The most critical part of the Alex Smith equation and the part of the Alex Smith equation that makes up the center of this story are not the same.
The most critical part — of course, obviously, duh — is Smith getting healthy enough to move off of the PUP list and onto the field. Then, after that, he'll have to build up the confidence in his leg once again and reacquaint himself with an NFL pocket and all the trouble that can occur inside of one.
Are either of those things a given? Nope. It's remarkable that he's made it this far in his recovery from that November 2018 broken leg and subsequent infection, but he's still not all the way back, both practically or mentally. His journey to the huddle is still unfinished.
IF he's able to finish it, however — and, one last time, it's necessary to point out the IF designation — there is another hurdle that Smith will need to overcome to shine in what Ron Rivera is calling a "pure competition" at quarterback. It's a hurdle not many have brought up yet, too.
He's going to have to learn a whole new offense.
Some out there believe that a 100-percent Smith would immediately become the best option for the 2020 Washington Football Team over Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen. But those people are forgetting that Smith, just like Haskins, would be dealing with an unfamiliar staff and a system he hasn't worked in at all up to this point.
That didn't exactly go well for Smith when he was starting in 2018 and simultaneously trying to master Jay Gruden's playbook.
The injury against the Texans is certainly the standout moment from Smith's debut season with the Burgundy and Gold, but before that incident, he was having serious issues producing under center. Yes, the franchise was winning — Bruce Allen might even have a tattoo of their 6-3 record somewhere on his body because he loved it so much — though that success wasn't because Smith was lighting it up constantly.
In his nine full contests, Smith topped 300 passing yards just once (in a blowout loss versus the Falcons) and fell under the 200-yard mark in four matchups. The narrative during his and Gruden's press conferences was that a missed throw here or there got in the way of progress and a breakthrough was coming — and then they'd say the same thing at the podium in their next time up when they were proven wrong.
So, should Smith ever truly enter a QB race alongside Haskins and Allen, he'd not only have to get his legs under him following one of the worst injuries ever and a legitimately unbelieve rehab from that collision's consequences, but he'd also be forced to navigate Rivera and Scott Turner's scheme.
That isn't to say Smith absolutely wouldn't be able to do so and eventually beat out the other two passers on the depth chart; he's a cerebral guy who's renowned for his intelligence. Yet it does feel like a relevant factor to highlight, considering how bumpy his last transition to a new offense and new set of targets went.
Smith has a far bigger mountain to climb first in passing the football part of his physical, as Rivera put it on Monday. If Smith gets over that mountain, though, he'll face another hill before reaching his ultimate destination. The hill isn't as imposing as the mountain, but it'll still act as a barrier.
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