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Alex Smith Announces Retirement

Former San Francisco/Kansas City/Washington quarterback Alex Smith has announced his retirement.

The No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah in 2005, Smith led all three of his teams to the playoffs, but eventually was replaced by younger quarterbacks—Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers, Patrick Mahomes with the Chiefs, and Taylor Heinicke (due to injury) with the Football Team.

Smith will best be remembered for the gruesome broken leg he suffered in 2018 in his first year in Washington, which led to a series of infections, fears of amputation, and 17 surgeries before he returned to the field in 2020, winning the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award.

Smith made three Pro Bowls in his career. His best season was in 2017, when he led the NFL in passer rating and interception rate and made the top 10 in both DYAR and DVOA. 


29 comments, Last at 24 Apr 2021, 6:52pm

1 Quite a rollercoaster of a…

Quite a rollercoaster of a career, but I will best remember him for those awesome years with the Chiefs and how he overcame his awfully slow career start.

Good call for him calling it a day.

2 Alex Smith is one of the…

Alex Smith is one of the very rare stories of a qb prospect who went to a terrible organization and sucked for years. Most of the time, QBs in that situation almost never turn it around even if they go to another team. Josh Rosen's career in the NFL is probably not very long. Alex Smith managed to turn his career around and I think should be very proud of himself. 

I am not sure what his story tells us frankly. Was he just mismanaged the whole time or was he a late bloomer and more busts should be given the opportunity to turn it around? I don't think we will ever know.

The memory I will always have of Alex is when the crowd started chanting, "We want Carr. We want Carr". I think that was a real turning point in his career as after that moment, he led a near comeback against the Eagles. I think if he falters in that moment, he gets thrown to the bench and we may never hear from him again. As an aside, I felt terrible for him in that moment because he was playing well. 

6 I remember back when FO was…

I remember back when FO was blogging for Fox (god I feel old now) Aaron did similarity scores for Smith after his second season. The results were pretty and pointed to Smith being a bust, but then Aaron ran them again ignoring Smith's rookie year and instead just looking at his second year only.  That top 10 list was sick.  With the exception of Tim Couch (whose should exploded) it ranged from Tony Eason at the low end to Elway at the top.  Aaron said he hadn't done any real research but he though in Smith's case it might be better to look at just the second list of players because Smith was (at the time) the 4th youngest starting QB in like 25 years.


Based on how his career played out, I would say Aaron's gut was right.

19 PFF tries to do this, but I…

PFF tries to do this, but I think even here they are plagued by blindspots. 

I have to admit, as I have aged, I don't think there is ever going to be a world where you can assertain a player's value in a vacuum.

22 I think they're all pretty…

I think they're all pretty much the same, as none of them will be able to breathe, so will stop adding value pretty quickly


Maybe a player who can hold their breath longer has slightly more value, but I don't think it's very meaningful

3 Quite the career arc- from…

Quite the career arc- from some of the worst NFL quarterbacking ever seen, to a rather stunning mid-career revival with the 49ers and Chiefs, to one of the nastiest injuries ever sustained on an NFL field, culminating in a heroic comeback and playoff birth in his final year, despite statistically hideous play from Smith himself. It's pretty amazing that he managed to go 11-5 as a starter on a mediocre at best Washington Team of Football, which was 6-26 without him from 2018-20. Though his DYAR with the Team was decidedly negative, his Leadership and Grit Above Replacement must have been off the charts!

Overall, he looked great on great teams and awful on awful ones. He was basically average, with his performance depending hugely on his environment. It wasn't always pretty, but in the end, he made it 16 years, with a handful of glorious moments sprinkled in: the legendary late drives against the Saints in his first playoff game, dropping bombs on the Patriots on Opening Night in 2017, and, ummm... others? 99-67-1, 35,650 yards, 199-108 TD-INT ain't half bad. Now, he walks away with $150M in earnings, at age 36. Enjoy your retirement, young man!

4 Was Alex Smith the…

Was Alex Smith the definition of average? I think its hard to say because NFL starters don't really run a proper spectrum. You have some terrible playing rookies, some bench guys forced into duty, some middling first rounders playing out there last years, and then some good ones and then fewer really good/great one's. In that respect, the Alex Smith Qb is a rarity. 

Ultimately, I think Alex Smith is the type of QB that team's grab when they have no better options available but are always on the hunt for someone better. 

5 Yeah, he's clearly not good…

Yeah, he's clearly not good enough to elevate a lousy team- that's why his production was horrific-to-bad with the 49ers pre-Harbaugh and with Washington. But with the Reid Chiefs and Harbaugh Niners- i.e. great coaching, rosters and offensive play design- he put up solid-to-excellent numbers, and the teams made the playoffs almost every year. So he was a decent guy to plug into an already excellent situation, as long as you could get him at a reasonable price. Sort of like Nick Foles on the Eagles. Yet your point about teams looking to upgrade is spot on- that's why Harbaugh benched him in 2012, despite pretty good performance up to that point. Kaepernick had a ceiling that Smith could never reach.

Stylistically, he tended to be pretty conservative (hence the existence of ALEX), but there were stretches when he played aggressively and produced bigtime- think the last half of 2015 and the start of 2017. The fact that he lasted 16 years is a big plus, too. Just being able to show up and be competent is quite valuable.

14 The 2012 Chiefs had a -43.5%…

The 2012 Chiefs had a -43.5% DVOA, the 8th WORST of the DVOA-era.  It's hard to imagine how bad that team was.

The 2013 Reid/Smith Chiefs had a 16.0% DVOA.  That change of +59.5 in DVOA is the greatest of the DVOA era.  The coaching and front office changes were a huge part of that, but you can't ignore the change to competent QBing that Smith brought:  Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn ranked 36th and 37th in DYAR (a combined -793) in 2012, Smith ranked 20th (262) in 2013.

The 2008-2012 Chiefs had an average DVOA of -24.9%.  The Alex Smith Chiefs of 2013-2017 averaged 15.1%.  He accumulated 71 points of Approximate Value per P-F-R in that span compared to 37 AV for all KC QBs combined in the 5 seasons before he arrived.

Smith was far from a great QB, but he was pretty good - probably the #4 all-time Chief QB behind Dawson/Mahomes and Trent Green - and a great guy to root for.

21 Too bad we can't sim 2012 &…

Too bad we can't sim 2012 & 2013 a few thousand times, with Smith vs Cassel/Quinn, to see how Smith woulda done with Crennel, and the other two with Reid. I bet the 2012 Smith Chiefs win about 4-6 games, and the 2013 Bratt Quinnel Chiefs end up around .500.

Reality Simulation Overlords, would you mind running this for me? Thx

8 Late career Smith is more…

Late career Smith is more common than you think. Tyrod Taylor, Josh Freeman, Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson. Jeff Garcia (to varying levels of comparison). Garcia's probably a good analog, actually (with much better results early on, albeit with much better talent).

Smith's just more memorable because he was a top pick and made himself known before becoming That Forgettable QB, ending up with 13 starting years. Which is kinda nuts. But it's the same kindof thing with Fitzpatrick - guys like Fitzpatrick are always around, they're just not usually the same guy for 15 years. There are always going to be a few "average-level" QBs that teams keep trying out for years and years - this generation's "not quite good enough" guys will probably turn out to be some mix of Wentz, Goff, Bridgewater, Winston, Dalton, Cousins.

In my opinion Reid basically demonstrated exactly how you use those guys: you pick them up as soon as you get to a team without a QB, stabilize things at a "good" performance level, and then take a swing on a high-but-not-too-high first round QB. If it doesn't work out, oh well, keep going, try again, and if it does work out, trade the guy and chuckle.

11 If Patrick Mahomes busts,…

If Patrick Mahomes busts, does Reid have enough cache to survive that and try his hand again?

I was frankly stunned at the time that Reid was willing to go for it so aggressively. He had a "winning" qb and it cost an extra first rounder to take Mahomes who was considered a reach at the time.

In most universes, the third quarterback taken and that too a reach ends up a bust. I was really worried for Reid that this decision might get him fired. 

12 Oh, yeah. I don't think it…

Oh, yeah. I don't think it was really possible for Mahomes to "hard bust" - even Reid's literal worst QB pick (Kolb) wasn't that hard a bust with Reid (they netted more than they paid!). And even if he did, really Reid's got enough "tread water" QBs that he knows of cheap around the league that he'd be fine. I mean, Foles would've become available in 2019. :)

Also it wasn't really "aggressive" - they gave up a first-rounder to move up, plus change. That's not a huge deal. I mean, yeah, it's something, and obviously you don't want to miss, but it's not a serious issue. They might've even been able to get a fair amount back if Mahomes didn't live up to their expectations in a few years (due to the QB Distortion Field Reid is apparently able to project over the rest of the NFL).

28 Agree.

In Reid's offense, you basically need to be replacement level to succeed and anything better than that is a plus.

Mahomes was not a huge risk.  Given the same situation in other years, I could see Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson all doing well in Reid's system as rookies.  

18 I see it very differently -…

I see it very differently - I think Reid didn't see much risk. He was winning with a bad QB who was getting expensive, and he was either going to end up with more cap space, or a better QB. 

7 Good for him. He's got a…

Good for him.

He's got a family, had a good career and enough money for a few lifetimes.

I don't want to see him get hurt another time.

20 Honestly, I'm half-surprised…

Honestly, I'm half-surprised (and full relieved) that the six sacks he took from the Rams, within about 10 seconds of stepping back onto the field, didn't re-mutilate his leg. He'd've been crazy not to retire.

9 Smith had a strange career…

Smith had a strange career arc, but overall a fine career.  He's my pick at quarterback for the NFL's All-Cromulent Team.

10 Here's a fascinating head…

Here's a fascinating head scratcher.

Who would you rather have Ryan Fitzpatrick or Alex Smith? I guess on it's face it sounds like an absurd question. Alex Smith has been to the playoffs a lot and Ryan Fitzpatrick has never made it. But then you realize a player like Fitzpatrick almost always goes to bad teams. 

I personally would lean Smith but I think it's an interesting question and says a lot about what you look for in a quarterback.

13 "But then you realize a…

"But then you realize a player like Fitzpatrick almost always goes to bad teams."

Smith went to bad teams too - the 49ers obviously were godawful for years, the Chiefs were 2-14 the year before he got there, and Washington was 7-9 and had just lost a $30M/yr QB.

The difference is that Fitzpatrick went to bad teams with bad coaches. Which actually says a lot about the difference between the two QBs: one was kept/brought in by guys looking to rebuild (Smith), one was tossed around by coaches doomed to fail (Fitzpatrick).

15 The 2004-2008 49ers averaged…

The 2004-2008 49ers averaged -34.3% DVOA, the worst 5 year average in the DVOA era.  Obviously Smith was part of that (4 of 5 seasons) so he has to bear part of the blame.  But given his record with Reid (see my comment above) and Harbaugh, I think the bulk of the blame was on the 49er coaches.

Reid could have had Fitzpatrick for free in 2013 (well, he might have had to anticipate Fitz's release, which wasn't official before KC traded for Smith), but opted to send a 2nd rd pick plus a conditional 2014 pick to SF for Smith.  It would have been fun to see Fitz and Reid together, but I think Smith was a better fit.

26 "It's good to see him walk…

"It's good to see him walk away from the game" has never been quite so literal, right?  The fact he came back was insane, and "near amputation to starting QB" is just not a career path you think of.  Good for him, may he be healthy and be a hell of a broadcaster, coach, or whatever else he wants to do.

27 Model for Darnold

The interesting thing about Smith is what he might tell us about the possibility of re-treading young (very young) QBs who play badly first time round in poor situations, and what they can do with intelligence and good coaching.

Not that it has gone so well for Josh Rosen....

29 The writing is on the wall for Rosen...

In reply to by LondonMonarch

In Arizona he was bypassed for a better rookie QB in Murray.

In Miami, there's not enough data out on Tua to determine whether he'll be a good NFL QB yet they still passed on Rosen.

Now Rosen is on the Niners and unlikely to see the field behind whichever rookie they select this year and Jimmy G.  All in all, not a good situation from a long-term potential standpoint.