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Jay Gruden: Alex Smith has to win right away

Mike Florio and Chris Simms compare their top-ranked rivalries between NFL players and teams, including Steelers-Bengals, Rams-49ers, and OBJ-Josh Norman.

With quarterback Kirk Cousins on his way out the door, Washington traded with the Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. And coach Jay Gruden knows that Smith will need to hit the ground sprinting.

“He has got to get it down by the first game,” Gruden told reporters on Tuesday regarding the question of whether Smith has until the middle of the season to get up to speed on the terminology of the offense. “So I think he is already close to having it down for the most part. Each game plan is going to change with different concepts depending on who we play from time to time. But he needs to get it down and he will get it down. That’s why we got him here. That’s why we wanted to get a veteran quarterback here that can adjust to different schemes and alert on the fly.”

Then came the mandate for the team’s new quarterback.

“One thing about Alex, he is the smartest guy I have ever been around, without a doubt, and he is in great shape,” Smith said. “He can move around and he can handle a lot of different things. We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now. This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”

Smith has the skill to do it, but does he have the talent around him? That remains to be seen, and the problem is that, if the team doesn’t win, Gruden (whether he means to or not) is positioning Smith to take the bulk of the blame for it.

Gruden still believes Smith can do it. Because Gruden thinks Smith has the confidence to do it.

“Confidence is very, very important and presence . . . is important,” Gruden said. “It gives other players confidence, and the whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody. He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs. He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out. [He’s] just a great leader-type guy and a good person, good player, that players all seem to react well to and play well with.”

Again, if that doesn’t happen, the blame won’t fall to the subpar players around him or to the people who gathered the players or those who coach them. It’s all on Alex Smith, according to the guy who has far less job security (frankly) than Smith enjoys.