Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

In the NFL, disastrous is often better than decent. 

The latter may keep fans interested in the team throughout the course of a season, but sometimes you need the former to keep them interested for the foreseeable future. 

This is especially true if a squad lacks star power in what might be the most important position in team sports — quarterback — which the Seahawks currently do. And this pending Super Bowl matchup between the 49ers and Chiefs serves as the eternal reminder that, in today’s game, you need a lights-out QB to win. 

This is not great news for Seattle, which is slated to pick 16th in this spring’s draft. The top three projected signal callers — Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels — are expected by many to go in the top five (if not top three). But after that there’s no real consensus about any other QB going in the first round. Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy’s name has been thrown out there as a top-15 guy, as has Oregon standout Bo Nix’s. But neither shows up consistently in the mocks (which, I know, are hardly fool-proof). 

This is the downside of finishing 9-8 as opposed to 4-13. And it has to make you wonder: Regardless of how crafty Seahawks general manager John Schneider might be, regardless of the shrewdness of his staff — can this team really rise out of the “meh” zone without a premier quarterback? 

Perhaps one can argue that the Seahawks did just that when they won the Super Bowl nearly 10 years ago. Russell Wilson hadn’t hit his peak yet, and it was defense and an elite running game that carried Seattle to the title, right? Maybe. Except Wilson’s mastery of the zone-read option was a massive asset to Seattle’s offense in his first few seasons. It’s part of the reason he finished fourth in the AP Offensive Player of the Year voting in 2013. 

Teams today need quarterbacks. Without one, the season is (usually) over before it starts. Want to know why the Bears have struggled so mightily since their Super Bowl appearance in 2007? They never got the QB situation figured out. You could say the same about Detroit before Jared Goff arrived, or the Browns for multiple decades, and so on and so forth. 

It’s how the modern-day NFL is set up. 

Are there exceptions? Sure. The Broncos won their last Super Bowl with a way-past-his-prime, on-the-brink of retirement Peyton Manning behind center. The 49ers reached the Big Game vs. the Chiefs four years ago with zero-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Garoppolo at QB. 

It’s not impossible to succeed sans a golden arm (or a decent arm with golden legs), but it is improbable. Just like the chances of Seattle landing a marquee quarterback before the start of next season. 

There was a reason Schneider and then-coach Pete Carroll went around last year taking selfies with all the top quarterbacks in the draft. Among Bryce Young (whoops), C.J. Stroud (ding ding) and Anthony Richardson (we’ll see), it seemed as if Seattle’s QB of the future may very well have been on the horizon. It didn’t matter that the Seahawks had just signed Geno Smith to a lucrative extension, Schneider’s “they [quarterbacks] don’t grow on trees” quote at the NFL combine spoke to how essential they viewed cementing that position for the long haul. 

But the aforementioned trio went 1-2-4, the Seahawks picked fifth, and here we are. 

I’ve written positive columns about Smith before, particularly regarding his ability to deliver in the clutch last season. And his first half in 2022 temporarily put him in the league MVP consideration. 

That said, there is a large enough sample size over the past two years — not to mention his middling stint as the Jets’ starting quarterback at the beginning of his career — to suggest he falls short of what a championship team needs at quarterback. As I’ve said before on matters such as these — I’d be happy to be wrong. Don’t think I am, though. 

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a two-time MVP who’s been the league’s best over the past several years. There’s a reason Kansas City keeps going to the Super Bowl. San Francisco’s Brock Purdy was the league MVP favorite before his disastrous game vs. Baltimore in Week 16. He still finished with the NFL’s best passer rating and was stellar Sunday vs. the Lions. 

NFL history is full of stellar quarterbacks who were overlooked in the draft. Joe Montana (third round) and Tom Brady (sixth) are among the many — and Purdy, the seventh-rounder, may join them soon. Still, it appears Seattle’s chances of nabbing a future standout at that position are low this offseason.

Schneider’s talent evaluation is part of why he is in this position, and why the Seahawks were so successful for so long. But he faces a challenge here — one with no easy solution.

Matt Calkins:
mcalkins@seattletimes.com; Matt Calkins joined The Seattle Times in August 2015 as a sports columnist after three years at the San Diego Union Tribune. Never afraid to take a stand or go off the beaten path, Matt enjoys writing about the human condition every bit as much as walk-offs or buzzer-beaters. His mom reads the comments so take it easy on him.

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