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The 5 O’Clock Club: Because we don’t talk enough about Alex Smith’s performance

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Watching football this past Sunday

This past weekend, I stayed up all night to watch the Cowboys game — literally. At around 8:30 pm on Sunday night, I turned on the game from London. At midnight in Bangkok, that gave way to the Eagles, and then, around 3:30 a.m. I finally got to watch the Cowboys - Redskins game kick off.

I took a shower at halftime, got dressed during the two minute warning timeout, and left for work right after the final whistle.

Around 3:30 in the afternoon, I literally fell asleep listening to some students do an oral assessment, but I still gave them a good grade.

I guess my point is that I was a little fuzzy about the game.

I notice from reading the comments sections of Hogs Haven over the past 5 or 6 years that a lot of fans make it a habit to drink alcohol during games. I’m not judging, but it occurs to me that a lot of people are probably pretty “fuzzy” about the games, too if they rely on their alcohol affected memories to evaluate the game.

Re-watching games

Because I live abroad, the best option I’ve found for watching games live is to have a subscription to Game Pass, which also allows me to re-watch Redskins games later, and to also watch as many of the other 15 or so weekly games as I care to see and have time to watch.

I usually re-watch every Redskins game at least once, and often twice during the week, and I usually re-watch the entire season one more time to fill in the slow months between March and June.

Last night I turned on the Cowboys game to re-watch it. In the middle of the 2nd quarter my girlfriend showed up when I wasn’t expecting her, so I turned off the game to give my attention to her. I was struck, though, by how much better Alex Smith and the offense looked on replay compared to my fuzzy memory of the game.

This morning, I read James Dorsett’s wonderful Stats & Snaps (Offense) article, in which he detailed the many statistical failings of Alex Smith and the Redskins offense.

When I got home from work today, I hit the “resume” button on Game Pass and picked up where I had stopped watching last night.

Again, I was struck by how much sharper the offense looked than I remembered from the live broadcast. Also, as I watched the final drive of the first half, it struck me that, while Alex Smith’s numbers for the drive were gonna look really bad (and probably contributed greatly to the shitty statistics reported in James’ article), he seemed to be making pretty good decisions.

Some comments from Jay Gruden about Alex Smith

“Yeah, you know, when you have…we did some good things I think. Every week, he’s getting more comfortable not just with the way we’re calling plays, the way we’re doing things, with the people around him and the protections and all that stuff.

There’s a lot for a quarterback to do in pro football. When terminology is new for you and your players around you are kind of new and the clocks going and the fronts are moving and all that stuff, sometimes you’re going to have a missed opportunity from time to time. He’s getting more and more comfortable and he’s going to get better and better. I like where he’s at and I know that he knows we can do a lot better on offense.”

I think we’ve had a lot of similar carry over concepts from Kansas City and from where he’s been with San Francisco. He’s been taught different things.

Sometimes I take that for granted. He’s a 15-year vet and he probably doesn’t need to know how to read this certain concept because he’s done it so many times. But, we might have a little tweak on it. It might be Jordan Reed might be number one of his progression or it might be the back or what have you.

We’re all getting that communication on a daily basis. Then each week, there’s a new set of concepts that we might have to add for the defenses we’re playing. They might play a totally different coverage. So, we have to be able to adjust and coach them up properly so we’re thinking on the same page.”

Some comments from Alex Smith after Wednesday’s practice

No question, in the last two weeks I’ve had great opportunities to get some points there at the half at least to give ourselves a chance and it didn’t get done the last two weeks for different reasons. But certainly, I felt like missed opportunities out there by us on offense. So yeah, look it’s something that no doubt [we] look to improve on for sure.”

“I think as far as from an accuracy standpoint there were two throws to me that really stood out [against the Cowboys]. Certainly the one to ‘Sprink’ [TE Jeremy Sprinkle] in the end zone, and then the one on the sideline to Mike [WR Michael Floyd].

A lot of the other ones, I felt like I put it where I wanted to. So, I don’t view it like that. Certainly if you miss, is it an accuracy standpoint? Sometimes. I’m trying to miss in the right places and trying to throw a ball in those spots. But those were the two for me that jump out. Yeah, you know, you got to hit [and complete the pass].”

“Looking at [the Sprinkle play] in hindsight, I was expecting him to flatten and run away and obviously as he kept running for the corner then it was a matter of obviously too much air on that throw and it just sailing. But, that was my mindset as I came out with the safety chasing him from behind.”

I made up my mind

When the Dallas game reached halftime on replay, I hit “pause” and opened up this story editor for Hogs Haven. I had decided that I needed to try to work my way through what I was seeing and feeling.

Did Alex have a shitty game, like I thought when I watched it? Or was he actually making a lot of good decisions that contributed to a win?

Was it a mixed bag?

I decided that, instead of watching the game through to the end, I would go back and watch only the offensive snaps. I did something once before, after the Green Bay game, when I watched every defensive snap to focus on the play of Ryan Kerrigan. That exercise gave me a sense of peace, because what I saw was a player who was doing his job and playing well. I felt, after that exercise, that it was just a matter of time before Ryan Kerrigan’s statistics caught up with his actual play.


The big problem here is that I am not ‘qualified’ to watch film and evaluate it. I’m no film analyst like so many writers and commenters here on Hogs Haven. I played football when I was young, but I was an offensive lineman; my only focus was to pancake the guy in front of me every play. I don’t know anything about quarterback reads, defensive coverages, and the like.

Bill-in-Bangkok Tip:

For informed analysis on a lot of these plays, check out Craig Hoffman’s twitter: Click here

Still, I’ve been watching football for over 50 years, and I do have a sense for when a guy has either screwed the pooch or made a great play, so I decided to created my own grading system to use for grading Alex Smith. I call my system SFA - Sympathetic Fan Analysis. Basically, I’m a Redskin fan who wants to see my team’s quarterback do well. I will probably give him the benefit of the doubt on most plays that aren’t either clearly wonderful or terrible.

I decided that the SFA rating system would have 4 grades:

+2 = great or very good play by Alex

+1 = situationally, seemed to be a good decision by Alex, with a positive or neutral outcome for the team

0 = Alex had no real effect on the play

-1 = situationally, seemed to be a questionable decision by Alex, with a neutral or negative outcome for the team

-2 = a bad play by Alex

I’ll remind you that this rating system will be highly subjective and scored by a fan who isn’t skilled at watching film, so take it with a teaspoon of salt, and be ready to argue your point of view, if it is different than mine, in the comments section.

Bill’s SFA Scoring

1ST & 10 AT WAS 48(13:32) | 13:32

(13:32) (Shotgun) PENALTY on DAL-T.Charlton, Neutral Zone Infraction, 5 yards, enforced at WAS 48 - No Play.

Score = 0

1ST & 5 AT DAL 47(13:32) | 13:32

(13:32) A.Peterson right tackle to DAL 43 for 4 yards (A.Brown).

Score = +1

Comments: Alex got the play off, and handed the ball off to Peterson without any problem

2ND & 1 AT DAL 43(12:52) | 12:52

(12:52) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right tackle to DAL 42 for 1 yard (T.Charlton; T.Crawford).

Score = +1

Comments: The play had the look of a zone read, but may have been a handoff all the way. Either way, the play went for a first down, and Alex’s ball handling was good.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 42(12:15) | 12:15

(12:15) (Shotgun) A.Peterson left guard to DAL 35 for 7 yards (J.Smith, S.Lee).

Score = +1

Comments: Another run play, another smooth handoff for Alex.

2ND & 3 AT DAL 35(11:40) | 11:40

(11:40) A.Smith pass short right to J.Doctson pushed ob at DAL 23 for 12 yards (D.Wilson).

Score = +2

Comments: This was a big-time throw by Alex Smith. It only went 12 yards, but it cleared the defender’s fingertips by mere inches and was placed perfectly for Doctson to catch it for the first down. This play was worth more than my maximum score of +2.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 23(11:04) | 11:04

(11:04) A.Peterson left end to DAL 23 for no gain (B.Jones; M.Collins).

Score = +1

Comments: Simple handoff. Alex did his job; the play didn’t work.

2ND & 10 AT DAL 23(10:28) | 10:28

(10:28) A.Smith pass short right to K.Bibbs for 23 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Score = +2

Comments: This was the Bibbs screen pass. Eleven players all executed their assignments perfectly — perhaps no one better than Brandon Scherff. Alex handled the ball well on the play action fake, move well behind the line, and delivered the ball to Bibbs on time, in the right place, and with the right touch.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 45(07:21) | 07:21

(7:21) A.Peterson right tackle to DAL 42 for 3 yards (J.Heath; D.Lawrence).

Score = +1

Comments: Handoff to Peterson handled smoothly.

2ND & 7 AT DAL 42(06:44) | 06:44

(6:44) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep left to V.Davis. PENALTY on WAS-J.Doctson, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at DAL 42 - No Play.

Score = -1

Comments: Had the penalty not been called, the play would have resulted in no gain as Alex overthrew Vernon Davis, who was running open.

2ND & 17 AT WAS 48(06:39) | 06:39

(6:39) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short middle to K.Bibbs.

Score = +1

Comments: This was a drop by Bibbs. Alex went through his progression quickly and made a decisive throw to Bibbs about 6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. I don’t know whether Alex made the right read and checkdown, but the throw to Bibbs was on-target and should have been caught for a positive gain. Net result was no gain.

3RD & 17 AT WAS 48(06:33) | 06:33

(6:33) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to M.Harris to DAL 42 for 10 yards (A.Brown).

Score = +1

Comments: 3rd & 17 around midfield, this was a pretty typical Jay Gruden call... a safe wide receiver screen designed to get positive yardage and offer the opportunity to get the first down if Dallas misses a tackle. If CT or Crowder were in the game, it would have gone to one of them. Smith executed the play the way it was designed.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 20(01:11) | 01:11

(1:11) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right end to WAS 19 for -1 yards (D.Lawrence; T.Crawford).

Score = +1

Comments: Alex Smith handled the ball competently on the handoff to Peterson. The play looked promising at first, but the Cowboys front 7 broke it down and stopped it.

2ND & 11 AT WAS 19(00:29) | 00:29

(:29) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to J.Reed to WAS 35 for 16 yards (C.Awuzie).

Score = +2

Comments: Smith stood in the pocket with outstanding OL protection for a long time, worked through his progressions more than once, waited for Reed to come open, then hit him with a very nicely thrown ball for a first down. This was a very positive play, made possible by really good pass blocking that gave Alex all the time he needed to survey the field.


1ST & 10 AT WAS 35(15:00) | 15:00

(15:00) A.Peterson left end to DAL 49 for 16 yards (K.Frazier).

Score = +1

Comments: This play was all Peterson, who turned a 3 yard loss into a 16 yard gain, but Alex handed the ball to him smoothly.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 49(14:10) | 14:10

(14:10) (Shotgun) A.Peterson up the middle to WAS 47 for -4 yards (A.Woods).

Score = -1

Comments: This was a negative play for the Redskins, and one that Alex might have potentially avoided by audibilizing at the line. The Cowboys were tackling AD almost as he took the handoff from Alex.

2ND & 14 AT WAS 47(13:30) | 13:30

(13:30) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to K.Bibbs to WAS 47 for no gain (S.Lee).

Score = +1

Comments: Alex may have done everything right here. He looked to his left where the play was designed to go to Reed, who would have been 1-on-1 with a linebacker. He came back to his right for Bibbs, who had THREE blockers in front of him, but Sean Lee blew it up. The blame here goes to the blockers who let Sean Lee run right past them.

3RD & 14 AT WAS 47(12:47) | 12:47

(12:47) (Shotgun) PENALTY on WAS-J.Reed, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at WAS 47 - No Play.

Score = 0

3RD & 19 AT WAS 42(12:23) | 12:23

(12:23) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles left end ran ob at WAS 48 for 6 yards.

Score = +1

Comments: The 3rd & 10 situation wasn’t Alex’s fault. I don’t know if he could have thrown to an open receiver, but when the pocket started to break down he scrambled for positive yardage to set up Tress Way for a good field position punt.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 34(06:27) | 06:27

(6:27) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right end to WAS 43 for 9 yards (C.Awuzie).

Score = +2

Comments: This was a simple quarterback option to the right with a toss to Peterson. It didn’t look like a difficult play, but it was a well executed and well timed toss that resulted in 9 yards, so I’m giving Alex a “good play” rating of +2 on this one. We’ll see some negative grades on toss plays later, I think.

2ND & 1 AT WAS 43(05:44) | 05:44

(5:44) A.Peterson left tackle to WAS 45 for 2 yards (J.Smith; A.Woods).

Score = +1

Comments: This play had jet sweep action; Alex carried out the ball handling well and the team got the first down on short yardage.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 45(05:01) | 05:01

(5:01) A.Smith pass incomplete short middle to A.Peterson [D.Armstrong].

Score = -1

Comments: Alex looked rushed and a bit flustered on this play. He didn’t see what he wanted downfield, and as the pocket started to break down, he stepped up and tried to check down to AD, but threw the ball uncomfortably low, in a slightly awkward spot, and probably a bit too fast for Peterson to handle. Incomplete.

2ND & 10 AT WAS 45(04:57) | 04:57

(4:57) A.Peterson left end to WAS 47 for 2 yards (L.Vander Esch).

Score = -1

Comments: This was a toss play to the left. Alex put the ball very high and on AD’s inside shoulder, causing Peterson to slow down, get a handle on the ball and tuck it away before he could focus his eyes downfield. The play went for 2 yards, but with a better toss from Alex, it likely would have gone for 5 yards+.

3RD & 8 AT WAS 47(04:28) | 04:28

(4:28) (Shotgun) A.Smith FUMBLES (Aborted) at WAS 44, and recovers at WAS 44. A.Smith to WAS 44 for no gain (J.Smith).

Score = -1

Comments: Alex obviously didn’t expect this ball, which hit him on the left shoulder pad while he was looking to his right. He fell on the loose ball to prevent the turnover. I suspect that this was Roullier’s fault or else I’d’ve given Alex a -2 grade, but I don’t know. In the end, I figure it’s the QB’s responsibility to communicate the snap count. This was a drive killer.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 25(01:00) | 01:00

(1:00) (Shotgun) PENALTY on DAL-D.Lawrence, Neutral Zone Infraction, 5 yards, enforced at WAS 25 - No Play.

Score = 0

Comments: This was a bad call by the refs; it should have been a false start on Morgan Moses.

1ST & 5 AT WAS 30(01:00) | 01:00

(1:00) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to M.Harris to WAS 36 for 6 yards (J.Smith).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a Jay Gruden staple for 2 minute offense. We’ve seen Kirk make this throw a hundred times. Alex executed the play perfectly. First down.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 36(00:41) | 00:41

(:41) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep right to J.Doctson (C.Awuzie) [D.Lawrence].

Score = +2

Comments: Doctson didn’t catch the ball, but this is the kind of “50/50” pass that Gruden says he wants his QB throwing to his receivers — a ball that gives them a chance for the big play. This was 1st & 10 with 00:41 remaining. If he hits it, this is a big play that likely adds to the Redskins momentum. In my view, Alex did everything right on this play, but the defender played it well, was a bit lucky not to draw an interference penalty, and Doctson had a chance for the big play. Next time this pass might pay off. This was an incomplete pass that hurt Alex’s stats, but I think it was a very positive play from him.

2ND & 10 AT WAS 36(00:35) | 00:35

(:35) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short right.

Score = +1

Comments: This was a slow developing play where Alex clearly didn’t like what he saw downfield. The team is in 4-down time, and he rolls to the right to extend the play. When he can’t find what he wants he just throws the ball out of bounds. I don’t know if Alex had a receiver open, but I’m assuming he didn’t. This incomplete pass will again hurt his stats, but it looked like the right decision from the broadcast film.

3RD & 10 AT WAS 36(00:29) | 00:29

(:29) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass deep middle to M.Floyd to DAL 44 for 20 yards (C.Awuzie).

Score = +2

Comments: On 3rd & 10, Alex threw this ball nearly 20 yards in the air and hit Floyd right in the hands. This is, again, a staple of Jay Gruden’s offense, and a throw we’ve seen hundreds of times from Kirk over the past three seasons. This was beautifully executed.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 44(00:21) | 00:21

(:21) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep right to M.Floyd.

Score = +2

Comments: Even Alex Smith said that he “missed” this throw, but my reaction watching the game live and on replay was that this was a very pretty throw to the sideline, 19 yards downfield in the swirling wind. Floyd’s foot was 3 inches over the sideline, making it a no-catch, but Alex put the ball where it needed to be, in my opinion. The result was an incomplete pass, but this was 3-inches away from being a big-time chain-mover.

2ND & 10 AT DAL 44(00:16) | 00:16

(:16) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep right to J.Doctson.

Score = -1

Comments: Playing situational football, Alex rolled out of the pocket to keep the play alive with just 16 seconds on the clock. He saw Josh Doctson open downfield. If Alex had hit him, it would have been a beautiful pass and the team would have had 1st & goal inside the 5, or a TD. The pass was too long, but it was a difficult throw with Alex running, the wind blowing, and Doctson having only a half-step of separation. I suspect Alex threw it a little long to avoid any possibility of an interception while still giving Doctson a chance for the big catch, but it went 2 yards beyond Josh Doctson.

In Alex’s comments after practice on Wednesday, he said at one point, “I’m trying to miss in the right places and trying to throw a ball in those spots”. I think he’s talking about plays like this, where the miss falls harmlessly to the turf, but if the receiver can get there, it’ll be a great play. He takes away any opportunity for an interception by ‘missing’ long on purpose. Maybe...

3RD & 10 AT DAL 44(00:09) | 00:09

(:09) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep right to J.Doctson.

Score = -2

Comments: This was a beautiful play call. Doctson was open by a yard or more. The right ball here gives the ‘Skins the ball arond the 5, or possibly a Doctson TD. No excuse here; Alex took the shot and missed it.

4TH & 10 AT DAL 44(00:04) | 00:04

(:04) (Shotgun) PENALTY on DAL-D.Lawrence, Neutral Zone Infraction, 5 yards, enforced at DAL 44 - No Play.

Score = 0

4TH & 5 AT DAL 39(00:04) | 00:04

(:04) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep right to M.Floyd.

Score = +1

Comments: Last play of the half has to be a “Hail Mary” pass to the end zone. Alex hits Michael Floyd in the chest with the ball. The missed TD is on Floyd; Alex threw exactly the right ball. He doesn’t get a +2 here because he wouldn’t have had to throw a ‘Hail Mary’ if he’d hit Doctson on the 3rd down play.


1ST & 10 AT WAS 25(15:00) | 15:00

(15:00) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right end to WAS 34 for 9 yards (A.Woods).

Score = +1

Comments: Simple handoff. AD did all the work, but Alex didn’t make a mistake.

2ND & 1 AT WAS 34(14:19) | 14:19

(14:19) A.Peterson up the middle to WAS 39 for 5 yards (B.Jones; K.Frazier).

Score = +1

Comments: Nice 5 yard run on 2nd & 1. Simple handoff by Alex.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 39(13:40) | 13:40

(13:40) (Shotgun) A.Peterson left end pushed ob at DAL 38 for 23 yards (L.Vander Esch).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a running play that went exactly the way you draw it up on the whiteboard. Simple handoff by Alex.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 38(13:03) | 13:03

(13:03) S.Perine up the middle to DAL 31 for 7 yards (J.Heath).

Score = +1

Comments: Samaje Perine sighting. Simple handoff executed by Alex.

2ND & 3 AT DAL 31(12:18) | 12:18

(12:18) S.Perine right end to DAL 36 for -5 yards (D.Lawrence).

Score = 0

Comments: This play was blown up by the Dallas D getting penetration. Alex didn’t do anything wrong, but the play had a negative result. This was an OL breakdown.

3RD & 8 AT DAL 36(11:38) | 11:38

(11:38) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass deep left to J.Reed to DAL 9 for 27 yards (J.Heath).

Score = +2

Comments: Classic Jay Gruden play, with Alex hitting Reed in stride for a 27 yard gain on 3rd & 8. This was a beautiful play, and, again, one we’ve seen from Kirk dozens of times over the past three seasons.

1ST & 9 AT DAL 9(10:52) | 10:52

(10:52) A.Smith pass incomplete short right to J.Sprinkle.

Score = -2

Comments: Wonderful play call by Gruden; beautful execution by 10 men on the offense, and Alex made his worst play of the game. Rolling to his right, with Sprinkle 2 yards clear of the defender and running with Alex, the QB put the ball two yards out in front of the TE. Unforgivable. I’d like to give this play a -10.

2ND & 9 AT DAL 9(10:47) | 10:47

(10:47) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to A.Peterson to DAL 1 for 8 yards (B.Jones).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a nice pass, though I’m not sure if Alex had anyone open in the end zone for the TD. Having just missed the sure TD, this was a decent response, setting up 3rd & goal from the one yard line.

3RD & 1 AT DAL 1(09:59) | 09:59

(9:59) (Shotgun) A.Peterson up the middle to DAL 3 for -2 yards (D.Lawrence).

Score = -2

Comments: This appeared to be a zone read play. If it was, Alex made the wrong read. This play was dead in the water. Overall, Alex’s poor pass on 1st down, and bad decision on 3rd down cost the Redskins 4 points.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 28(07:34) | 07:34

(7:34) A.Peterson left end to WAS 24 for -4 yards (J.Heath, A.Woods).

Score = 0

Comments: Alex handed off to AD smoothly, but the Dallas D stuffed it behind the line.

2ND & 14 AT WAS 24(06:53) | 06:53

(6:53) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to J.Doctson to WAS 39 for 15 yards (B.Jones).

Score = +2

Comments: On 2nd & 14, Smith fired a beautiful strike to Josh Doctson streaking up the seam for a 1st down. This was a really fine pass in a bread & butter play in the Jay Gruden offense.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 39(06:17) | 06:17

(6:17) A.Peterson right end to WAS 41 for 2 yards (J.Smith, D.Irving).

Score = +1

Comments: Simple handoff for 2 yards.

2ND & 8 AT WAS 41(05:34) | 05:34

(5:34) A.Smith sacked at WAS 38 for -3 yards (D.Irving).

Score = -1

Comments: Protection broke down. Smith stepped up in the pocket, then ran, but got tackled for a 3 yard loss. Probably not a lot more that he could have done.

3RD & 11 AT WAS 38(04:49) | 04:49

(4:49) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to K.Bibbs pushed ob at WAS 48 for 10 yards (S.Lee).

Score = +1

Comments: Alex couldn’t find a receiver downfield. When protection started to break down, he made a nice spin move to his left, extended the play, then found Kapri Bibbs for a 10-yard gain. Maybe he missed open receivers downfield, but assuming he didn’t, Alex probably got all he could out of this play.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 49(02:23) | 02:23

(2:23) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right end to DAL 30 for 21 yards (J.Smith). PENALTY on WAS-J.Sprinkle, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at WAS 49 - No Play.

Score = 0

Comments: This looked like a beautiful run by AD, but he was sprung loose by a hold at the line of scrimmage. Alex handed the ball off smoothly, but with a -10 yard result, I’m grading him a 0.

1ST & 20 AT WAS 39(01:50) | 01:50

(1:50) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to J.Doctson to DAL 46 for 15 yards (A.Brown).

Score = +2

Comments: This is the passing connection between Alex and Doctson that everyone has been looking for. This looked like a professional football team executing its offense. Nice route, nice throw.

2ND & 5 AT DAL 46(01:16) | 01:16

(1:16) (Shotgun) K.Bibbs right end to DAL 33 for 13 yards (L.Vander Esch; R.Gregory). DAL-L.Vander Esch was injured during the play.

Score = +1

Comments: This play had a really positive result, but this was more because of Bibbs than Alex. The QB tossed the ball to Bibbs going right, but he put it high (around Bibbs’ helmet) and pretty hard, making it moderately difficult to handle. Bibbs did handle it, but Alex could have made it easier with a better toss.

1ST & 10 AT DAL 33(00:32) | 00:32

(:32) A.Peterson right guard to DAL 29 for 4 yards (S.Lee).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a nicely executed running play with jet sweep motion that got 4 yards on 1st down. Alex handled the ball smoothly.


2ND & 6 AT DAL 29(15:00) | 15:00

(15:00) (Shotgun) A.Peterson left end to DAL 9 for 20 yards (X.Woods).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a great run by Adrian Peterson, but he got a smooth handoff from Alex Smith.

1ST & 9 AT DAL 9(14:14) | 14:14

(14:14) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right tackle to DAL 11 for -2 yards (D.Lawrence).

Score = +1

Comments: AD probably made a mistake trying to reverse field here. Alex did his part by handing the ball off smoothly.

2ND & 11 AT DAL 11(13:31) | 13:31

(13:31) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles right tackle to DAL 7 for 4 yards (T.Crawford).

Score = +1

Comments: I’m not sure if Smith could have found a receiver in the end zone (Tony Romos said everyone was tightly covered), but he scrambled out of the pocket, got positive yards, and kept the drive going.

3RD & 7 AT DAL 7(12:43) | 12:43

(12:43) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short middle to J.Reed.

Score = -2

Comments: Alex made nothing happen here. He simply heaved this ball over the back of the end zone. Perhaps he saved the field goal by not pressing the play when there was nothing there, but it felt like he may have given up on the play a bit early. Romo said that Alex “had no choice”, so maybe I’m being harsh here, but the offense isn’t scoring TDs in the Red Zone, and it needs to. Of course, Dallas is a top-5 defense...

1ST & 10 AT WAS 25(09:46) | 09:46

(9:46) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short left to J.Reed.

Score = -2

Comments: This was an ugly abortion on a screen pass.

2ND & 10 AT WAS 25(09:43) | 09:43

(9:43) (Shotgun) A.Peterson left tackle to WAS 27 for 2 yards (A.Woods).

Score = +1

Comments: Simple handoff for 2 yards.

3RD & 8 AT WAS 27(08:59) | 08:59

(8:59) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to K.Bibbs pushed ob at WAS 37 for 10 yards (X.Woods).

Score = +2

Comments: This was a nice play that took a lot of patience from Alex, as well as a good throw on the run. Another 1st down on 3rd & 8. This was nice quarterbacking.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 37(08:22) | 08:22

(8:22) A.Peterson right guard to WAS 39 for 2 yards (L.Vander Esch).

Score = +1

Comments: Simple handoff for 2 yards.

2ND & 8 AT WAS 39(07:41) | 07:41

(7:41) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to M.Harris to WAS 45 for 6 yards (J.Smith).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a nice pass from Smith, and you get the feeling that Harris could have leaned up field and gotten the first down. Instead, he did what I often see Redskin receivers do (it looks like they’ve been trained to do it), which is to run a yard or so back toward the line of scrimmage as they go East-West, trying to curl around a defender for YAC. It didn’t work this time, though it often does.

3RD & 2 AT WAS 45(06:59) | 06:59

(6:59) (Shotgun) K.Bibbs right end to WAS 45 for no gain (D.Lawrence).

Score = +1

Comments: The failure here killed the drive, but this may have been a weak play call, as it was the 4th toss play of the game. Alex did his part okay, delivering a good ball to Bibbs, but Dallas looked like they understood the play call and blew it up at the line of scrimmage.

1ST & 10 AT WAS 25(01:37) | 01:37

(1:37) A.Peterson right end to WAS 24 for -1 yards (D.Lawrence; D.Wilson).

Score = +1

Comments: Trying to run out the clock, Gruden makes a conservative play call. Simple handoff by Smith that gets stuffed at LOS.

2ND & 11 AT WAS 24(01:32) | 01:32

(1:32) (Shotgun) A.Peterson right end to WAS 26 for 2 yards (S.Lee).

Score = +1

Comments: This was a simple handoff, but when the play was predictably blown up by the Dallas Defense, Peterson tried to reverse field and make something from nothing — Alex Smith actually threw an effective block on a safety that may have gotten Peterson 2 yards here. If AD had broken the play for 5+ I’d’ve given Alex a +2 here for the blocking.

3RD & 9 AT WAS 26(01:26) | 01:26

(1:26) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles left end pushed ob at WAS 32 for 6 yards (S.Lee)

Score = -2

Comments: The missed TD pass to Sprinkle was Alex’s worst play of the day. This was his 2nd worst. Scrambling on 3rd & 9, once he realized he wasn’t gonna make the first down, the right decision is to SLIDE and stay inbounds to force Dallas to use their final timeout. Alex went out of bounds to stop the clock, which gave the Cowboys a lot more flexibility on their final drive of the game. I wouldn’t mind giving him a -5 for this play.

Final SFA Grade(s) for Alex Smith vs. Cowboys

As you can see in the chart, I identified 11 highly positive plays (+2 each) from Alex Smith in the Cowboys game, while spotting 6 highly negative plays (-2 each).

There were 33 plays that I graded as positive (+1 each) — 19 of which were mere handoffs, with 14 involving something more from Alex.

Against that, I identified 6 negative plays (graded at -1 each).

Seven plays graded out at “0”, either due to a penalty, or because the play had a negative result, but not because Alex failed to do his job.

The final “raw” SFA grade for Alex against the Cowboys turns out to be +36 on 64 plays (or 57 if you don’t count the zeros).

If you feel like Alex shouldn’t get credit for handing the ball off without incident, then his “adjusted” SFA score is 17 on 45 plays (or 38 if you don’t count the zeros).

My takeaway from this exercise

After reviewing and grading every individual snap for Alex Smith against the Cowboys, I find myself feeling a lot better about what he is doing. I think that his on-field performance is better than his statistics indicate, partly due to his cautious style of play, and partly because, in a tight defensive battle against the NFC’s no. 1 defense, receivers dropped the ball — figuratively and literally — on three or four plays that would have made a difference. Also, because Jay and Alex were playing “small ball” against a talented D, the obvious mistakes that Alex made were more glaring because that stood out in a small sample size of only about 60 plays, in a game with very few big plays, when Dallas is one of the most effective defenses in the league at stopping big plays.

My goal is not to be an Alex apologist, but to understand what the Redskins have at quarterback.

Alex, according to my Sympathetic Fan Analysis, is making about twice as many positive plays as negative plays, and he has a hidden benefit insofar as he typically leads the league in avoiding turnovers (INT + FUM) year in and year out, allowing the team to control field position, dominate the clock, and have more scoring opportunities than the opponents.

I encourage each reader to review the game play; avoid simply accepting a narrative that is pushed at you (including the one I’ve written here). I encourage each of you to use your eyes and think about what you see. Redskins football doesn’t look much like it has for the past several years, but it may simply take some getting used to.

Maybe your eyes will tell you that my analysis is wrong, or that you just don’t like this style of play.

In my review of the Dallas game, I came away with the feeling that if Alex had fixed about a half dozen plays, the offense would have been quite productive, and the game wouldn’t have been close at all. Some of the plays are attributable to the swirling winds in FedEx on Sunday, and the remaining issues can be addressed through good coaching.

I come away from this exercise feeling encouraged.


How are you feeling about Alex Smith at the moment?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Very happy that he’s the Redskins quarterback
    (114 votes)
  • 48%
    I’m at peace with it
    (249 votes)
  • 24%
    Concerned about what I’m seeing on the field
    (128 votes)
  • 5%
    This was a terrible decision by the front office
    (26 votes)
517 votes total Vote Now