RENTON — At this time a year ago, every snap Geno Smith took, every pass he made during the Seattle Seahawks training camp was being charted and analyzed and compared.
He was under a microscope because of his past performance and in the midst of a quarterback competition.
To hear Smith talk now about what happened over the past year, not much has changed. Despite being the NFL’s comeback player of the year, helping lead his team to an unexpected playoff berth and gaining the financial payday he long hoped to earn, his mindset seems the same as it was last summer when he had a job to win.
“I mean, there are advantages. Having more reps, being able to rep more with the starters and with the guys,” Smith said on Thursday. “But mentality-wise, nothing changes. Nothing changes and things can change quickly in NFL so I’m not really worried about that type of stuff.”
What Smith is worried about is adjusting to a new center, getting a rookie No. 3 wide receiver up to speed and making sure there’s no backsliding from the level he performed at last season.
But the atmosphere around Seattle’s quarterback situation is massively different than a year ago when Smith was in an open competition with Drew Lock for the starting role.
In the time since Smith won the starting job, he threw for a franchise-record 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns in the regular season, helped Seattle win nine games and sneak into the postseason, was selected to his first Pro Bowl and rewrote the narrative about his career arc.
His reward came this offseason when he signed a three-year contract worth $75 million that provided the security and a pedestal that’s been absent for most of his career.
“There really is a quality coming back. His seriousness about taking advantage of all the steps along the way to get prepared and to be right,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He knows how he needs to connect with his teammates and players that he’s going to go to.”
Smith’s offseason included flying around the country to work out and throw with some of his pass catchers, including rookie first-round pick Jaxson Smith-Njigba.
It also included dropping a few pounds to hopefully be more nimble in the pocket and working with a new quarterbacks coach after Greg Olson joined the Seahawks.
“It’s one of the better stories I think in the NFL to see someone that gets a second opportunity and does something with it,” said Olson, who has been a QB coach or offensive coordinator with seven different franchises prior to Seattle. “There’s some guys get that second opportunity, but they kind of look like the same guy that they were. He’s a guy that looks like a totally different player.”
Smith rattled off a list of areas where he feels as if the Seahawks need to be better this season, including third downs and converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Seattle was 20th in third down conversions and 28th in red zone touchdown percentage last season.
Olson brought up another task for Smith: taking the system of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and being able to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s the second year starting in Shane’s system and taking full control of what Shane is asking him to do at the line of scrimmage,” Olson said. “Not wasting plays is a big emphasis for him going into this year. If it’s a bad play that’s called let’s get us out of a bad play and get us into a good play.”
Smith said the way last season ended with Seattle losing five of its final eight games and then falling to San Francisco in the opening round of the playoffs lingered into the offseason as motivation. He will be leading an offense that seems to be filled with potential — a word he doesn’t like using.
“We’ve got to put the work in. We got a lot of great guys. We’ve got a lot of great players. But we have to prove it,” Smith said.
NOTES: Rookie CB Devon Witherspoon remained absent as he has yet to sign his rookie contract. … Seattle signed LB Ben Burr-Kirven, bringing back a popular defensive reserve and special teams standout who missed the past two seasons after a major knee injury.