Could Drew Lock really replace Russell Wilson? Why the Seahawks 'have a ton of faith'

The Seahawks were high on Lock when he came out of college and hope the fourth-year quarterback can realize his potential after three up-and-down seasons with the Broncos. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

RENTON, Wash. -- In a press conference last Wednesday that marked the Seattle Seahawks' first public comments since the Russell Wilson trade, Pete Carroll meandered his way through an 11-and-a-half-minute opening statement that centered around one the coach's favorite themes: second chances.

He applied it to Seahawks past and present such as Marshawn Lynch and Quandre Diggs, whose careers took off after they got a change of scenery in Seattle.

He applied it to Wilson, who will now begin the second act of a potential Hall of Fame career with the Denver Broncos.

In the truest sense of a second chance, no one that Carroll mentioned fits the theme better than Drew Lock, the quarterback Seattle acquired from Denver and someone the Seahawks view as a legitimate option to replace Wilson, at least in 2022.

"We loved him in the draft," Carroll said of Lock, who went 42nd overall in 2019 out of Missouri. "Our guys were thrilled about him ... He goes into his first year, finally plays his first five games and goes 4-1 in his rookie season. All of the promise, all that you had hoped to see, the numbers and stuff showed that he was going to have a great run in his career. The next two years didn't work out very well. He battled his tail off and competed his tail off, but it didn't work out.

"Is this a second chance for Drew Lock? Heck yeah it is. It's an absolute clear second chance for him to take us back to where we knew him to be. We'll find out."

We'll find out are the key words.

The Seahawks aren't counting on Lock to be Wilson's long-term successor. At this point -- with Lock ranking 38th in Total QBR among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 400 passes since 2019 -- how could they? The Seahawks aren't even committed to him beyond 2022, the final year of his rookie deal. And they aren't going to give him the starting job this season unless he beats out whichever veteran quarterback they bring in for competition.

But in Lock, the Seahawks see something different than many observers do. They like his athleticism and what Schneider called a "hose" of an arm, among other physical tools. They like what they saw his rookie season. They think he got something of a raw deal in Denver in the two years that followed and that he's gotten an unfair rap as a result.

Thus, they think Lock has the potential to be their long-term answer.

"We'll continue to explore options," Schneider said, "but we have a ton of faith in Drew. We're excited about it. We're excited about a change of scenery for him. I know a couple of my buddies were trying to acquire him all last spring and into the fall. He's a guy that, in my opinion, the media has beat down a little bit. We're excited to get him into our culture with our coaching staff, and we'll continue to look for guys to compete with him."

The strong finish to Lock's rookie season came after he missed the first 11 games due to a thumb injury. He tossed seven touchdowns to three interceptions while starting the final five games. The only loss was to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, though all four wins came against suspect defenses.

But then came a turnover-plagued 2020 in which Lock threw only one more touchdown pass (16) than interception (15) in 13 starts. That cost him his starting job and forced Lock to spend most of last season behind Teddy Bridgewater, save for some spot appearances, until starting the final three games, when he threw one touchdown and no picks.

His Total QBR in five games as a rookie was 50.2. In his 19 games since, it's 36.8.

The Seahawks feel that those struggles over the past two seasons are partly a product of tough circumstances that most young quarterbacks would have a hard time overcoming. Denver fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello after Lock's rookie year, then COVID-19 restrictions meant he had to learn a new system in a condensed, mostly-virtual 2020 offseason.

Carroll was asked if the Seahawks think they can win a championship with Lock as their starter in 2022.

"If he plays like he did early on, I think we've got a shot," Carroll said. "You go back to his first year when he was balling as a rookie, when he was 4-1, his third-down numbers were terrific, [he was] taking care of the football really well. It just didn't, for whatever reason -- the coordinator left after that time, times changed for him and he didn't play to that same level. So exactly what we have evaluated, the process that we evaluated, he showed. ... We think he's still that guy, and so we'll see."

If not, the Seahawks could try to find their quarterback of the future in next year's draft. With an extra 2023 first- and second-rounder via the Wilson trade, they'd have the capital to move up if needed. Indications have been that they don't like any of the prospects in this year's draft enough to take in the first round, though a middle- or late-round pick could be in play.

For now, though, the Seahawks need to fill out their quarterback room. They need to add a veteran to the mix given that their only other quarterback besides Lock is Jacob Eason, who's appeared in one game.

Comments from Carroll and Schneider gave the strong impression that bringing back Geno Smith is high on their list of options. Smith backed up Wilson the past three seasons, stepped in when he hurt his finger last year and went 1-2 in three starts.

"Right now, Geno knows our offense the best," Carroll said. "If he comes back to us, he has an opportunity to run the whole thing. We saw him do it during the season. We've got to bring Drew along to see how far he can take it. The competition is on, and it ain't no different from when Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson went at it [in 2012].

"We've already been through this before, so it's exciting to format it and see how it turns out. We'll see where it takes us."