Among the many what-ifs in a 7-10 Seahawks season that included five losses of three points or less, I was intrigued with the adventures of Geno Smith.
Backup quarterbacks were an acutely trendy topic this NFL season, given the seemingly higher injury rate among starters, coupled with absences because of covid protocols. Plus, there were the unvaccinated QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, who managed to play all their games despite helmets made of tin foil.
For a guy who had no previous meaningful game snaps in his three-year tenure as Wilson’s valet, Smith was a decent temp. In fact, the QB rating for his three relief starts, and a partial game against the Rams, was 103.0. Wilson’s number for 14 games was 103.1.
Seahawks fans know that such stats often mislead, in this case because the playbook given Smith was diminished, to help him succeed. And the stats don’t reflect mis-reads of defenses, or inability to throw on the run.
Yet had Smith made one or two more plays in the 23-20 overtime loss at Pittsburgh, as well as the following week’s 13-10 home defeat to New Orleans, a nine-win season was plausible. In that event, this week’s conversation likely would be about how the suddenly explosive Seahawks are the playoff team — all together now — no one wants to play.
By the time of his third start, a 31-7 win over woebegone Jacksonville, in which he had 20 completions in 24 attempts for 195 yards, no turnovers a passer rating of 128.3, Smith looked a lot like a middling NFL starter. Yes, it was the Jags. But hey, Wilson got well against the the equally inept Texans and Lions, and scuffed one against the lowly Bears.
Smith seemed to have a bit of a swagger after his first QB win since 2014 with the Jets. Smiling about the questions of his unexpected success, he invoked the name of an NBA superstar and former Seattle Sonic.
“In the words of the great Kevin Durant,” he said, ‘You guys know who I am.’”
Well, actually, no.
We didn’t know what was left of his football acumen until that game. And after the events of Sunday night, we seem to know even less about the person, except to say he and potentially others are fortunate tragedy was averted.
Smith was released Monday morning from a night in custody, several hours after he returned Sunday night with the team to Seattle from the final game in Arizona. In his Rolls Royce, Smith blew past a Washington State Patrol car on eastbound I-90 on Mercer Island at 96 mph, according to the WSP incident report.
Shortly thereafter, he was pulled over on southbound I-405. After refusing a walk-and-turn test, he became agitated, and was eventually arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The report said restraints were applied in order to draw blood.
In the report, Smith said that he had some wine, and stopped about hour and a half before driving.
Asked about the episode Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, “I’ve checked in with him. We have to let his people handle all of that. He was in the meeting today with us” before saying that was all he had to offer.
Later, Smith via Twitter requested his followers withhold judgment.
The results of the blood draw won’t be known for awhile, and charges will come from the King County prosecutor’s office. But the evidence appears credible, and Smith’s explanation of “what really happened” figures to be a compelling listen. But at 31 and a pending free agent, he’d best go slow on the “young guy who made a mistake” angle.
What is known is that the episode comes after two other recent DUI episodes with NFL personnel that turned tragic.
Las Vegas police said on Nov. 3, Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III, the 12th overall pick in the 2020 draft, was driving 156 mph when his Corvette rear-ended another car and killed the driver and her dog. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice Nevada’s legal limit. Riggs and his girlfriend, a passenger in his car, were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Just days before the 2021 Super Bowl in Tampa, a Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach, Britt Reid, son of head coach Andy Reid, was charged with DUI after his truck struck two cars stopped on the side of a freeway on-ramp near Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. A five-year-old girl in one of the cars suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Prosecutors said Reid was going nearly 84 mph in his Dodge Ram truck and had a BAC of 0.113 after telling police he had “two or three” drinks, combined with Adderall.
There’s no evidence that the NFL or its teams are negligent in DUI prevention programs, or in providing access to counseling help for potential alcohol/drug problems. It’s obviously in their self-interests to be vigilant.
In the case of Smith, he is lucky to be the lone victim. Unless he can prove that he was being chased by crooks to mitigate his threat to public safety, the Seahawks need to help Smith if they can, just not with another one-year contract.
Washington Traffic Safety Commission statistics show that 2020 had the highest number in state history of polydrug drivers (typically alcohol and cannabis) in fatal crashes, despite the traffic drop-off because of pandemic shutdowns. August 2021 was the deadliest from DUIs on Washington’s roads since 1997.
Smith was almost a good football story. We now know who he is — part of a grim cultural story.