The last time Geno Smith was in an open competition for a starting job at quarterback, he was a rookie with the New York Jets in 2013. For Drew Lock, the last competition came only a year ago when he was in his third season with the Broncos.
But while those two took a very different path to end up where they are now, both Lock and Smith are in the same situation now, competing to be the starting quarterback for the Seahawks when the 2022 season kicks off in September.
For Smith, who spent the past three seasons backing up Russell Wilson, this represents a chance to be what he has always known he's capable of being—a starting quarterback who can play at a high level. For Lock, who was part of the trade package that sent Wilson to Denver, this is a chance to establish himself as a consistent starter after three up-and-down seasons with the Broncos.
And while the two are competitors battling for the same job, both say the competition has been enjoyable and without animosity.
"Drew's cool as heck man. I love Drew to death. Just getting a chance to know him, he's got a lot of swag, he's a young guy, he can throw it, he's got all the ability in the world. He's very smart, and just one of the guys. He's one of the guys, he's got a great feel for the locker room, guys love him, love talking to him. You see him rapping Jeezy and all that cool stuff, so he's just one of the guys, man, I really like Drew."
Said Lock, "We both understand that we're both trying to be the starter for this team. We're not stepping on each other's shoes, we're not getting mad at one another. It's just, 'All right, he took it that day, I took it this day. I broke us down this time, he broke us down this time.' They need to hear both of us, they need to feel both of us. It's been really nice, it's been really easy. I appreciate the way Geno has handled it, and I hope he appreciates the way I've handled it as well."
For Lock, this year's competition is a chance to handle things better than he did last year when he ultimately lost the job to Teddy Bridgewater. In that battle, Lock said he was too focused on comparing himself to Bridgewater every day rather than focusing on his own performance.
"I tried to compare the whole time," he said. "'Did Teddy beat me that day? Did I win that day?' Overall, if you start thinking like that, it's just not good for your mental. It's not good for your process of becoming a better quarterback. It's not about who won that day; it's about, did I get better today to make the guys around me better? Because if I'm playing my best, the other 10 dudes around me are going to be playing really good football too. So just not comparing. Comparison is the thief of joy is what Barry Odom told me one day when I was in college and that's kind of stuck with me."
Lock is also embracing the element of starting over with a new team after injuries, inconsistent play and coaching changes made for a challenging first three seasons. After the trade was made in March, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll both noted that Lock might benefit from a fresh start on a new team, and so far, he "absolutely" feels like a change of scenery has been good for him.
"From fresh faces in the quarterback room to the offensive coordinator, from, 'who's my center?' just meeting new people—whether that's the training room, or the equipment staff, it was just needed," he said. "It was time… Just from an all-around perspective, it was much needed and it feels really, really good to be here."
For Smith, on the other hand, this isn't a new situation when it comes to his team or coaches or most of his teammates, but he's heading into this season under different circumstances than he has faced for much of his career. After winning the starting job as a rookie, Smith again was the starter in his second season. Heading into his third season, Smith had his jaw broken in a locker room altercation, missed the start of the season, then saw the Jets stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick after he returned from the injury. Ever since, Smith has been relegated to a backup role, but has always held onto the belief that he can and should be starting in the NFL. Finally, in 2022, he has a legitimate shot to earn that job.
"As far as the reps go, yeah (it's different)," Smith said of this year compared to previous ones in Seattle. "Getting a lot of reps with the ones, being able to actually rep with the guys I'm going to play with in the game, that's the difference. But as far as my mentality, it all stays the same. I've always prepared the same way since Day 1, and I think that's the reason I even get this opportunity is because of that."
That opportunity is the chance to compete for a starting job, and it's one he always believed was coming, even if he has spent most of his career as a backup after starting his first two seasons.
"Of course, I knew it," Smith said he believed this opportunity would come again. "That's why I prepare the way that I do, train the way that I do. I believe in myself and my abilities, and I also know that things happen. I was sitting behind three iron men with Eli (Manning), Philip (Rivers) and Russ, those guys don't miss games. But I always knew I had the ability to play in this league. I've done great things in the preseason, and even when I did start, I had good games. I knew the time would come, and it did."
Check out some of the best photos of Seahawks players participating in Minicamp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.