Seahawks Surprise Geno Smith Is the Top-5 NFL Quarterback the Jets Never Got to See
The early weeks of the 2022 NFL season have given football fans plenty of surprises, some good and some not so good (yeah, we’re looking at you, Thursday Night Football.) But arguably the biggest shock of the young campaign thus far is the resurrection of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.
Once considered by some a second-round steal, the West Virginia product struggled early in his pro career with the New York Jets after being thrust into the starting role before he was ready. Within a few short years, Smith was out of a job, injured, and his NFL future as a whole was in jeopardy.
Following short stints with the Giants and Chargers, the Florida native found work backing up Russell Wilson in the Emerald City and got a brief chance a season ago to prove he still had what it took to be a starting NFL quarterback.
With Wilson now in a Broncos uniform, Smith is showing the promise many saw in him all those years ago. And not only is he playing better football than Russ this season, but he’s also playing better football than just about every quarterback in the entire NFL.
Geno Smith was handed the reins by the New York Jets too early
Following a highly successful four-year run at West Virginia, where he completed 67.4% of his passes for 11,662 yards and 98 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, also adding 342 rushing yards and four scores on the ground, Smith put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine and was projected to go early in the first round of the 2013 draft.
But a few league executives alleged that he was a bit difficult during the pre-draft process, and the two-time All-Big East selection fell to the second round, finally selected at No. 39 overall by the New York Jets.
Just a couple of seasons removed from back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game, New York expected him to compete for the starting job but most assumed he would serve as the backup to Mark Sanchez, who’d led the Jets to those two conference title games, but had been benched several times during the 2012 season.
But when Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury in the third game of the 2013 preseason, which eventually required surgery and ended his season, Smith was handed the reins, which he really wasn’t ready to handle.
As most rookies do, Smith struggled. While the Jets were a respectable 8-8, he completed just 55.8% of his passes for 3,046 yards with 12 touchdowns. He also threw 21 interceptions, the fourth-most in the league behind only Eli Manning (27), Joe Flacco (22), and Carson Palmer (22).
The 2014 season didn’t go much better. In 14 games, Smith completed 59.7% of his passes for 2,525 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 picks as the Jets went 4-12, their worst record in seven years. He was benched several times for Michael Vick, once following an incident where he was fined for screaming profanities at fans.
However, in the Jets’ final game of the season, Geno gave Gang Green something to smile about, completing 20 of 25 passes for a career-high 358 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, earning a perfect passer rating in a 37-24 win over the Dolphins. It was the only perfect game of the year.
Smith lost his job after a fight with a teammate, regained it, and lost it again after an ACL injury
Any momentum Geno Smith had following that perfect performance was gone the following season, as his 2015 campaign got off to a horrible start. In a locker-room fight with teammate IK Enemkpali before the season began, he suffered a broken jaw and was ruled out of action for six to 10 weeks.
But when he was ready to return, Ryan Fitzpatrick had taken his job. Smith made just one appearance that year.
In 2016, he briefly retook the QB1 role with Fitzpatrick struggling. But in his one and only start of the year in Week 7 against the Ravens, Smith left the game with a knee injury, which turned out to be a season-ending ACL tear. He never put on a Jets uniform again.
Geno started four games in five years
After playing a year each with the New York Giants and LA Chargers, making just one start in that two-year stretch, Smith signed with the Seahawks ahead of the 2019 season and beat out Paxton Lynch for the right to be Russell Wilson’s backup.
He didn’t get much playing time, making no appearances in 2019 and just one in 2020. In 2021, however, when Wilson went down with a finger injury in Week 5, Smith got his opening and took advantage of it, for the most part, anyway.
He played well in an overtime loss to the Steelers in Week 6 but struggled in Week 7 loss to the Saints. But Smith kept his head up and led Seattle to a 31-7 win over the Jaguars in Week 8, completing 20 of 24 passes for 195 yards with a pair of touchdown passes.
Wilson returned following Seattle’s bye week and closed out the year with Geno not taking another snap. And when Russ was traded to Denver in the offseason, most thought Smith would continue as a backup when Pete Carroll brought another high-profile quarterback to town, perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield. Even Drew Lock, who came over in the Wilson deal, was thought to be a better full-time option by some.
But a deal for Jimmy G or Baker never transpired, and Smith beat out Lock in the preseason to become the Seahawks’ starter. And with really that only first full-time run with the Jets to go off of, nobody expected much as the 2022 season got underway.
Geno Smith has been a top-five NFL QB in 2022
If you had told me that Geno Smith would be better than Russell Wilson in 2022, I won’t lie to you. I would have laughed in your face. But as I said in the intro, not only has Smith been better than Wilson thus far this year, he’s been better than just about everyone not named Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.
Is that reflected in the Seahawks’ record? No, they’re only 2-3. But that ain’t Geno’s fault by a long shot.
In Seattle’s season opener, he had the pleasure of beating the man he sat behind for three years as the Seahawks stunned the Broncos, 17-16. Smith was interception-free and completed a ridiculous 82.1% of his passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns.
The following week, facing a tough San Francisco 49ers defense that’s been one of the best in the league thus far, he completed 24 of 30 passes in a 27-7 loss. In Week 3, in a 27-23 loss to the Falcons, he completed 72.7% of his passes for 325 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
In Week 4, Smith earned the only perfect grade in my weekly quarterback rankings, completing 76.7% of his passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in a wild 48-45 shootout win over the Lions. And in Week 5, he earned another “A” grade with a stellar outing in a 39-32 loss to the Saints, completing 64% of his passes for 268 yards with a season-high three touchdowns and zero picks.
Add all that up, and through five weeks, Smith has completed an NFL-best 75.2% of his passes for 1,305 yards with nine touchdown passes against just two interceptions, also adding a score on the ground. His 113.1 passer rating is the highest in the league, and his 74.6 QBR ranks fourth behind only Tua Tagovailoa (79.7), Patrick Mahomes (78.3), and Josh Allen (78.3).
And in the season-long QB competition I’m running here at Sportscasting, Geno currently sits in the No. 3 spot behind only Mahomes and Allen.
So say it with me, everyone: Geno Smith is a top-five NFL quarterback. Once again, Geno Smith is a top-five NFL quarterback.
Can he keep this up? That, of course, remains to be seen. But for perhaps everybody but New York Jets fans, so many of whom have to be wondering where this version of Smith was all those years ago, this is a fantastic story.
Regardless of how the Seahawks finish, if Smith continues to play like he has in the early part of this season, he’s setting himself up for a nice payday. Currently making backup money at $3.5 million, the 32-year-old soon-to-be free agent will certainly never make Russell Wilson-type money. But he’s definitely earned a hefty raise and is making Pete Carroll look like a genius for parting ways with the nine-time Pro Bowler.
As I said in the beginning, Smith was thrust into a starting role in the NFL when he wasn’t anywhere close to ready. And he brought some of his early troubles on himself. But he’s older and seemingly much wiser now, and it’s showing on the field.
And as luck would have it, Geno gets a shot to show off his new and improved self to the Jets later this season when New York visits Seattle in Week 17.
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