I like Justin Herbert. He’s got a feel good story to him, growing up in Eugene, Oregon, being an underdog, un-recruited, walk on player for his hometown Oregon Ducks, becoming their star quarterback, and getting drafted by a quintessential NFL underdog team in the LA Chargers.
He seems like a genuinely good dude, too. Despite having all the measurables that NFL teams drool over (size, arm strength, speed, etc.), he apparently fell a bit in the 2020 draft because of his lack of toxic masculinity. He’s kind of a quiet guy who prefers to let his abilities on the field do the talking and leading.
If I were a Chargers fan (or Ducks fan), I would likely own his jersey. I like guys like Justin Herbert, especially when you combine that personality with a God given ability to play NFL quarterback at the elite level he does.
I also really, really, really like Geno Smith, and when I mean “like,” what I specifically mean is that I practically have to pinch myself every time I glance at the advanced analytics of his elite play over the past six games to make sure I’m not in a dream. Through six games, he is second in the league behind Jared Allen in most metrics, and I am rooting hard for him to continue this trend. In fact, there is no guy in this league I will root for harder this year than Geno Smith, and that’s not just because he is the starting quarterback of my favorite team.
A Geno Smith success story in Seattle isn’t just what the Seahawks need, it’s what the entire league needs. To my core, I believe teams need to be reminded that there are short comings to giving up on young quarterbacks too early.
It wasn’t just the NY Jets that gave up on Smith, too early, either. It was pretty much the entire league, except for eventually Seattle. After the Jets moved off of him after year four, he bounced around as a backup with the Giants when Eli was nearing retirement, and the Chargers as Phillip Rivers was nearing his, as well. Neither team seemingly took effort in grooming Smith to be their heir apparent QB1 behind an aging starter.
Why is that? I don’t definitively know, but I do know that when Geno Smith was in college at West Virginia, he was a prolific passer who put up all kinds of gaudy numbers. He had ability and success that should have secured him as a top fifteen pick in his 2013 draft class, but it sounds like interviews at the draft combine scared quarterback needy teams off. Thus, he slid.
I’m not a big fan of putting race into the equation, but I can think of a pretty punky white kid from Oklahoma a few years back who seemingly wasn’t a great interview during the draft process yet Cleveland had no problem drafting tops overall in 2018. In fact, when Cleveland decided to give up on him this year, Carolina had no problem trading for him and declaring him the starter. Both quarterbacks were prolific college passers in quarterback friendly offenses, and both drew some red flags about their personalities, in their own separate ways. Why was the white guy treated so differently?
At any rate, Geno Smith eventually found his way to Seattle to serve as Russell Wilson’s backup for a couple seasons until being pretty much proclaimed the starter last Spring by Pete Carroll even though the coach said there would be an “open competition” in training camp with Drew Lock. In hindsight, I think we can all say that Carroll had a hunch about what Smith could do in this offense this year if given the opportunity to be the guy through camp. There was never any real competition between him and Lock, and it drove many fans (myself, included), and those in the local media nuts over it.
The question is, why did it drive so many of us bonkers?
The simple answer is that most of us completely wrote him off as a player. The logic inside our minds was that Lock was the player with significantly more upside, even though Denver couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Now, I think perhaps the only reason why we felt he had this upside was the fact he was only 24, as opposed to being 31 like Geno was. That was our red herring in the Seahawk quarterback debate.
This is why I will continue to root heavily for Geno Smith. I want to see him sustain the level of play that has him as a top quarterback in the league by the analytic grading team of Pro Football Focus. I want to see him to be able to play himself into a bigger extension with the Seahawks to be their longer term solution at quarterback. It would be fantastic for him and the club, and they can use that draft capital from Denver to further build up the defense.
Justin Herbert is a great story in this league, coming from somewhat humble Central Oregon origins, and being a bit of an underdog, but Geno Smith is THE UNDERDOG story of the league right now. That cannot be denied.
So, as one might expect it, I’m going to do the homer-y, homer-est, most homeric home-y-ass thing right now, and I am going to pick my hometown Seattle Seahawks to go down to Los Angeles and beat these Chargers this Sunday. I’m going to say Seattle wins this thing, 20-13.
It will be a bit more of a modest effort from the Seahawk offense again, but I think it will be led by another efficient outing by Geno Smith. I think he will continue to take what the defense gives, building off of what should be a solid ground game, but maybe throw for a score or two that becomes the difference in the game.
The Chargers play a similar defense to the Cardinals, they like to show pressures and make you have to guess quickly. They will makes some plays and give some up in the process. Geno got a good taste of this against the Cards, I think that helps him some in this match down in LA.
I also think that rookie runner Ken Walker III is going to have a day, both as a runner and a pass catcher. The Chargers haven’t been a great run stopping team. I look for Seattle to take advantage, here.
The biggest reason why I see Seattle winning this one, though, is the Seahawk defense. I think this is a good week to build off of their solid game against the Cardinals. The Chargers are coming off the tough MNF game against a tough Denver Bronco defense. They have a banged up offensive line coming off a short week of preparation, and they are facing a Seattle front four that is now being allowed to play more aggressively than it has been in previous weeks.
It feels like Seattle could be finding its grove by having their three techniques attack rather than react, and that should only help the linebackers and the secondary more. When you marry that with the fact that rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant are playing better ball each passing week, I see better things happening for this defense moving forward, and I think it continues in this match.
Would I be shocked if I’m wrong and the Chargers win? Absolutely, not. Justin Herbert is an elite quarterback in this league, and he is carrying them to wins with an offense that has a banged up line and perhaps a lack of overall speed at receiver. He is finding good outlets like running back Austin Ekeler, who is their Do Everything offensive player right now.
But I feel a momentum with Seattle, and I think Herbert is still playing banged up, himself. Contrastingly, I think Geno Smith is playing healthy with a bunch of confidence and control over this offense, and the defense feels like it is now going to come together. They lost close games against Atlanta and New Orleans that perhaps they should have won because of the disarray on their defense. If the disarray is diminishing, Seattle could be a dangerous team to play the rest of the year.
I think we see that this Sunday. Seahawks are going to win. Book it.