It was an innocent enough question, a columnist wanting to know what Geno Smith thought about his superb start to the season.
After spending seven seasons as a backup quarterback, Smith won the Seahawks starting job, and four games into the season, he has been so much more than a serviceable starter. He has been, by just about any statistical measure, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
So during his weekly press conference, Smith was asked about winning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award and leading the NFL in completion percentage and being among the league leaders in passer rating, but before the question was finished, Smith interrupted, "Are you surprised by that?"
The columnist replied, "If you told me before the season, I'd be a little surprised."
Again, a fair response seeing as it's hard to predict any quarterback, longtime backup or not, would post the highest completion percentage through four games (minimum 125 attempts) in NFL history. But for Smith, who despite the lack of opportunity never stopped believing in his ability to play at a high level, this is just him showing what he was always capable of.
"That's because you never watched me throw," Smith said as a retort to anyone surprised by his success. "… I'm just playing ball, doing what I'm supposed to do. It's a testament to the guys I'm playing with. None of that's possible without the offensive line protecting the way they do, receivers getting open and catching the way they do, Shane calling great plays. So it's more of a collective thing versus just me myself. I know that it's more that goes into it. Everyone's doing their part and pulling their weight."
Smith isn't so much bothered by people being surprised by his recent play; he just doesn't see a lot of reason to be surprised. Yes, Smith's two seasons as a starter with the Jets in 2013 and 2014 hardly lit the NFL on fire, but those weren't very good teams and Smith still showed plenty of potential, then he lost his starting job prior to the start of his third season after having his jaw broken by a teammate in a locker room altercation. From that point on, Smith never really got a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job, even as the league recycled through plenty of other not-so-accomplished quarterbacks during his seven years as a backup.
This year, Smith finally got his shot at a legitimate quarterback competition, won the battle, and now he's playing like he believed he could all along. So no, he's not really buying into storyline that he's some sort of feel-good story who is defying the odds.
"I have no issue with anybody at all, but if you are surprised, it's just because you've never seen me throw," he said.
Smith's teammates also knew he could perform if given the chance. They saw it in practice over the past three seasons as he backed up Russell Wilson, and particularly last season when he filled in for an injured Wilson.
"I knew he was going to be great from the moment he got his chance," receiver DK Metcalf said. "He just needed the opportunity. Now he's just showing everybody what we already knew. I know I keep saying that, but everybody kept writing him off and he just never had a fair shot to just be who Geno Smith really is and we are all seeing him come into his own and be a quarterback leading a franchise, leading an organization, how he wants it to be."
Yet even after a fast start to the season, Smith is by no means content with his play. He knows there are things he can do better, and he plans to continue growing as the season progresses, because even if the rest of the world is surprised, he simply sees this as the long-overdue next step in his career.
"I'm always going to be my own toughest critic, so I always feel like I can play better," Smith said. "In that game specifically, I feel like I left a touchdown out there, the one to Tyler Lockett. Then it's accuracy and things like that. Those are the things, my reads, my footwork, and my accuracy, I'm hard on myself on those things and I still feel like I'm growing in those areas. I can definitely get better."
Still, room for improvement or not, Smith has been awfully good, which is why after throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 49 yards and a score, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first time since he earned that honor as a rookie in 2013.
Smith noted that honor was, "more of a team offensive award. It just speaks volumes to the guys that I am playing around, the entire offense as a whole. The quarterback gets a lot of the attention, obviously, but all of the guys played well and I think all of us, we can accept that together."
But even if he wants to deflect credit, he does like that the award comes with a donation to 7 Sunday Heroes Foundation.
"We've been hosting underprivileged youth at the games here in Seattle for a couple of years now, so that's something that I've been adamant about my entire career, just philanthropy and giving back," he said. "We do a lot of stuff down in Miami where I'm from and I'm looking do more as well in Seattle."
"It's just about giving back and allowing guys who look like myself and young ladies who look like myself in the area—some people may be dealing with things—just to show them a good time. Have them at a game with their family members to brighten their day if we can. For the most part, it's just helping people out. I have a heart for giving and I enjoy helping people out."