Alex Smith’s return to Washington is nothing short of miraculous. He nearly lost his leg. Indeed, Smith almost lost his life. He’ll be likely cleared to play by team doctors on Monday as the NFL’s comeback story of all-time continues.
But is it a good thing for Smith or Washington?
Washington needed to let Smith make his comeback from a horrific broken leg in 2018. It was the right thing to do. But, now that Smith can walk away, shouldn’t the team urge him to walk away from the game just like it made Joe Theismann retire in 1986? Theismann wanted to return from a broken leg, too, but the team decided to move on from the 38-year-old passer.
Smith’s return is a feel-good story, but one that threatens a tragic ending if he’s hurt once more. For Smith’s sake, it’s time to admit no one plays forever and move on so he can play with his kids rather than watch from the window.
But, maybe there’s a way to make the team and Smith happy, especially given the pandemic when quarterbacks are more valuable than ever. Since Washington must still pay Smith his final season (with guaranteed money), he can be a player/coach as a quarantined fourth-stringer some teams are considering.
With the COVID-19 virus seemingly going nowhere, a player can suddenly test positive on Sunday morning before games and everything suddenly changes. Given quarterbacks are in the same study rooms all week, the contagious disease could claim two or three players at once. Hence, teams may keep an extra passer in reserve for such emergencies.
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Smith can always mentor young passers Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen on Zoom. He has the eye of a coach and the youngsters would do well to listen. Let Smith practice until the regular season given no hitting in practice and then make him the emergency reserve.
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The last thing Washington should do is play Smith unless absolutely out of options. Potential injury aside, Smith is the past and Haskins is the future. To play Smith now in a season that’s probably a losing one wastes another year developing Haskins.
The team spent a first-rounder on Haskins last year so play him already. Find out if he’s the long-term starter because if not, Washington might be in position to draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2021. By playing Smith, the team won’t know Haskins’ fate or whether to find a successor.
It’s tempting for coach Ron Rivera to play Smith, who was 6-3 when injured. Washington is 4-19 since. Smith wasn’t flashy, but won games and Rivera needs something better than last year’s 3-13 collapse under his predecessors. Remember, honeymoons under Washington owner Dan Snyder are quickies.
Smith brings a whole lot more savviness than Haskins, who is still more potential than performance. Given the team is rebuilding, it’s better to play the future and forget the past. At least, unless Haskins loses the job. Even then, Allen should be given the second chance over Smith because the former is also a young prospect.
Smith is the safety net, emergency passer at best. Maybe he never plays, but a positive COVID-19 test is only a day away for others so Smith’s helmet is nearby.
The future is not now for Washington, but it needs to ready for it with Haskins.
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Rick Snider is an award-winning sports writer who has covered Washington sports since 1978. He first wrote about the Washington football team in 1983 before becoming a beat writer in 1993. Snider currently writes for several national and international publications and is a Washington tour guide. Follow Rick on Twitter at @Snide_Remarks.