SANTA CLARA—The loss was still too fresh for Geno Smith to focus on all the great things he accomplished in the 2022 season.
After Smith and the Seahawks saw their season end in a 41-23 Wild Card playoff loss to the 49ers, Seattle's quarterback pointed the finger at himself, as he has so often done this year, even when, as was again the case Saturday, there were bigger reasons for the loss than any mistakes he might have made.
"Everything for me has got to get better," Smith said. "I'm not at all satisfied. I don't feel good about what happened today. I feel like we could have kept going, so for me, I've got to be better. I'm going to take this one personally."
Smith did a lot of things well to help the Seahawks take a 17-16 halftime lead, including a perfectly thrown deep ball to DK Metcalf for a 50-yard touchdown, and a scramble late in the half that set up a Jason Myers field goal. And by the end of the game, he had led the Seahawks offense to 23 points on the road against the league's top defense. But he also knows that point total could have been higher had he not fumbled on a red-zone sack in the third quarter, a turnover that happened with Seattle driving looking to retake the lead.
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"To me you're only as good as your last game, so this is the one that's going to sting us for the entire offseason," Smith said. "It's going to motivate me every day I wake up to go to workouts. I'm going to think about this a lot, because it hurts that bad. I want to keep playing."
But even if Smith wasn't eager to pat himself on the back for a great season so soon after a loss, his head coach was more than willing to praise his quarterback's comeback story. Getting a chance to compete for a starting job for the first time in eight years, Smith won the job in camp, led the Seahawks to the playoffs while breaking several franchise passing records, led the NFL in completion percentage, and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
"He's for real," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Geno is the real deal. He can do all of the things that a terrific quarterback does. His movement was probably more of a surprise that he was so efficient with his movement—he could always throw it. His ability to stay poised and calm throughout the season, throughout the year—with all of the hype and the buildup, he could have gone south five different times, and he never did. He never wavered. His leadership really stood out. His voice in the locker room, his voice with our players, he said the right stuff all year, right up to today. It's a great story. It's a great story for a lot of players, in other sports, wherever you want to go, if you keep hanging in there and you believe in yourself, and you don't let the messaging outside of you affect who you are and what you are, you'll find your best. I think Geno has found his best, and he's ready to come back and go again. I thought he had just an unbelievably great season for us."
Said receiver DK Metcalf, who caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, "He didn't prove anything but himself right that he can be a very good quarterback—a great quarterback, an MVP candidate in this league, so he did a hell of a job this year."
While Smith has gone out of his way to talk about his individual accomplishments this year, the one he is most proud of is that he was able to start all 17 games, playing every offensive snap of the season, the only quarterback in the league to do that. And even when things didn't go his or the Seahawks' way, Smith never stopped fighting, a trait he showed leading a late touchdown drive Saturday even after the score was out of reach.
"For me, just going out there and playing every game and competing," he said. "I wanted to show people that I'm a great competitor. There's no quit, there's not stopping in me. No matter what happens good or bad, I'm going to go out there and give it my all every single time, and I believe my teammates feel the same way."
The big question now, of course, is that of Smith's future. When he re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, it was a one-year deal, meaning he will become a free agent when the new league year begins in March if he and the Seahawks don't work out a new deal or if the Seahawks don't place the franchise tag on him. There are always a lot of things to consider in those types of business decisions, but Smith made it clear that he hopes to stay in Seattle.
"I want to finish my career in Seattle. I want to be here," Smith said. "The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization, they all embraced me. I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me, and I want to repay them for that."
Smith got a bit emotional as he talked about the way the team and the city embraced him.
"I felt like Coach Carroll and organization, they embraced me at a time when not many people were," he said. "That means a lot to me. I've got a lot of loyalty in me, and I want to repay those guys for doing that."
Smith said he expects to be back, adding, "We'll get to that when the time comes, but I feel really great about it."
When Carroll was asked if he expects Smith back, he replied, "I hope so. I hope so."
Check out some of the best action shots from the 2022 Wild Card Round vs. the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 14, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.