The Washington Redskins announced Sunday that the revolting leg injury suffered by Alex Smith this season will keep the quarterback out for all of the 2019 season.
Effectively, we presume, this means the end of Smith’s NFL career, which began in 2005 when the 49ers took him No. 1 overall. Over the next 13 years, Smith compiled a career that was neither outstanding nor disappointing. You couldn’t say he was a bust with the 49ers since he started 75 games there (38-36-1) and led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game in 2011. But then he was replaced by Colin Kaepernick the next year .. and the 49ers went to the Super Bowl.
He’s well-liked, professional and pretty good. He completes a very high percentage of his passes, he rarely turns it over, and on third-and-10, he’ll scoot for 12 and duck out of bounds.
Alex Smith is great, be he’s not the thing. He’s the thing that gets you to the thing.
Smith was the perfect guy to play quarterback for a team that had some young talent but wasn’t all there yet. You could count on him to keep things from getting too bad. And so a little bit of a winning culture develops and maybe it’s easier to re-sign guys and before you know if you’re in the playoffs …
… and then the other team’s quarterback is Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger (or, um, Marcus Mariota) and so out you go.
There comes a time in a franchise’s rise when getting to the next level is probably going to take some extraordinary quarterbacking, and that’s about where you get off the Alex Smith train.
The 49ers did it in 2012, and the Chiefs did in this year, trading Smith to Washington in order to begin the Patrick Mahomes era, which started with a trip to the AFC championship game and another unsuccessful run-in with the GOAT.
I mean none of this as a criticism of Smith. Quite the contrary, actually. He played a critical role in bringing two different franchises out of the muck and onto the big stage. How many non-superstar quarterbacks can say that? How many quarterbacks of any kind can?
Smith was never Mr. Right, always Mr. Right Now, and maybe there’s something to be said for that.