you get Tanier to read this?

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#29 by StoffingtonPost // Nov 09, 2022 - 5:54pm

Every video says it’s been removed.  Tried multiple browsers and devices.

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#32 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 09, 2022 - 9:56pm

Current FO odds give the Seahawks the third best chance in the NFC to win the Super Bowl.  I did not see that coming.

Then again, I didn't see the Eagles as ever rating during the course of the season as the most likely Super Bowl champion, either.

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#33 by theslothook // Nov 09, 2022 - 11:58pm

Then again, I didn't see the Eagles as ever rating during the course of the season as the most likely Super Bowl champion, either.


I don't think anyone did. And if they say they were, I'll say they are lying. Look at the comments in this thread when Sirianni was hired.

A stark reminder that Ex post facto narration is as easy as talk is cheap.

I'll state it plainly here and channel the words of Eugene Fans, unless you can make a prediction ex ante and sign your name to it beforehand, I don't wanna hear any of your ex post facto I told you so bullshit.


Eugene Fans should have read Eugene Fama

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#34 by ahmadrashad // Nov 10, 2022 - 1:26am

Looking at that thread, the criticisms of Sirianni seem to be: 

* He's not Eric Bienemy

* Eagle office politics

* He is religious 

I haven't found the receipts where someone said he's a terrible coach or etc. 

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#38 by theslothook // Nov 10, 2022 - 9:31am

The intimation was this guys hiring made no sense when clearly there were "obviously" better/more qualified candidates.

And yet, the sorry history of hiring the top coordinator from a top unit doesn't seem to alter this view.

I've come to the point where I've given up pretending which hiring is going to work and which is going to fail.

Also, I stated and others agreed that the Eagles looked miles from contention. We are less than two years since then and it's not like they drafted Patrick Mahomes in that timespan to cleanly explain this.

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#40 by ahmadrashad // Nov 10, 2022 - 12:20pm

I don't believe anyone here knows anything about 'personnel' beyond what the tv guys say. 

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#36 by BJR // Nov 10, 2022 - 5:28am

I'll state it plainly here and channel the words of Eugene Fans, unless you can make a prediction ex ante and sign your name to it beforehand, I don't wanna hear any of your ex post facto I told you so bullshit.

The good thing about sports is you can often do this, in the form of a bet!

Of course stating (almost) any opinion with absolute certainty is not a sign of intelligence (although it can be good for generating clicks). The smartest/shrewdest people always think probabilistically. Which is why betting is good, because it implies assigning probabilities to events, and ruthlessly exposes those who lack the ability to do so, but are over-confident in their opinions anyway. 


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#39 by colonialbob // Nov 10, 2022 - 10:40am

In January of 2021? No, probably not. In August of 2022? This very website had them 2nd in the NFC in Super Bowl odds behind TB. So it's not like this year is incredibly stunning given the success they had last year. A bit surprising, perhaps, but when you factor in that a big part of those odds being best in the NFC is the collapse of two of the other favorites (TB and LAR), I think a lot of people mostly accurately pegged the Eagles this year.

Points: 0

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