CHARLOTTE — Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith has been around the league for a long time. He's seen coaches come and go; he has walked into plenty of different rooms, to new faces and new schemes, never knowing if that would be the one to revive his career or send him home for good.
However, when he walked into a room in Seattle five years ago and met Dave Canales, he was instantly at ease.
"From the very first moment I met him," Smith said Friday, speaking to local reporters about the Panthers' newest head coach. "I actually took a visit to Seattle and had a chance to sit down with Dave prior to me signing. Just the way that he talked, just the way that he approached things, the calmness of his demeanor, that's something that's important in a highly stressful business."
Smith and Canales would go on to work together over the next four seasons. Smith was a backup to Russell Wilson for two and a half of them. In the 2022 season, he famously had a career season, winning Comeback Player of the Year and guiding the Seahawks to the playoffs. As he spent Friday afternoon reflecting on his time with Canales in Seattle, the veteran quarterback couldn't hold back his excitement about what this new role meant for his former coach.
"He's going to do wonders, man; I can't wait to see what he does," Smith said. "He's going to do wonders for just guys in that locker room and just uplift them after having a tough season. He's going to come in and have the right energy and the right mindset, and it's going to be uplifting."
It's that attitude that Smith firmly believes will serve Canales well as he steps out of a role with a narrower scope, like a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, and now is handed the responsibility of an entire locker room. With over 50 faces looking to Canales for guidance, Smith knows from experience the face looking back at them will always be calm.
"You don't want guys who wear it on their facial expressions, or you can tell if something's not right," Smith explained. "(Dave) always has the same calm demeanor. He's got a great perspective, not just on football, but on life. And that's something that like I said, he's going to help those young men, not just grow up as athletes but grow up as people. And I think that's just as important.
"One of the things that Dave does a great job at is he's, he doesn't get antsy, don't get nervous, but he's very calm. He's very stoic, and I think that rubs off on the guys around him."
Calm, it's important to point out though, does not denote Canales being docile, according to Smith.
"He is very, very high energy. He's a guy who trains every single day still like he's playing. He's going to be out there sprinting on the field with the guys and racing guys to drills and he's going to be up-tempo.
"I think that's the thing that I will say he'll get from (former and longtime Seattle head coach) Pete (Carroll). Not trying to be like Pete, but just the up-tempo style of practice and the up-tempo style of going about the day which brings that great energy and I think Dave does a great job with that."
While Canales' impact on the entire team is a top priority, it's no secret that his impact on second-year quarterback Bryce Young is important. The former No. 1 overall pick finished his rookie season with a 59.8 completion percentage and 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Smith, who saw the best statistical year of his 11-year career while under Canales, sees the traits in Young to be successful and the process from Canales to get him there.
"When it comes to his relationship with the quarterback with Bryce, he's a guy who has been around a lot of great quarterbacks, and he knows how to coach him. He's coached some really good quarterbacks, and he has a system, he has a style," Smith said. "He knows exactly what he wants done and how he wants it done and he's going to get Bryce to do that through repetition, through practice. Through meeting time in the classroom and the film room. I think that's going to pay off a bunch for Bryce because he's already, I think, a talented quarterback. And I think having Dave is going to help him become even better."
While Smith is a hardened veteran, unlike the young Young, the improvements Canales' helped Smith make in his game are vital to every passer. It was a lot of footwork and timing, said Smith, along with learning to read coverages better and adjust accordingly. These are all skills that any quarterback can benefit from, regardless of age.
The process of imparting those skills will help Canales reach the entire locker room, though, Smith shared. They're transferable traits in the coach that can elevate an entire organization.
"He's a great teacher. He knows the game. He understands the game. He can help guys develop and help them develop faster," Smith said.
"A phenomenal coach who loves ball, loves people, he loves to coach, loves to teach. He's patient. He's understanding. And also, he's a guy who's ever-evolving. He understands that you got to continue to improve. So, he's the guy who's going to focus on the process, not just the result. And I think that process is daily improvement. And I think that'll help any organization or any player."
View photos of Dave Canales during his successful previous stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.