Alex Smith: Comeback Player of All Time

This is an appreciation of Alex Smith. With an organization that has problems within the ownership groups to sexual abuse allegations and everything in between, he has been the one constant, feel-good story on the team. Alex, you’re a DC sports legend for life, and I would like to say, thank you, and we love you 11. -Deonta Saleem

From the snap infraction vs. the Dallas Cowboys, just to have Brett Maher’s kick go off the left upright, then getting absolutely blown out by the Atlanta Falcons, giving up 501 yards to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but only allowed three points, and Alex Smith has just thrown for exactly 178 yards for the third time in the last four games, the Alex Smith experience was off to an abnormal start.

Despite subpar play, but somehow fans were loving Alex. Starting 6-3, the best Washington has started since the 2008 season, was this the start of better things for Washington?

But November 18, 2018, the Houston Texans were in town, and Alex Smith was not his normal self. Completing less than 50% of his passes, but he even threw two interceptions about a minute apart to end the first half, and one was returned for a 101 yard TD.

But then the play happened. 3rd and 9, from the Texans’ 24-yard line, Kareem Jackson and JJ Watt come unblocked, and well, you know the rest.

Spiral and a compound fracture. 17 surgeries. Necrotizing fasciitis. Possible amputation. Life-threatening injuries.

Smith and a Wizards game in January 2019

If you haven’t seen ESPN’s Project 11, a documentary about Alex Smith and the almost two-year journey of his and his injury, rehab, and recovery, I highly recommend it.

Many people around the team, fans, and media personnel never thought Alex Smith would see an NFL field again. I was among this thought process. There was no way he would find himself on an NFL roster. But in July 2020, Alex was cleared by independent doctors to resume football activities. And to no one’s surprise, Alex started on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. But a month later, HE WAS TAKEN OFF PUP AND WAS PROMOTED TO THE ACTIVE ROSTER, AND ENDED UP MAKING THE 53 MAN ROSTER. After being inactive for the first four games, he found himself active for the Week 5 matchup against the LA Rams. When asked about the possibility of Alex having to play, coach Rivera said:

“I have no trepidation having him come in and play if that’s what happens,”

After Kyle Allen injured his shoulder in the second quarter, Alex ended up on the field. The game was a wash, a monsoon, facing Aaron Donald, Alex finished the game 9/17 37 yards and was sacked 6 times, once when Aaron Donald was literally on Alex Smith’s back.

But when Allen dislocated his ankle against the Giants a month later, Smith was thrust back onto the field. The team rallied around him, but the team ended up losing the game 23-20. 24/32 325 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs, Smith was looking better than the last time we saw him in 2018. He followed that up with a 390-yard performance against the Detroit Lions, but Smith was not to blame for this loss.

Since that, Washington has ripped off a three-game winning streak, finding themselves in a competition for the NFC East crown. They defeated the then-undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, just adding to the case for his comeback story. Since his injury, the plethora of QBs Washington has started has a combined 6 wins in 30 games (Haskins (3), Johnson, Keenum, Allen (1)), Smith has three wins in his 4 starts.

Is he playing to the level like Ben Roethlisberger? No, but when you take into factor that Smith almost had his leg amputated, and the multitude of complications from his injury, just getting back on the field warrants a Comeback Player of Year award.