After seven seasons as a backup quarterback, Geno Smith didn't just become a starter in 2022, he also became a Pro-Bowler for the first time in his career.
Smith was one of four Seahawks named to the NFC roster for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games along with safety Quandre Diggs, kicker Jason Myers and rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen.
Diggs and Myers were named starters on the NFC squad, while Woolen becomes the first Seahawks defensive player to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie since linebacker Lofa Tatupu in 2005. This is the 12th straight year the Seahawks have had at least three Pro-Bowl selections.
In addition to those four, six other Seahawks were named Pro-Bowl alternates: linebacker Jordyn Books, special teamer Nick Bellore, outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, punter Michael Dickson, receiver Tyler Lockett and receiver DK Metcalf.
This is the third straight Pro-Bowl selection for Diggs, who joined the Seahawks in a 2019 trade, and who has recorded 15 interceptions in that time, including two this season. Diggs is tied for the fifth-most interceptions in the NFL since 2019, and with one more this season, he would be the only player to record at least three interceptions in each of the past six seasons.
It's the second Pro-Bowl selection for Myers, who previously made the Pro Bowl in 2018 as a member of the New York Jets. Myers, who is 26 for 27 on field goal attempts this season, including 6 for 6 from 50-plus yards, leads NFL kickers in field goal percentage, and last week he tied Steven Hauschka's club record for the most field goals of 50 or more yards in a season.
After starting for the Jets during his first two seasons, Smith served as a backup quarterback for the Jets, Giants, Chargers and Seahawks over the next seven seasons, then got his chance to compete for the starting job this season. Not only did Smith win the starting job; he emerged as one of the league's top quarterbacks. Through Week 15, Smith leads the NFL in completions percentage (71.4), ranks second in passer rating (105.3), fourth in touchdown passes (26), sixth in completions (337) and seventh in passing yards (3,671). Smith's nine games with a 100 or better passer rating and nine games with multiple touchdown passes are both league highs. Smith was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October, and NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 4, and now, for the first time in his 10-year career, he is a Pro-Bowler as well.
"He's the real deal," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this season. "This is the real, there's no mystery he's going to run out of gas or something. It's not like that. He knows exactly what he's doing, and he shows you week in and week out, throw after throw after throw. There's nothing for us to hold him but in the highest of expectations really. What a thrilling story for the kid. He just hung in there so tough and outlasted it, and now he's enjoying all the fun of it."
Yet as much as Smith's story has been, as Carroll put it, thrilling to watch, Smith has spent all season pointing out that he always expected this of himself if given the chance. And besides, with the 7-7 Seahawks chasing a playoff spot with three games left to play, Smith is worried about more important things than individual honors, no matter how well-deserved.
"My focus is on this week and this game," Smith said Wednesday when asked about potentially being named to the Pro-Bowl roster. "Obviously, those things are personal accolades, but I'm focused on the team part of it. It's really important for us to go out there and get a win. It's a crucial part of our season; we've got three games left to figure out what we want to do here. So I've just been focused on that and locked in on that."
Woolen, the first Seahawks rookie Pro-Bowler since Dickson in 2018, arrived in Seattle as a fifth-round pick out of UTSA, a former receiver with rare physical traits but limited experience playing cornerback. He not only won a starting job out of training camp, but quickly has turned himself into one of the league's top corners and a top contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Woolen's six interceptions are tied for the most in the NFL and lead all cornerbacks league-wide, and his 13 passes defensed are tied for third most in the league. He recorded an interception in four consecutive games from Week 3 to Week 6, including one he returned 40-yards for a touchdown in a Week 4 win in Detroit. Woolen also has two fumble recoveries, as well as a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown by fellow cornerback Mike Jackson. Woolen was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month in October, and was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Week for his play in Week 6.
"It means a lot just because a lot of people didn't expect me to be here," Woolen said of all the recognition coming his way this season. "A lot of people had different thoughts on how I was going develop into a player coming into the next level. And it's been feeling good honestly, just because when I look back at it—I had a talk with my agent, and he said, 'It's crazy if you think about it, you've only play 30 games (at cornerback),' because in college I only played 15, and then here I think it's Week 15 or 16, so it just feels good to be able to accomplish all that within a short span of my career playing the cornerback position. So it builds confidence going forward, and also it shows that I can go out here and play in this league."
Though like Smith, Woolen's main focus in on helping the Seahawks win Saturday, not on individual accolades.
"The main task is just to get this win Saturday, build off of that and go to the playoffs," he said.
Reimagined for 2023, the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas will feature a new format that spotlights NFL Flag Football and a week-long celebration of players skills, with players showcasing their football and non-football skills in unique competitions. The week will culminate on Sunday, February 5 with an AFC vs. NFC flag football game at Allegiant Stadium.The events will be televised from noon – 3 p.m. PT on ESPN and ABC.
Four Seahawks were named to the 2023 Pro Bowl roster today: safety Quandre Diggs (starter), kicker Jason Myers (starter), quarterback Geno Smith, and cornerback Tariq Woolen. Take a look at photos of the Pro Bowlers from throughout the 2022 season.