Geno Smith's 2022 season, his first as a starter since 2014 has been defined by several different traits, from rare accuracy to consistency to explosiveness, but what might stand out just as much as the Seahawks quarterback's elite play is his elite perspective on life.
Yes, Smith lost his starting job with the Jets under very unusual circumstances, and yes, he would have preferred this chance to start again would have come a lot sooner—and his play is demonstrating clearly that he could have helped an NFL team win games long before this—but he's not about to complain about his lot in life.
"I can't say it was tough, because I have been so blessed," Smith said. "Honestly, my tough times would be a dream to someone else. I never will look at it as something that was too hard for me or really tough because throughout that time, I was still enjoying my life and still in the NFL. For the most part, it was just feeling like there was a glass ceiling and you want to break that ceiling. It's like something hovering over you that you just want to break, so you can continue to grow further. For me, I just had to stay patient until I had the opportunity."
That glass ceiling was shattered this offseason when the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson, who Smith backed up for the past three seasons, then re-signed Smith to compete with Drew Lock for the starting job. Smith not only won the job, but has shown himself to be one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. And he's handled everything that comes with that job, from the on-field performance to the increased media obligations to the leadership that comes with being a starting quarterback, with remarkable aplomb.
"He hasn't changed," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's just doing what he always did. He was always using his imagination and picturing that 'I'm going to be in, I have to play, I have to get ready.' So, he hasn't had to change anything, he's just extended it—other than the fact that he has to talk to you guys. He has to talk to the world as the guy in the position now, which he has done a great job of. He's handled himself so well. He has been so humble, respectful, and on point, creative, and insightful. He has been all of that in handling this. I don't see the change too much. He has more input. He's been more involved in how we make our decisions and the stuff that fits and all of that. I know he has really enjoyed it and takes pride in. It's pretty normal though."
Few would fault Smith if he wanted to boast a little bit about his success after having been put down by so many throughout his career. Who could blame him if he wanted to take an I-told-you-so victory lap? But Smith isn't having any of that; he's just been going about his business being the quarterback he always knew he could be, which is a big reason why he has been so consistent all season long.
It's not just that Smith has put up some of the best numbers in the NFL this season—he ranks first in completion percentage (72.7), second in passer rating (108.7), tied for fourth in touchdown passes (22) and fourth in yards per attempt (8.1)—it's also how consistent he has performed. Illustrating the way he gets the job done week in and week out is the fact that Smith has the most games with a 100 or better passer rating (9), as well as the most games with multiple touchdown passes (10) of any quarterback in the league this season.
In other words, Smith hasn't padded his stats with a few outlier games; he's just been good week after week after week.
"I take extreme pride in that," Smith said of his consistency. "I haven't played in a while and there are always going to be things out there being said about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, and I just want to continue to show up every week for the guys around me, for my teammates, and my coaches. I want to continue to play hard and do the right things. I'm not trying to do any hero plays or anything outside of what we are asked to do as quarterbacks. I just want to continue to play hard, and rely on the guys around me, and put the ball in the hands of DK (Metcalf), Tyler (Lockett), Noah (Fant), and (Will) Dissly, and Colby (Parkinson), and all the backs. I think that's the reason for the numbers and stuff. The guys around me are playing so well and then me just being efficient, on time, on schedule, understanding the offense, understanding the defense, and making the throws."
For another example of Smiths' consistency, consider that he has started this season with 12 straight games posting at least an 80 passer rating while completing 60 percent of his passes, a feat only matched by Aaron Rodgers (2011) and Peyton Manning (2009) in seasons that ended with them winning the MVP award.
So no, it isn't hyperbole to say Smith is playing at an MVP level.
"Phenomenal," DK Metcalf said when asked to describe his quarterback. "MVP caliber. Go with the second one, MVP caliber."
Added Tyler Lockett when asked the same question,"I would say remarkable."
And while Smith's focus in on the task at hand this season, he will be faced with a reminder of his past when the Seahawks host the Panthers on Sunday. Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was Smith's head coach with the New York Giants in 2017, and made the controversial decision to start Smith over Eli Manning late in the season, ending Manning's streak of 210 consecutive games started.
"Coach McAdoo was a really good coach to me," Smith said. "Obviously, young in my career, I was switching teams, and I really thought he had a plan when he was there. I thought he got cut a little short in his time with the Giants, but I understand a part of that reason was because he started me in that game. I always held him dear to my heart for that. I thought that was definitely a bold move to make and for him to lose his job behind that, I felt some type of way about it. Coach McAdoo has always been the guy that I've held dear to my heart, and we've always stayed in contact. He's a really good coach. He's a really good coordinator. He knows the ball, knows what he is looking at, and I've always appreciated him for that."
Asked about Smith this week by reporters in Charlotte, McAdoo made it clear the respect is mutual.
"I have a lot of respect for Geno," he said. "The way he carried himself in New York the way he handled his business, he's a pro, so it's outstanding to see him having the success that he's having and the year that he's having. I'm a big fan of Geno. I don't know about Sunday, but I'm a Geno guy.
"He's a worker. He's a show-up early guy, stay-late guy. He took some young players in the locker room his wing, so there's definitely some leadership there. He's an aggressive player, he's a confident player, and that's earned. He has good knowledge of defenses. He just has that confidence and that swagger, and when you go through tough times in this league like every quarterback goes through, sometimes that can fluctuate, it can go up and down, but not with him. He's a very confident player, has a tremendous skillset, sees the game well, and we've got a tall order on Sunday."
The Seahawks got back to business with a practice on Thursday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Week 14 vs. the Panthers. Seahawks practice photos are presented by Gatorade.