Alex Smith looks for comfort in a Turner offense again


For now, Alex Smith is Washington's starting quarterback. That means for the first time this season, he'll have the opportunity to be "the guy" in offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense taking the first-team reps.

The two haven't spent much time together. It is Turner's first season in Washington and Smith's first season on the field since 2018. Yet, there is a chance the two could be a solid match that can help jumpstart Washington's offense.

How can that assumption be made? It has to do with the history between Smith and Turner's father, Norv.

After a poor rookie season in 2005 with the San Francisco 49ers, Norv Turner became Smith's offensive coordinator for the 2006 season. It was then that Smith started to see marginal improvement, improving his passer rating from 40.6 all the way to 74.8.

Working with Turner, Smith found himself in an offense that felt as if it catered to all his needs while not limiting him to one style of play. He was allowed to be "free" and grow every time he took the field.

"Obviously, I'd gotten a whole year of football under my belt," Smith told The Plain Dealer newspaper at the 2013 Super Bowl. "I got back to playing football. It was structured but it wasn't. He gave you freedom as a quarterback to go out there and if you saw something, to take risks, take shots and things like that. He wasn't necessarily so rigid that you couldn't do that, but it was fun. It was fun to play in that system because if the system worked for you, you felt like there were plays out there. It was fun. I loved it."


"Loved my time with Norv," Smith added.  "[It was] a very, very friendly QB system."

To be clear, Scott Turner is not a replica of his father. The offenses have differences, but they do feature some similar traits. That includes pieces that Smith greatly enjoyed during that 2006 season.

To begin, Smith appreciated having the go-ahead to take shots down field. Rather than playing in a conservative offense afraid to take chances to avoid turnovers, he had the ability to make the plays he felt could be made. It hasn't been seen much in Washington yet, but Scott Turner does want to take similar calculated risks throughout a game. It keeps the offense from being one dimensional.

That could be seen on Sunday against the Giants. While Washington did have to throw a lot as it trailed for a majority of the game, Smith threw for 325 yards in his first real opportunity to work in Turner's offense. The game against the Los Angeles Rams had rust and weather working against him. That's the highest total throughout Smith's time in Washington. Though some late-game mistakes were made with a pair of interceptions, the veteran quarterback did look comfortable commanding the offense.

"I think the biggest thing oftentimes is not being cookie-cutter," Smith said in 2012. "The offensive coordinator can see what the strengths of his team are, see the strengths of the quarterback and all the guys around him and really tailor it to them. I think that's the best thing."

Scott Turner is working to do the same in his first year. With versatile options like Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Steven Sims Jr. and Terry McLaurin, the philosophy behind the unit is that it should play to its strengths, not try to mold them into something it isn't.

That lends itself to the idea that Turner could continue to tweak the offense in order to put Smith in a comfortable situation that allows him to thrive. As he continues to gain reps, it will adapt to what he does well.

The offenses of the father-son duo are not exactly the same, but the shared pieces are there and helped Smith progress as a quarterback early in his career. Now a starter again after his miraculous comeback from a life-threatening injury, maybe another Turner can help Smith once again find his groove.