Why the epic story of Alex Smith’s return to Washington was always too good to be completely true, and what comes next

Some stories are too good to be true. They sound too much of a fairy tale for the meat grinder that is a major professional sport. Alex Smith’s return to the Washington soccer team certainly qualifies.

The physical comeback itself, and the heroic steps Smith took to overcome life-threatening injuries and infections and all the surgeries and incredible odds he broke will forever live on as one of the most unlikely and remarkable redemption stories in history. modern NFL. . But the idea that it was without tension, conflict or struggle, given everything that was happening within that long troubled organization, the feeling that it was a collective kumbaya effort between player and team, was always naive. It belies the economic and interpersonal dynamics and the harsh realities of roster regulations, salary caps, and payroll. The flash is certainly out of that part of the story that now follows Smith’s candid but not very unexpected comments to GQ magazine published this week.

And for anyone still delusional that Smith has a future in Washington, after the team’s well-documented search for new quarterbacks and given the obvious limitations in Smith’s game (it’s natural given what’s happened), the fact that he suffered another injury. to his leg repaired during the season, and with WFT revealing the playoffs to Taylor Heinicke… well, let’s go now. This is the NFL. When it comes to money and power and the inherent conflict between team and individual (i.e. Ben Roethlisberger versus Pittsburgh Steelers right now) things tend to get messy and this situation has super messy tendencies that are frankly better handled. than it could be. publicly expected during the season.

Smith even playing required a quarterback to be benched in the first month of the season that new coach Ron Rivera never wanted in the first place (2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins) and the kind of system that always was going to get his chance to show what he could do – Kyle Allen, who played for Rivera at Carolina – was seriously injured almost immediately after to push Smith into service in Week 5. Unlikely circumstances were required to achieve this arranged marriage together in the whole field, at least for a few weeks until Smith was injured.

For those of you who missed it, Smith, 36, told GQ that his return “definitely messed up the team’s plans,” and Washington “didn’t want me there, he didn’t want me to be a part of it.” I didn’t want him to be on the team, on the roster, he didn’t want to give me a chance … Hell no, they didn’t want me there. ”Smith explained the disputes between him and the front office about his roster status and whether he should be on the list of physically unable to perform or on the injured reserve. Of course, the timing of all of this was awkward and awkward. And it was understandable that the team had reservations about playing someone who faced a life-changing injury on the fly, in a year with no preseason, not sure what it would look like and how it would play out.Of course, it took a series of bizarre events to get even to that point.

If any of this really caught you off guard, then it’s your fault; You probably didn’t pay much attention to the myriad factors at play. And if Smith’s blunt comment offends or puzzles you, then the shame for you too. Smith had every right, after achieving what he has done and enduring a grueling recovery largely isolated and alone, to speak his mind and draw the curtain on whatever facade others may have been harboring. And if their comments made you think less of the WFT, and God knows that from owner Daniel Snyder onwards they have done a tremendous job of exposing themselves and providing enough material for ridicule and ridicule for two decades, then that is a disgrace. about you too, because the timing and nature of Smith’s return would always lead to complications between the individual and the new powers that are there.

Best for Smith in terms of his singular obsession with getting back on the football field as quickly as humanly possible, in his very nature he was always going to conflict with Rivera’s timeline, or anyone else who tried to reset this. . program that always suffers in the middle of a pandemic, in the attempt to evaluate the players and position them in the best possible way in the short and long term. It was always awkward and cumbersome.

No one in the medical community, or in the soccer world, would have thought that Smith was likely to have gotten over his repeated setbacks since he first broke his leg in November 2018. No one could have counted on him being able to walk typically in 2020, let alone starting games for a playoff-bound football team, especially amid a sea change in terms of the role of ownership in the franchise and with Rivera taking over as the team’s leading voice ( bringing his own quarterback with him from Carolina) in January of last year.

Rivera, while battling cancer, already had to fight his way through multi-layered issues with Haskins, his alleged starting quarterback, getting in trouble for violating COVID-19 protocols after most in the organization already believed. that Haskins was only selected so high. And it only starts so early, due to Snyder’s personal role in selecting him after playing high school football at the same school that Snyder’s children attended. Rivera handled Haskins’ dilemma and the eventual departure awkwardly on multiple occasions, and received much criticism for it. But hope that he, in his first year with a new franchise in the midst of a pandemic with no one in the building for the entire offseason and barely getting to know the team before Week 1, has been preparing as if Smith could guide his team to the title of the NFC East, given everything that had happened, is asking too much.

Smith himself knows that the only reasons he was still in Washington in 2020 were the contract and the remaining guaranteed money, as well as his close relationship with Snyder, who wanted to see him. If former team president Bruce Allen, who always makes mistakes, hadn’t signed Smith to an inflated extension after acquiring him from the Chiefs in January 2018 in the first place, Smith would have left long before Snyder even handed him over. the team to Rivera, who was fired. by Carolina in 2019 and resurfaced almost immediately in Washington. And it took WFT to screw it up with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins ​​to even get into Smith’s draw in the first place. Despair is a fragrance they wear too well.

That’s the backdrop to this Disney-worthy Hollywood-style story arc. But there has always been a soft spot, largely unspoken, until now, where the cold hard economics of professional sports are always at stake. And the WFT may now lose about $ 14 million in capitalization, and who knows how much more to avoid future PR problems, by leaving Smith and letting the market talk about who else could employ him to play quarterback in 2021. .

Smith is all class, one of the best people in the game. It is worthy of all the praise. But, for me, it was sometimes quite difficult to watch him play last year and not fear the worst as the game speeds up, but he works. Running, pushing the ball down the field, the ability to make plays with your legs is probably asking too much. Perhaps one of his former coaches, Andy Reid or Urban Meyer, would be greedy to have him back in a backup role.

It would be a welcome addition to any quarterback room; He is a role model in every way. But getting him to back off and throw soccer balls in games regularly is another task, and I’m not sure many teams explore it. It never made sense for Washington, which was looking for a long-term answer in QB and was still rebuilding despite that rather empty NFC East title last year, to go ahead with it. And now even the biggest Cinderella fan could see why.

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