Alex Smith proved everyone wrong on Sunday.
By returning to FedEx Field 693 days after his last start, he proved everything he needed to prove: Smith was able to complete an improbable comeback from an injury so severe it threatened his life. He is an inspiration, his determination should be commended, and Joe Theismann is right to say he is the NFL’s comeback player of the year.
But he should not play another down for Washington ever again.
The organization supported his comeback and gave him one more game, but playing a 36-year-old Alex Smith instead of 23-year-old Dwayne Haskins makes no sense.
Head coach Ron Rivera benching Haskins, a second-year player, because he struggled through the season’s first four games in favor of Kyle Allen, a third-year player, is at least defensible. Allen has more familiarity in offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system and, while it is highly unlikely he has a long-term future in Washington, at 24 years old, he still conceivably has a future in the league.
But in 2020, Rivera punting on the 15th overall pick from 2019 to play the 1st overall pick from… 2005?!? It defies logic.
Two weeks ago Rivera said this season for Haskins was “all about showing growth.” And he added the hard part for Haskins during his rookie season was “he wasn’t the primary quarterback until the very end of the season.”
Now Haskins will be the No. 3 quarterback for the foreseeable future.
What happened to the Rivera from two weeks ago who said “now it’s a matter of (Haskins) being able to put it all together,” and “the only way to do that is by reps, reps, reps. The more he practices, the more he plays, the more development we’re going to see.”
Where did that guy go?
Why deny yourself the ability to gain more information about Haskins? As much as everyone thinks they know what kind of quarterback Haskins will be, he is an almost unknown quantity, having played just 13 NFL games and thrown only 349 career passes.
Why give more reps to Smith? It isn't unfair to say we have seen enough from his three seasons, his 11 games, and his 345 passes for Washington.
Of course, this isn’t to say Haskins did not struggle in 2020. The offense was not good during the first four games. But those struggles had value for both the Washington Football Team and Haskins. The young quarterback gained the experience Rivera said he desperately needed, and the organization got more time to evaluate Haskins to determine if he could still be the future of the franchise.
But it is beyond shortsighted to have Haskins not dressed and inactive on game days so Smith can back up Allen.
Rivera explained his decision to use Smith as the backup because he has been in the system and he wanted to “put the ball back in the hands of somebody who’s been in it.”
Well, knowledge of the system did not translate to playing at an NFL-caliber level. And if Smith had played better against the Rams, this would be a different story. But he averaged 2.18 yards per attempt and nearly lost as many yards on sacks (31) as he gained passing the ball (37).
Unfortunately, Smith is no longer capable of being an NFL quarterback. And Washington does not owe him any more opportunities to prove otherwise.
Denying Haskins the opportunity to show he can play, to make mistakes without having to look over his shoulder and wonder if he will get the hook, to be dressed on gamedays, is a huge mistake by an organization that has already made too many.
Ben Krimmel is a web content specialist for 106.7 The Fan. Follow him on Twitter: @BenKrimmel