Ever since he replaced an injured Kyle Allen against the Rams in Week 5, Alex Smith has been a leading candidate for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award.
Now that he's become the starter on a Washington team still fighting for a playoff spot in the NFC, Smith's case has grown even stronger, especially to former Washington coach Mike Shanahan.
"I can't believe [Smith] has accomplished what he's accomplished," Shanahan told 980 The Team's Kevin Sheehan. "To have him go out there and play the way he's played and the way he played against Pittsburgh, pulling that team together after they're down 14-0 and take a couple shots like he did. Boy, I tell you what, if he's not comeback player of the year, I don't know who would ever be it."
As the starter, Smith has completed nearly 69% of his passes for 1,001 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Antonio Gibson has begun to thrive in the running game now that Scott Turner has a consistent passing game to lean on, and J.D. McKissic has been a target machine catching passes out of the backfield.
The offense has shown signs of potency while the defense is starting to hit its stride, resulting in a 3-1 record with Smith under center.
Under normal circumstances, Smith's performance would likely just be a bright spot for a team who's struggled to find steady quarterback play over the last three years. But for Smith, who suffered a career-threatening injury and dealt with surgical complications that nearly cost him his leg, this is a different level of impressive.
"For him to have the mental toughness to fight through that after all the surgeries, could've lost his leg, and to come back and do what he's doing," Shanahan said. "He's just got my utmost respect."
Smith's main competition for the award, Ben Roethlisberger came back in 2020 from an injury-plagued 2019 campaign and has led the Steelers to an 11-1 record and a chance to get back to the Super Bowl for a fourth time in his career.