After his 390-yard performance in Week 10, the question as to whether Alex Smith should be the man under center for Washington isn't just about 2020 but 2021 as well.
The man tasked with answering that question is Ron Rivera. The head coach has been consistent in his message that all quarterbacks on the roster will be part of the evaluation as he searches for a franchise quarterback. When asked on Monday if the veteran passer could be the starter for 2021, he once again noted that everything is on the table.
“Well, possibly," Rivera said.
That statement doesn't give much, but that's because Rivera sees too many outstanding variables at this time. Notably, Smith's age is a major factor. He'll be 37 entering the next campaign, and what he has left in the tank is something both he and Washington will need to consider.
"Again, you got to look at how much longer do you think he could play. How much longer does he want to play," Rivera said. "If so, is he part of your plan?”
“Again, that’s something that we as a coaching staff and as an organization have to talk about most certainly if this continues, if he continues to play at this high level," Rivera said.
Smith's showing against the Lions has Rivera believing he's "pretty much back" as a player. That makes the evaluation process easier for going forward.
The potentially tricky part of grading Smith's performance is based on how his past is factored in. Coming off a serious injury in 2018 that some saw as career-ending, just his ability to take the field and play quarterback is impressive. While Rivera is as proud as anybody to see him out back out there, there won't be a grading curve for him moving forward.
With Rivera feeling Smith is back to his normal self, it will allow him to view the passer and his work in the same light as any other quarterback. He won't ignore the other factors, as they are important for the long term direction. In terms of his play on a weekly basis, however, he's focused on the present.
“Well I think you judge him by his performance," Rivera said. "To me, you don’t get caught up in his story, you don’t get caught up in his age."
Smith will continue to be the starter for 2020, and while there is plenty of factors that will be evaluated for the future, his current play will keep him in the conversations about what Washington does for 2021.