Geno Smith is 'very impressed' with Seahawks OC Ryan Grubb

OC Ryan Grubb joins the Seahawks after serving as the offensive coordinator at the University of Washington the past two seasons. Steph Chambers/Getty Images

RENTON, Wash. -- There is no quarterback competition with the Seattle Seahawks, and there's no evidence suggesting there should be. Despite the questions about his long-term viability as their QB1, and as tenuous as his hold on the job may be, incumbent Geno Smith has looked miles ahead of newcomer Sam Howell during organized team activities (OTAs). Smith is the starter "until he's not," as general manager John Schneider put it in February, and it doesn't seem like that will change any time soon.

But while the Seahawks' offseason program has lacked a true quarterback controversy to this point, there's plenty of intrigue at the position. Smith is in a prove-it year after his up-and-down 2023, and he now has Howell -- coming off his own mixed-bag of a season with the Washington Commanders -- waiting in the wings as a potential heir. Veteran free agent backup PJ Walker is expected to join the mix next week as the third quarterback.

Smith's future will largely be determined by how well he takes to new coordinator Ryan Grubb's offense, a reimagined version of the scheme that made the University of Washington one of college football's highest-scoring teams over the past two seasons. The early returns are encouraging, both with how Smith looked during OTAs and how all involved have talked about Grubb's playbook.

"Very impressed, man," Smith said last month. "Obviously from the stuff he's done in college, he has a great track record. And then just being a part of the system, being able to learn from him, the type of guy that he is, type of man that he is, type of coach that he is. I think there is going to be great things coming for us."

Grubb estimated last week that the offense is nearly 50% installed, saying that they'll save some of the installation for when contact is allowed in training camp. Speaking to reporters last week for the first time since Schneider and head coach Mike Macdonald lured him away from the University of Alabama in February, Grubb described his offense mostly in vague terms but offered some insight on its elements. There will be plenty of play-action, which plays to one of Smith's best strengths, and they'll involve running backs in the passing game.

"I feel like I'm a dropback passer and I feel like this is a dropback offense," Smith said, "an offense that's going to spread the ball around, trust the quarterbacks to make the right decisions. That's pre- and post-snap. I feel like that's something that I'm really good at."

Grubb implied that the Seahawks won't throw the ball as much as the Huskies did while leading FBS in passing yards per game (355.8) and ranking 15th in dropback percentage (61.8%) over the past two seasons, though that was already assumed when he was hired by a defensive-minded head coach and inherited a rusher who eclipsed 1,000 yards two seasons ago in Kenneth Walker III.

"When you talk about some of the run-pass balance, you have backs like [Walker] and Zach [Charbonnet], you're pretty excited about your ability to run the ball," he said. "I think for us, we're trying to melt some things together with some of the things we've done in the past, whether it's a long time ago or even just the last few years and get the guys to understand that we want to be a physical, dominant team. At the same time have that same explosive, confusing element that people are used to."

A heavy dose of play-action also seemed like a given. Those plays accounted for nearly 31% of UW's passing attempts the past two seasons. Smith, meanwhile, compiled the NFL's fourth-best QBR (78.0) on such throws during his two full seasons as a starter in Shane Waldron's offense. He ranked third (83.4) last year.

"I think that there is a really good marriage there with some of the skill set that Geno has," Grubb said. "I think that we ask our quarterbacks to do a lot. Luckily for us, Geno's really athletic as well. I think for us we don't have to limit it to just dropback. I think he's really good in the play-action game as well, which will be a big part of our offense. And I think for us it's not just the five-step all the time, but I do think that Geno is really good at getting the ball out on time and very efficient with the football, which he obviously showed in '22, led the league and completion percentage. I think that's something that that marriage, understanding how to get the ball out on time and really take care of the football is something that works obviously really well."

Smith said the Seahawks won't utilize as many of the shifts and motions that were staples of Grubb's UW offenses, but that Seattle's version "demands a lot from the quarterback" in terms of reading the defense both pre- and post-snap. That helps explain why their OTAs featured more 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods than a typical NFL practice, to give the quarterbacks as many realistic looks as possible.

All that scrimmaging also made it clear where each quarterback stands. Smith, who was declared the starter after Seattle traded for Howell in March, took every single No. 1 rep during the three OTAs that were open to reporters. The Seahawks' first-team offense generally functioned much better while facing the No. 1 defense than the Howell-led No. 2 offense did against backup defenders.

"They're freaking awesome," Grubb said. "They are. I think that they're both really, really hard workers. They're very diligent, intelligent and I know that it means a lot to them and I think that their leadership in the room and how they react and work together says a lot about the kind of guys that they are."

Grubb demands his quarterbacks to have a strong presence in the huddle and in the locker room -- to "command the show," as Howell put it -- which requires a firm grasp of the playbook. The more vocal Smith, entering his 12th NFL season, has a natural edge in that regard over the more laid-back Howell, who's entering Year 3.

"Coach Grubb is doing a great job being demanding, making sure guys are studying and on point and knowing their assignments, but also giving guys some grace," Smith said. "It is a new system ... and guys are going to mess some things up. That's not necessarily a terrible thing. We can gain from that. So Grubb is doing a great job. It's our job to make the plays come alive and make it all look good."