Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


Alex Smith: Comeback Player of the Year

Brian Renick
Aug 19, 2020 at 3:42 PM6


Alex Smith can be a lightning rod for 49er fans. He is, arguably, the poster child for the lean years of the Nolan/Singletary/Tomsula (1 game) era. There is the ever-present "Smith taken ahead of Rodgers" storyline, or the way he was Wally Pipp'd by Colin Kaepernick on the way to a Super Bowl season.

All of that aside, Alex Smith is one my favorite 49ers of the last twenty years. It was not his fault that he was drafted #1 overall to a team that was nowhere near ready to compete. It's not his fault that, during his tenure in San Francisco, he had 4 different head coaches and SEVEN different offensive coordinators (Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner, Jim Hostler, Mike Martz, Jimmy Raye II, Mike Johnson, and finally Greg Roman). That is a Murderer's Row of mediocrity and ineptitude that would derail ANY quarterback, not to mention the sieve that was the 49er offensive line during the beginning of his career.

Despite the above dysfunction, Smith was the consummate professional. He did not blast his coaches, his teammates, the front office, ownership, or anybody else. He put his helmet on and went out on the field to compete to the best of his ability. Once he was placed in an offense with a competent play-caller and solid protection in front of him, he flourished and led the team to the 2011 NFC Championship Game. I will never forget the naked bootleg around left-end that he ran in for a 28-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round of those playoffs, and the throw to Vernon Davis for the go-ahead touchdown with just nine seconds left in the same game (The Catch III). I get chills just writing about it!

I was sad to see him traded to Kansas City, but rooted for him at a distance. I was heart-broken for him when Mahomes surpassed him, just like Kaepernick. I was excited to see him shipped off to Washington for yet another chance. When he went down with his horrific leg injury I was devastated once again. What else did this man have to go through in his career? The subsequent stories that came out about his recovery from the broken leg, the SEVENTEEN surgeries that he endured, the near-amputation of the leg due to continued infections made it seem like his career was virtually over.

On Sunday, August 16th, 2020, 21 months after his injury, Smith joined his teammates on the practice field for the Washington Football Team. I don't think I can adequately express just how proud I am of a man I have never, and probably will never, meet. I was smiling from ear to ear as the coverage showed him walking out on to the field, helmet in hand, taking dropbacks, and making throws.

I don't care if Matthew Stafford leads the Detroit Lions to a Super Bowl victory, I don't care if Todd Gurley breaks the NFL rushing record, and I don't care if Cam Newton runs for 2000 yards in whatever single wing offense Bill Belichick is scheming up over in Foxboro…

Alex Smith is the Comeback Player of the Year.
  • Brian Renick
  • Written by:
    A full-time educator, lifelong Niner fan, Co-Host of The Denim Dungeon podcast, and a devout believer in Kyle Shanahan’s YAC Attack.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


6 Comments

  • Rich
    Couldn't agree more. I hope he is able to put together some more good years in Washington. A real professional. So glad he has been able to finally overcome that injury.
    Aug 28, 2020 at 12:41 PM
    0
  • Paul
    The ESPN story Alex Smith: Project 11 is amazing. His life was in jeopardy. His injury was gruesome. I'd like to see him play one more game and retire. He always seemed like a great teammate.
    Aug 25, 2020 at 2:00 PM
    0
  • Alex
    Very, very well put, I totally share your feelings, though I've lived through all those years. The sentiment was eased, after all, by the previous appearance of Shaun "It Came Down Like a Punt" Hill. Niners rarely put Alex Smith in a position to win and if so, they pulled him out of the line after all. Now I'm really pulling for him.
    Aug 20, 2020 at 9:09 PM
    0
  • Jake
    Well said. Good 49er fans watched all those games through the tough years and it was brutal to watch Alex lose his job to an injury and after being belittled as just a good "game manager" (while being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league in his last year with the Niners before getting hurt) he never had a bad word to say about anybody after any of those losses and didn't complain when he lost his job. He helped Kaepernick try to win. He always owned needing to get better and to helping his teammates get better. I actually became somewhat of a closet Chiefs fan for a couple of years when he was traded...for what? A pick that turned out to be Carlos Hyde? Coming back from that nasty injury and even be able to walk right is impressive and Smith should be inspirational to others in how to work.
    Aug 19, 2020 at 8:44 PM
    0
    Response: Just walking again is a win, let alone being cleared to play professional football! Such a good dude and he is easy to root for
  • Jeff
    Love this article, I completely agree. Alex Smith was as humble and professional a person as any of us could be. There is a video on him called "sportfan: the alex smith story" if you have minutes I highly recommend watching, it's a tearjerker. I vividly remember watching his game against the saints in the playoffs. Man......what a QB......what a guy....thank you Alex.
    Aug 19, 2020 at 7:32 PM
    0
    Response: Thanks so much! He’s obviously not a Niner anymore, but he is a Niner for life in my book! I will definitely check out the video
  • Andrew
    Very nice piece. I completely agree. I came from UNR and was thrilled to see Kaep play so well and take over when he did. At the same time, I felt terrible for Alex, because he played well with a good team around him. He may not reach the heights of other quarterbacks with great teams around them, and there are players like Mahomes who may cause a paradigm shift in quarterback play. But, players like Alex Smith should be celebrated for creating a paradigm shift in professionalism and toughness. Another often overlooked and under appreciated fact about players like Alex Smith, RGIII, Andrew Luck, Colon Kaepernick...they excelled academically in college and graduated.
    Aug 19, 2020 at 4:21 PM
    0
    Response: Thanks for the feedback! That’s a great point about the academic success of that group.

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