By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Geno Smith has gotten two real opportunities to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The first time, in 2013-14 with the Jets, he was extremely bad. In round two, over the past few weeks with the Seahawks, he’s been better than he used to be … but still pretty bad.
As a result, the Seahawks are 2-5, and their season is effectively over, done in by a Russell Wilson finger injury and a poor plan at backup quarterback.
It makes you wonder if the Seahawks wouldn’t have been better off pursuing Cam Newton.
Or maybe it doesn’t. That depends on how you feel about the 32-year-old quarterback that seemingly nobody in the NFL wants to employ right now.
Obviously, nobody would look at Cam Newton in 2021 as a franchise savior. But after the Seahawks just lost three straight games by an average of five points per contest, it would be easy to make the case that difference between Newton and Smith could have turned at least a couple of those into wins.
The issue was amplified by the unfortunate fact that the schedule called for three consecutive prime-time games for the Seahawks. Wilson was injured on Thursday Night Football in Week 5; Smith went 10-for-17 for 131 yards and a touchdown, but he threw a back-breaking interception late in the fourth quarter, when the Seahawks trailed by six. The Rams immediately turned that into the putaway field goal.
The next week, on Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh, Smith was 23-for-32 for 209 yards and a touchdown, which wasn’t bad. But he took five sacks for 44 yards, and he rushed just once … for a loss of a yard.
In overtime, Smith took a sack for a loss of 13 yards on third-and-4. The Seahawks’ defense then forced a three-and-out … and Smith took another sack, losing the football. The Steelers then kicked the chip shot to win the game.
TJ WATT FORCES THE FUMBLE. #HereWeGo
— NFL (@NFL) October 18, 2021
And on Monday night, back at home against the Saints, the Seahawks let a very winnable game slip through their hands, and their quarterback was a big reason why.
Smith did hit D.K. Metcalf on an 84-yard touchdown pass early, but that one play accounted for more than half of his passing yards. He completed just 12 of his 22 passes for 167 yards, and for the second straight week he took five sacks.
In the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 10-10, Smith took an 11-yard sack on third-and-11, turning a 42-yard field goal attempt into a 53-yard field goal attempt. That kick was no good.
After the Saints drove for the go-ahead field goal at the two-minute warning, Smith got a chance to tie or win the game. That drive looked like this:
–Smith pass incomplete to Metcalf
–Smith sacked by Malcolm Jenkins, loss of 8 yards
–Smith sacked by Demario Davis, loss of 10 yards
–Smith pass incomplete to Metcalf
The Seahawks were 2-2 and in the midst of a close, winnable game at home when Wilson suffered his finger injury. They’re now 2-5, sitting in last place in the NFC West, wondering what to do now.
Again, Newton is no savior, as he showed last year with the Patriots. There are some real concerns about his passing ability, as evidenced by his lack of NFL employment at the moment.
But Newton did complete 65.8 percent of his passes last year, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt in an offense that featured Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers as the top targets and lacked any semblance of a tight end room.
And more importantly, Newton had one of the best rushing seasons of his career, running for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries. He was tied for fourth in the entire NFL in rushing touchdowns; only Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook ran for more TDs. He also ranked 36th in the NFL in rushing yards and third among QBs, behind only Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. That rushing ability alone would have helped the Seahawks compete a bit better with the Steelers and Saints, perhaps helping to keep the season alive during Wilson’s absence.
(The Seahawks also saw Newton at the height of his powers last year, when he threw for 397 yards with a touchdown and a pick while also rushing for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in Week 2.)
Alas, Pete Carroll’s description of the Seahawks’ interaction with Newton sounded more like due diligence than actual interest. In reality, the Seahawks might have been wise to have pursued Newton as soon as he became available, as a backup plan of Geno Smith is clearly insufficient. At the very least, once Wilson’s finger injury was deemed serious, Newton probably should have been in the building the next day.
Nobody would argue that Cam Newton, at this exact point in time, is an MVP-in-waiting. But he’s almost certainly better than Geno Smith.
The Seahawks might have to reevaluate some of their decisions. Given their 2-5 record, they’ll have plenty of time to do just that.