ARLINGTON, Texas— It has been eight years since Geno Smith was a regular starter in the NFL, but he never stopped believing in his ability, or that he would someday again get the opportunity to be a starter.
For Smith, the opportunity came about this offseason when Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, setting up a competition between Smith and Drew Lock, who came to Seattle as part of that trade. And with a strong, consistent performance throughout camp and the preseason, Smith won the starting job, with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll announcing the news following Friday night’s game in Dallas.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity and grateful, but I have a lot of work ahead of me," Smith said. "That was my mindset from the start – just getting ready to go out there and win games. This is just step one in that process. It's really about winning. None of this will matter if we don't go out and win the games we're supposed to win."
Smith, who started his first two seasons with the Jets, then lost that starting job not due to performance, but a broken jaw suffered in a locker-room altercation, has spent the past seven seasons as a backup, spending a lot of that time backing up some of the best and most durable quarterbacks of their era in Wilson, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. And while he would have been satisfied with his career, knowing he had always worked hard and stayed ready, even if this chance hadn't come up, he's glad he was finally afforded the opportunity.
"You know, if it never happened, I would have been satisfied with my career," he said. "I've always done my best. Sometimes, God doesn't put things in the cards for you. I was always prepared. I was always ready and always gave everything I had to my teammates. I believe that because I continued to strive and continued to get better, the opportunity has arose. Satisfaction is not really the word for me here. I'm grateful but at the same time, I'm preparing to go out there and win games.
"I'm really just appreciative to my teammates and coaches who always stood by me and believed in me. I have a ton of coaches in this league who constantly told me, keep my spirits up, that the chance was going to come and you know, this is just another opportunity for me."
A big reason why Smith won the competition is the job he has done taking care of the ball. Smith has been turnover free in the preseason, taken care of it in training camp as well, and last season in three-plus games in relief of Wilson, he threw only one interception, and that came when Tyler Lockett was tripped up running his route. That consciousness about taking care of the ball is something Smith has had to improve in his career after throwing 21 interceptions as a rookie and 13 the following year.
"The number one way to lose games in the NFL is not protecting the football," Smith said. "Earlier in my career, I had some issues with that. I learned very quickly that the quarterback's main job is to protect the football as well as scoring points, being dynamic and all those things. I really think when I came here, that I turned the corner in terms of protection of the football. Coach preaches it every single day. It's the motto of the team. The organization is all about the ball. When I'm out there, I'm always focused on doing the right things, making the right reads, obviously staying aggressive but being smart."
Of course, the flip side of Smith winning the job is that Lock was hoping to earn that job with his new team, and instead will head into the season as the backup. Lock understandably wishing things had turned out different, but he has every intention now of helping Smith get ready for the season, and of staying ready should his chance to play arise at some point this season.
"As a competitor, you're always disappointed, and I was disappointed," Lock said. "You want to be out there. You want to be playing with those guys. You want to be able to step on the field and show you can do it. Yeah, you're disappointed but now it's my job to have his back and be the best teammate I can be. I need to come out every day and find ways to make this team better and make myself better. I have to strive to get better every single day. I know I won't be taking the reps, but there's a lot of ways you can get better. I learned a lot about what to do last year in this situation and how to be ready for any chance that I get, and just get better every day."
The Seahawks take to AT&T Stadium for preseason week three against the Dallas Bears.Cowobys. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.