Anyone who’s been paying attention to what I write knows that I have not been an Alex Smith fan. I wrote about how I thought the franchise was between a rock and a hard place when they signed him, how I thought they got taken advantage of, how they overpaid for him and gave up too much, how I didn’t think Smith would live up to his contract while he was here based on his career of work. Well now that sentiment is all but a certainty as Smith’s season is surely ended, his availability for next season is also in question, and some are even going as far as to question whether or not he should hang up his cleats and retire.
For Alex Smith’s season to end the way it did just seems brutal and unfair. His injury was painful and gruesome. This injury was like a cruel intervention of some kind. When you watch the replay I for one just can’t exactly pinpoint how that happens on that play. I wanted him to play better, not get hurt and have his health and career jeopardized. Just because I didn’t like the way Alex Smith played on the field didn’t mean I preferred what the alternative was for the Redskins.
It’s Colt McCoy’s show now though, and possibly next year, and if you ask me the sense to win now has to be palpable for Gruden and the front office. Here is a flag I will plant now: The Redskins can not afford a ‘transition’ or ‘rebuild’ year. They simply can not. The clock is ticking now for the team to win, we again can look back to the words of the coach about how he believes that. The defense is arguably the best its been since I’ve been alive. Realistically for the next 2-3 seasons (if we are lucky) it will be the best its going to be. We don’t have to look far to see how these single ‘transition’ or ‘rebuild’ years work out. I was talking with someone in the comments about Jacksonville. We all know their defense played lights out last season. Jacksonville thought they could sign their below average QB to a team friendly deal and have the defense carry the team again. It has not worked out that way friends. All of these guys are mortal and the NFL is brutal to expect that the Redskins defense will perform at this level next season and carry McCoy is a fool’s errand.
The future is suddenly filled with a lot of questions. This is not Tom Brady tearing his ACL, or Aaron Rodgers breaking his collar bone. This injury to Smith, at his age, will affect his mobility, a core ability of his playing the position. He may never be the same if he sees the field again. The Redskins also find that QB is suddenly at the top of the need column both immediately and for the future especially if the worst case scenario happens with Smith. I wouldn’t bet money on the Redskins picking the right QB who can play right away and carry the team in a thin draft class at the position. To me this puts the focus on what the team can do right now with what they have.
McCoy came in and played well in a deflating moment. He even got the Redskins their first lead change of the season and for a minute there things were looking good. I would be a fool if I expect McCoy to play like that every game though. So somewhat ironically this is what the Redskins need to do: Play near exactly as they have been. I will not lie, my heart flutters when McCoy pushes the ball downfield in part from excitement, in part from being terrified. But Gruden will have to form a game plan around him where those decisions are few and at just the right moments. Yes ya’ll I’m saying McCoy must play ‘safe’ and ‘boring’ to ENSURE that the Redskins finish this season with a playoff berth as this is what is most paramount right now. The division race has tightened and the Redskins must finish strong within the division. Let Peterson do the work. Let the defense do the work. When you get your 1-2 chances a game let it rip Colt but please do not get fancy.
This is not just a moment or an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ for McCoy as Gruden put it but it is an opportunity of a lifetime for the entire team. When the passing game has faltered the running game and the defense has lifted the team up. The defense and the run game will fail at some point this season and McCoy will have to take more risks and do something special to get the team across the finish line. Can a team whose identity is physicality on the defensive line, tough running by a 33 year-old, and playing mistake free football really persevere in a situation like this? Of course they can but it will take everything the team has and there really is no margin for error. McCoy brought us back from behind but can he and the defense keep the team there when it matters most? We’ll see starting with Dallas.