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Why the Seahawks intend to start Drew Lock over Geno Smith
Seaside Bonus: Pete Carroll is only saying what he thinks certain people need to hear, but Lock is the guy who Seattle wants to win the job
For as long as he’s had the option, Pete Carroll has been adamant on two points about the Seattle Seahawks quarterback competition: Geno Smith and Drew Lock are satisfactory choices to start and Smith is entering training camp with a lead.
Same as with his comment that the Seahawks had “no intentions” of trading Russell Wilson less than a week before trading Russell Wilson, Carroll can give misleading statements without outright lying. Seattle did not intend to trade Wilson, but plans are always subject to change if those intentions lead to alternative scenarios that are more attractive than the present situation.
Like the Denver Broncos upping their offer to two firsts, two seconds, and three veterans capable of starting or competing to start right away.
If there are no quarterbacks released between now and the start of the season, the Seahawks are comfortable with who they have in-house. If Jimmy Garoppolo becomes a free agent, the two sides have reason to talk and maybe the Seahawks update their plans with Smith and Lock.
And if Geno Smith does enough to win Seattle’s starting quarterback job in Week 1, then Carroll doesn’t have to answer to anyone about why the Seahawks are handing the position to a player who hasn’t been a Week 1 starter since 2014. “This is what I’ve told you could happen since we re-signed Geno.”
Can’t really argue with that, he has been telling us that.
But if Drew Lock overtakes Smith to be the starter, that too is something that Carroll has said is a possibility all along. In reality, I think Carroll expects Lock to be the starter and he’s only putting Lock in the position entering camp that he believes will get the most out of the fourth-year quarterback with a track record for losing confidence when he’s perceived to be in the lead.
Carroll has stated that Lock must do some catching up to Smith if he wants to be the starter and this has long been interpreted to mean that Lock enters camp as QB2. Instead, it could be that Carroll is telling Lock what he thinks Lock needs to hear as the expected QB1.
The Seahawks will be way more disappointed if Lock doesn’t become the starter than if Smith doesn’t become the starter.
What fans are hearing is that Geno Smith is perhaps less than two months away from being the successor to Russell Wilson. What Pete Carroll could be keeping from us is Seattle’s intentions to bring Lock along to become the Seahawks’ starter in the way that he feels will give him the greatest motivation to always compete and win forever.
Or at least, win this one thing this one time.
After the jump, I will give you my reasons for why I think Drew Lock is Pete Carroll’s intended Week 1 starter, but first I want to share a couple of graphs that show what you’re getting when you subscribe to Seaside Joe for Seahawks content, even during the “dead season” according to everyone else.
Since the March 8 trade of Russell Wilson, this is the 224th article written by Seaside Joe, an average of 1.75 articles per day. Here is how those numbers stacked up against some other prominent Seahawks writers, bloggers, and entire websites over that same period of time up until yesterday:
Those 223 articles at Seaside Joe, many of them too long to fit in a newsletter e-mail, almost none of them mailbags, link round-ups, slideshows, or two paragraphs wrapped around four quotes, are more than The Seattle Times, The Athletic, and the Seahawks official website combined.
The Seahawks official website is its own unique provider of content and it is hard to quantify exactly what a post is (I didn’t include link round-ups, for example) and John Boyle does a great job of doing what the .com needs the lead writer to do. I’m not surprised that Bob Condotta came out way ahead of the non-Seaside Joe competition because I’ve always said that Condotta is a real one.
Everyone here has their own version of how they report on the team and I am not putting any of these outlets on blast. (Except I must admit that I keep wondering if maybe I have the Hawkblogger domain incorrect or that somehow I’m not able to see their latest posts or if the latest post really is about how to keep Bobby Wagner under contract for 2022.) Seaside Joe’s area of expertise is clearly consistency and prolificacy.
Among many other talents, obviously.
There was a heavy dose of posts from March to April because the 2022 NFL Draft is something that Seaside Joe has been preparing for since the conclusion of the 2021 draft, but the music hasn’t stopped just because the news has:
Out of those previous 223 articles, I’ve only put 15 of them behind a paywall. That’s just six-percent of the newsletters, even though there have been almost 100 bonus articles in addition to the free newsletters over the last four months.
Today I am sending out a bonus article before I send out the Seaside Joe 1231 (which represents 3.37 years without missing a day) and asking you to consider upgrading to premium now that the start of training camp is only one week away.
For those of you already upgraded to Regular Joes, you won’t see a paywall break after this paragraph, you’ll only see my reasons for why Drew Lock is the real QB1. If you have not yet hit the upgrade that’s totally cool, the influx of free content will continue, but consider that a $5/month subscription would only mean 9 cents per article for the last four months of free content. A sub to The Athletic would mean 33 cents per Seahawks article in that same period of time.
What signs point towards Drew Lock being the actual QB1?
Geno Smith is a backup quarterback
This may sound obvious, but is it obvious enough if we’re actually talking about Geno Smith as the Seahawks’ starter in 2022? What I want to emphasize with this point is that Seattle has always viewed Smith as a backup, have always treated Smith as a backup, and they’re only paying Smith to be the backup.
Rather than make any move for a quarterback with recent starting experience—and there were more options out there than just Baker Mayfield and Garoppolo, like Taylor Heinicke and Andy Dalton for examples of players who you may not want, but are still recent starters—the Seahawks instead turned back to Geno a few weeks after they had acquired Lock.
This was also easy for Seattle to accomplish because Geno Smith is not viewed as even a potential starter with a single other team in the NFL.
Smith’s $3.5 million salary cap hit in 2022 is tied with Case Keenum (Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo) as the 36th-highest among quarterbacks this season. There are several other presumed starters in this range: Marcus Mariota at $4.25 million, Jameis Winston at $4 million, and Mitchell Trubisky at $3.6 million.
But all three of those players signed two-year contracts and got way, way, WAY more guaranteed money. Geno Smith’s contract has a $500,000 guarantee, meaning of course that the Seahawks could cut him before the season and forget that this premise of him being Seattle’s 2022 starter ever actually existed.
In case you forgot, here are the total number of pass attempts that Geno Smith has had in his career:
Smith has attempted 196 passes over the past seven years. If the Seahawks wanted to give Lock a more challenging QB1 to surpass, they could have just as easily acquired Jacob Brissett or Andy Dalton, two players who had between 220-240 pass attempts in 2021 alone.
Hell, they could have had Tyrod Taylor or Taysom Hill or Mike White or Colt McCoy, all of whom had more pass attempts last season than Geno Smith. Or they could have gone out there and acquired Drew Lock, as even he had more attempts last season than Smith.
Oh right, they did acquire Lock and he is the actual presumed starter.
Drew Lock has never been in this position before
It would make sense that Carroll is trying to motivate Lock by placing him in second place with a chance to win the starting gig for the first time in his NFL career.
As the 42nd pick in the 2019 draft, Lock was picked by the Denver Broncos to eventually take over for Joe Flacco, the veteran starter who was added via trade less than two months earlier. There were rumors that the Broncos would draft Lock with the 10th overall pick, which Flacco responded to by saying that he should be “the understood quarterback” and that Denver should go with a non-QB. After the Broncos picked Lock in round two, Flacco went the “I’m not here to mentor anybody” route.
Lock sprained his thumb in the preseason and started the season on injured reserve. Flacco started for eight games and then went on IR with a neck injury, which kicked off three starts by veteran backup Brandon Allen, eventually leading the way for Lock to become the starter in Week 13 despite only being activated from the reserve list the night before his first game.
The Broncos went 4-1 in Lock’s five starts as a rookie, prompting the team to ignore all other options and name him the unquestioned QB1 for 2020.
However, that decision didn’t have the desired effect either.
YouTube’s Brett Kollman did a thorough breakdown of Drew Lock’s 2020 season in his “Is Drew Lock a good quarterback?” video two years ago. Kollman highlights the fact that Lock was actually very good at certain points throughout that season.
However, Lock’s 2020 season was met with even more complications than his rookie campaign.
After a narrow loss to the Titans in Week 1, Lock was injured only five attempts into his Week 2 start against the Steelers. He was inactive for the next two games, then awful (in a win) against the Patriots. As momentum was starting to build over the next few weeks, Lock may have lost confidence in his ability to beat teams with his greatest superpower: The deep ball.
By not being able to correctly diagnose some of the coverages he was facing, Lock became a turnover machine in the middle of the season: He threw at least one interception in seven straight starts and had a total of 13 picks in seven games.
Lock’s 8.8 Intended Air Yards/Pass in 2020 was the third-highest (behind only Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson) but unlike those quarterbacks, Lock had the worst Bad Throw% in the NFL (22.9%), lowest On-Target Rate (68.9%), and he led the league in interceptions even though he only ranked 20th in pass attempts.
It’s funny because I think we remember some of those quarterbacks who make those mind-numbing decisions that turn into interceptions like Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, or Matthew Stafford, but we don’t really remember Lock’s turnovers. Why not? Because those quarterbacks had more good than bad and we were actually watching their games.
Lock’s 2020 season went under the radar because he wasn’t a top-10 pick, he wasn’t on a good team, and he wasn’t scoring many touchdowns to complement his mistakes.
The Broncos had to respond with a move that demonstrated that the team was ready to replace Drew Lock as the starter, so they traded a sixth round pick for Teddy Bridgewater. Though Bridgewater was not a clear choice as an NFL starter, his 20 starts over the previous two seasons demonstrated a more defined option than someone like Geno Smith, who has only started five games over the last seven years.
Lock and Bridgewater entered 2021 camp in a 50/50 winner-take-all battle for the starting position, something that ended up working more against Lock than it did work to motivate him. As told by Lock himself earlier this offseason:
"I tried to compare the whole time," he said. "'Did Teddy beat me that day? Did I win that day?' Overall, if you start thinking like that, it's just not good for your mental. It's not good for your process of becoming a better quarterback. It's not about who won that day; it's about, did I get better today to make the guys around me better? Because if I'm playing my best, the other 10 dudes around me are going to be playing really good football too. So just not comparing. Comparison is the thief of joy is what Barry Odom told me one day when I was in college and that's kind of stuck with me."
Lock ended up losing that competition to Bridgewater and who knows if that was a shot to his confidence that he will never be able to recover from. Imagine that you are a 25-year-old quarterback who only a year earlier was told, “You’re the franchise quarterback of the Denver Broncos. That John Elway team! That Peyton Manning team! Now it’s that Drew Lock team!”
Except in the past year you’ve led the league in picks, you’ve seen your team trade for a replacement, and you’ve lost a training camp battle to one of the worst starters in the league from the season before. Bridgewater started the first 14 games of the season and then the Broncos gave way to Lock for the final three.
In a short sample size, Lock was arguably even worse than he was in 2020.
But consider the three previous offseasons for Drew Lock:
2019 - There was nothing he could do to be named the starter
2020 - There was nothing that would prevent him from being named the starter
2021 - Everything thing he did was either a mark for or against him becoming the starter
What makes 2022 different than the previous three training camps is that Lock is entering at a disadvantage but being told that he can catch up if he fixes the issues that have plagued him over the last two seasons. Once again, try to put yourself in Lock’s shoes but do it for this offseason:
The Broncos give up on you
The media mocks you for being a “throw-in” to the Wilson trade
Seahawks fans dismiss the fact that you’re on the roster now
The calls for Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, or practically any other starting option to be added to Seattle’s roster are deafening and won’t go away
You’re told, in a very public way, that you’re behind Geno Smith
If Lock isn’t motivated to be the best version of himself after this offseason, there won’t ever be a better version of Drew Lock than what we’ve seen over the past two years.
Drew Lock is Drew Lock, Geno Smith is Geno Smith
Of those issues that Lock must fix, none is bigger than the fact that Carroll will not feel comfortable with any quarterback who sets back the offense by turning over the ball.
Even going back to the 2011 season, Tarvaris Jackson had 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over 14 starts, but his 2.9 INT% was only 15th in the NFL. Not great, not terrible, just acceptable enough for a team that was hoping to survive with Marshawn Lynch at running back and a defense that would soon emerge as the best in the league.
That’s where Geno Smith could have a slight advantage: Smith did not throw a single interception over his three starts in place of Wilson in 2021.
However, Lock still brings much more potential to the position than Smith and that’s another reason to expect Seattle’s coaching staff to be rooting for the younger (but also more experienced) quarterback to start against Russell Wilson in Week 1. In what ways is Lock a superior QB option to Smith?
This article goes over the e-mail length limit, so hit this button if you want to finish reading it on the Seaside Joe website:
Even if Smith is much older, Lock has actually faced modern NFL players/defenses/coaching way more times than the veteran has. That includes 10 starts against the AFC West, which is a division that the Seahawks face four times this season.
That includes facing off against the Broncos, and knowing the organization/defensive players well, in practices week after week.
Lock was not good in those games. He also didn’t have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, so we also know that Lock could be in the best position for success in his NFL career so far now that he has new coaching, Charles Cross at left tackle, and potentially two or three talented running backs behind him.
Lock’s 710 passing attempts since 2019 is 514 more attempts than Smith has had since 2015.
Better Deep Ball
We could just as easily classify this as “Lock can throw the ball deep, Smith can’t.”
I mentioned Lock’s 8.9 Average Depth of Target. Smith’s 7.0 ADOT in 2021, albeit in a small sample size, would have ranked in the bottom-three in the NFL if he had thrown enough attempts to qualify.
In his start against the Saints, Geno Smith did have an 84-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf on his FIRST pass of the game, in which a cornerback fell down and another player missed a tackle. He went 0-of-3 on his deep pass attempts over the rest of the contest and his average was greatly buoyed by that one play.
Drew Lock has actual talent and skill, on a rare level, when it comes to deep passing attempts.
This is not to say that Lock knows what he’s doing every time he’s out there or that his negative deep plays don’t outweigh the positives. It just means that with Lock, the option exists. With Smith, it doesn’t. And that makes the offense far less dangerous and unpredictable, which leads to more eight-man boxes and fewer places for the running backs to run through.
Jackson Kreuger is a fan of some of what Lock does, even if he’s cautious about believing that he can ever be a consistent starter in the NFL. “For whatever reason, a lot of these deep shots haven’t been completed as long as you think they should. And they are catchable balls.”
When the Seahawks did choose Jackson to be the starter in 2011, it was difficult to be optimistic that the search for a franchise player would end there. And as expected, Seattle made not one but two acquisitions to replace him, signing Matt Flynn and drafting Russell Wilson. Even if neither of those moves was a relatively major investment, Carroll had to triple-down on the position to come away with one clear starter by Week 1.
Similarly, choosing Geno Smith is essentially an admission that the Seahawks will be doubling or tripling down on the position again in 2023. While I do not think that Drew Lock has favorable odds to be a long-term solution for Seattle, his 7.5% chance doesn’t look as bad when put next to Smith’s 0%.
Even more important though is the fact that Lock could be a more viable choice as a bridge quarterback in 2023 if he has a respectable, Heinicke-like campaign in 2022.
We can’t assume that the Seahawks are going to draft a quarterback in 2023 who will be able to start in Week 1. That is still rare, even if it is common with really high draft picks, which Seattle isn’t planning to have unless it comes from Denver.
Look at the situation that the Saints are in by being able to retain Jameis Winston this year without it costing them very much and also feeling comfortable that no other team was going to be that interested in poaching Winston from their roster as a free agent. That could be an ideal scenario for Carroll, to have Lock around on a two-year, $15 million contract in 2023, and to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds who won’t have the pressure to start right away.
But if a rookie quarterback does end up being as impressive as Wilson was in 2012, then Carroll has also shown a willingness to go with the better quarterback even if there was another guy just signed for a lot more money.
The problem with choosing Smith this year is that there’s practically no chance that the Seahawks will want him to be the starter for two seasons in a row. Smith is already in that “bridge quarterback” position in 2022, but guess what: We don’t know what the bridge is supposed to lead to yet! There’s no rookie developmental piece waiting in the wings. There’s only Lock.
Lock has the potential to bring something more to Seattle over the next two years, as opposed to only one, than Smith has.
The one thing that we’ve known about Geno Smith over the last eight years is that he’s a respectable backup quarterback. The one thing we’ve known about Lock over the last couple of years is that he’s a bad starting quarterback.
The Seahawks starting either quarterback is not ideal, but I still believe that their roles remain the same. One is a backup who could serve that role in Seattle again. The other is a failed starter who is getting a fresh start and his first opportunity to not just be handed the job, but to outright win it.
That’s what Pete Carroll is hoping for and that’s what I think the Seahawks are expecting to happen. If it doesn’t, Drew Lock could be playing in the final quarterback competition of his career.