Geno Smith will start for the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. With Russell Wilson out for at least two more games with a finger injury, the Seahawks’ offense will need to rely on Smith for a bit longer. Unfortunately, Smith has done little to impress so far.
The drop-off from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith has been significant
The results from Smith’s brief time as Seattle’s starting quarterback are far from encouraging. After Wilson’s injury against the Los Angeles Rams, Smith threw for 131 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
Smith’s statistics last week were slightly more impressive, at least on the surface. He threw for 209 yards and 1 touchdown.
Overall, while Smith hasn’t been a complete disaster, his numbers are a far cry from those Wilson was producing before his injury. He was averaging 239.2 passing yards per game and has thrown 10 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
Going from that to Smith’s meager production is a monumental decline.
The advanced metrics suggest Smith is playing even worse than you might expect
Smith’s traditional statistics don’t quite tell the whole story of his failings. For a clearer depiction of just how much of a downgrade Smith is over the man he is replacing, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players based on how much they contributed to the creation of their statistics, rather than the statistics themselves.
So far this season, Smith has earned two grades. The first, which came when taking over after Russell Wilson’s injury, was 18.73. The following week, in his first start of the season, he earned a grade of 15.47.
Like Smith’s box score statistics, those grades could be worse, but they suggest that he is contributing to the Seahawks’ offense at a level that is significantly below average.
And those grades appear even less impressive when compared to the ones Wilson was earning before his injury. Wilson’s overall grade for the season of 32.98 was the highest of any quarterback going into Week 7. Even Wilson’s lowest weekly grade (21.62) is still higher than either of Smith’s. Meanwhile, Wilson’s best grade so far in 2021 (44.76) is well over double anything Smith has earned this season.
In short, not only is Smith significantly less productive than the man he is replacing, but he is also dramatically less effective.
Examining the advanced metrics behind Geno Smith’s paltry OVM grades
Smith’s two OVM grades so far this season are both underwhelming, but the factors behind them are quite different.
In Week 5, Smith’s biggest failing was completing just 58.8% of his pass attempts. Smith did attempt relatively difficult passes; on average, his attempts traveled an average of 10 yards downfield, the eighth-farthest from that week.
However, his average distance plummeted to just 5.1 yards on his completions, the eighth-worst mark.
In Week 6, Smith’s completion percentage increased substantially, rising to 71.9%, the sixth-highest of the week. The reason his grade is still so low is that the difficulty of his passes decreased. His pass attempts traveled an average of just 4.4 yards, the lowest of the week, and an average of 3.2 yards on his completions, the third-lowest. Additionally, he threw into tight windows 9.4% of the time, the fifth-lowest amount.
Put in simple terms, in his first game, Smith attempted difficult passes but failed to complete them consistently. In the next, he did a far better job connecting with his receivers, but that was because the passes he threw were significantly more trivial.
The New Orleans Saints are far from perfect, but it’s tough to bet on Smith
After a couple of rough performances, Smith’s next challenge is a Monday Night Football matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans has been highly inconsistent so far this season. They handed the Green Bay Packers their only loss this season in Week 1, but the Saints have also lost to the unimpressive Carolina Panthers and the woeful New York Giants.
The Saints are clearly beatable, but without Russell Wilson, it is difficult to be optimistic about Seattle’s chances. The Seahawks’ offense wasn’t dominating the NFL even with Wilson performing at an elite level. Given how Smith has played so far this season, they seem unlikely to do any better with him at the helm.
For the sake of their playoff hopes in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, Seattle had better hope Wilson doesn’t spend any more time than is necessary on the sidelines.