BGO: Humpty Dumpty

Fight on... Fight on...

Boone

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again


Don’t tell that to Alex Smith.

Smith experienced a devastating tibia-fibula ('tib-fib’) fracture that brought his 1st season in DC to an abrupt end. During a horribly unlucky tackle, Smith’s lower leg was twisted with such violence both bones were broken. The fracture was compound, meaning the sharpened end of one of the bones protruded through his skin. There may have been some damage to other supporting structures in his lower leg. Smith’s career was quickly and understandably pronounced over.

Redskins fans in particular are familiar with career-ending injuries. We all watched the horrific end of Joe Theismann’s career courtesy of Lawrence Taylor. We saw Lavar Arrington end Troy Aikman’s career, and we witnessed the last of a seemingly endless string of violent hits that likely have ended the talented Jordan Reed’s football career.

When a career-ending injury happens, we recognize it. As Smith was carted off the field in agony, it was plain to see. We all pronounced him 'done’. But I’m going to suggest perhaps we, and most internet experts (aka Twitter posters) were all wrong. Smith isn’t done. And he may shock everyone by not only playing again, but playing again this season. There’s even an outside chance he progresses far enough to beat out an inexperienced (if more physically gifted) Dwayne Haskins for the starting job in 2020.

Yeah. I know. I’m crazy. There’s no way Smith ever plays NFL football again. It’s common knowledge. Someone had better let Alex Smith know – because he thinks he’s coming back.

I can offer up an uneducated opinion on any given topic with the best of them. But in this case, I have some personal expertise. I’m not a world-renowned Orthopedic surgeon. But I have spent 25 years in the healthcare setting, much of that time managing units that care for patients who’ve suffered traumatic injuries. I’ve learned 4 things over my 25 years.
  • No patient is the same and there is no such thing as a universal prognosis.
  • Attitude and motivation level are huge factors in any patient’s recovery.
  • The human body has a remarkable ability to heal, even from the most debilitating of injuries.
  • Medical staff are smart – but they are also frequently wrong.

Alex Smith didn’t just experience a terrible injury. He experienced complications. While we don’t have access to his medical record, we do know that he suffered at least one major infection (and possibly sepsis – the spread of infection through one’s system that is frequently life-threatening). We know that he experienced numerous surgeries, some of those likely to remove necrotic non-healing skin and tissue, some possibly to insert, remove, reinforce, or replace hardware knitting his broken bones together. On top of the trauma of his injuries, Alex has no doubt weathered a number of complications. One didn’t have to see more than one or two images of Alex trudging around Redskins Park or at public events with an external fixator literally screwed into the bones of his lower extremity to know – Alex was one ****ed up dude.

I have no inside information on Smith’s current status. But I don’t need it to form the opinion I am getting ready to express. Smith not only could return, it’s likely he will return. The questions Redskins fans have been raising about our QB situation are the wrong ones. Who will backup Dwayne Haskins? What vet mentor will the Redskins sign to provide Haskins experience, tutelage, and leadership as he grows as a starter? The better question may turn out to be 'Can Dwayne Haskins beat out Alex Smith for the starting job?’

I know. You’re saying it again. 'Are you crazy? Smith is never playing football again. The whole reason we drafted Dwayne Haskins was because we knew he’d never play again.’ I don’t blame you for believing it. Who wouldn’t believe it having watched Smith traverse all of the adversity thrown at him over the past 15 months?

There are a lot of reasons I’m going against conventional wisdom in this case.

  1. Smith’s surgeons and physicians aren’t the ones calling his career over. We can’t know what exactly they are saying to Alex. But I think it’s unlikely had they told him he would never play again, or that it would be unsafe for him to play again, that he’d be aggressively pursuing a return.
  2. Smith has had a long career, but has never achieved the level of success he wanted and likely deserved. After his best NFL season ever, he was thanked for his work and sent on his way. That may have been the right decision, but I guarantee you it left him with a chip on his shoulder and a feeling he had something to prove.
  3. In a league where Alex isn’t even one of the oldest QBs, he’s not ready to retire.
  4. Smith is a determined, tough SOB. If you tell him he can’t, it’s almost a certainty that he will.
  5. Bones, even terribly broken ones, heal, sometimes even stronger than they were pre-injury.

Alex Smith and I may not be the only ones who believe he’s coming back. The Redskins must believe so. Why else continue to carry him on the roster, forking over millions of dollars to a player who will never take the field again? Of course, Smith would get paid regardless –there’s no escaping that reality, nor should there be. But if he had been definitively deemed unable to play going forward, surely they would have come to a retirement and compensation package, hired him on staff, or come to some other accommodation?

They haven’t.

The Redskins also believe Alex Smith is coming back.

Finally, I think recent statements by Ron Rivera regarding the fluid state of the Redskins QB competition also speak to his belief that Alex will be competing for the starting role in the 2020 Training Camp and preseason. Some of you will argue, that’s just a tactic to motivate Dwayne Haskins. You could be right. But I don’t think so. There is more conventional wisdom out there, hinting that the worst thing that could ever happen to Haskins is the Redskins not anointing him the 2020 starter outright. If I’m right and Smith makes a shocking return to the active roster in a few months, it’s still quite possible that Haskins proves himself the more able starter. Smith may be quite capable of playing under center, but it would be hard to argue that his mobility will be equal to his pre-injury level. Haskins is a big, strong, smart, accurate QB. But he is still woefully inexperienced. If Alex Smith looks like Alex Smith, is clearly more comfortable under center, and able to run Scott Turner’s offense efficiently, does anyone doubt he would have a legitimate shot at earning the starter’s spot?

I think it could well happen.

Whether that’s a good thing for the development of Dwayne Haskins or whether his young psyche will be bruised forever by the injustice of it all – I can’t tell you.

Then again – maybe it would be the best thing that ever happened to him.
 

Om

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Tell you what ... you ain't crazy. What's crazy is what 99% of the rest of the football world has already done---written the man off.

Personally, I think Alex does have every intention of fighting his way back. In terms of potentially competing for the starting position in 2020 though, I'm still thinking he's not going to be physically ready in time to compete through OTA's, mini-camps and ultimately training camp. If he DOES miraculously show up for the first veteran minicamp though, and is running and moving like at even 85-90%, it could we be ON between him and Dwayne. But we're only a couple months from footballs starting to fly again, and unless I've missed them, I haven't seen or heard anything indicating he might be just that far away from being Alex Smith again.

And let me just say for the record ... Redskins considerations aside, it would make me smile to see that man jog back onto an NFL field again, buckling his helmet and getting ready to take a snap in live action again. I'm not too old to root for comeback stories.
 

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Great topic! Ultimately, as Redskins fans, we should all be rooting for Alex to somehow make his way back. Let's face it, an Alex Smith at 85 to 90 % pushes Haskins that much further towards being his best football self and blossoming into the signal-caller we envision him being long-term. We can't have complacency and comfort set in for Haskins. Alex Smith breathing down his neck is an organizational win on several levels.
 

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1. Not sure why Alex fighting to return to the field is honorable but in the same breath many assert Reed should hang it up. In the end, we are equally uninformed and uncertain about the probabilites in both cases. I fall to the side that supports individuals making their own decisions. It is their lives; just like boxers, or extreme sports activists, or Navy Seals - risk acceptance.

2. I'd just assume worry more about upgrading the O-line first than worrying about when/if Alex stages a comeback or Haskins matures. There will be plenty of time for yet another QB drama in DC.
 

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I tend to agree that it should fall to individual athletes in most cases to determine risk vs. reward. Boxing is not the greatest example since the sport does have a tradition of requiring boxers to be cleared as safe to fight (how well that standard is applied is questionable, but they do require boxers to be cleared). I think where the libertarian POV falls apart a little is that, when you have a traumatic brain injury, you may not have the same insight and judgment to safely make independent decisions. At some level, there need to be ways to protect players from themselves (if their judgment and faculties are impaired). That's why you don't allow players to return in games after a big head shot - whether they like it or not.

I don't agree that a guy whose had a terrible bone break with someone who has had 5 or more concussions is necessarily an apples to apples comparison. One guy risks being less mobile and/or breaking his leg again. That's a big deal. But it's not committing suicide 10 years from now or experiencing early onset Alzheimers because of the effects of CTE.
 

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I'm all for Alex making a comeback. While I saw enough in the late part of the season to like what I saw from Dwayne's development, I really would like there to be a QB behind him that pushes him and mentors him. I think Alex would be perfect for that role, he proved it in KC with Mahomes. I also don't think it would be the worst thing in the world for DH to be beaten to the starting role by Alex. I'd love for Haskins to be groomed ready for a full time starting role in 2021 when this team has installed Ron's system, plugged some of the holes and is maybe ready to start competing. I think the team will be more dynamic behind Haskins when he's ready, I love his long ball potential.

I also would love to see what Alex has left if given a better set of consistent weapons to use.

The Jordan Reed thing... Honestly for him I worry about all those head injuries. For me it feels like Alex has a path to come back, and if he suffers a leg injury then so be it. Bones break all the time, but that won't affect his mental quality of life moving forward. Reed on the other hand, I just don't know what multiple concussions is going to do to him long term. He surely must have earned enough money to be comfortable and not have to risk his future mental health? I understand he probably has a chip on his shoulder too, but honestly he should also realize that he's injury prone and maybe should quit while he's ahead.
 

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One thought I had as I wrote yesterday. Let’s say that my potential scenario comes to fruition and Smith is able to return and beats out Haskins. I think it would be unlikely if he looks good that Haskins would supplant him anytime soon. So let’s say Smith earned the starter spot and held it for 2-3 seasons possibly even getting the Redskins to a playoff appearance.

Do the Redskins run into a Kirk Cousins scenario where Haskins feels disrespected and refuses to sign a 2nd contract?

I guess if we care about that at all, it would all depend on how Haskins was treated during the grooming period and/or how convinced the team was that he was a franchise QB in the making?

None of the above may happen. It’s just food for thought.
 

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How long is Smith contracted for?

The ideal would be to get Haskins groomed and into the starter role ASAP while he's still cheap. This is the optimal window for a playoff run while we can spend money on the rest of the team without having to commit a fortune to a QB. If Haskins pans out then we'll be in a position a couple of years from now that a lot of teams are if we're not careful... hamstrung by a huge QB salary.
 

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I don’t think playoff run even enters the conversation - we’re not close to that and I don’t see any evidence Haskins is a transformational player like a Mahomes who vaults a team’s overall ability into another level.

ideally, if Haskins doesn’t start in 2020 you’d want to ensure that a) he is onboard with the plan and understands it is because we want him to be the QB of the future that he’s not the immediate starter, and b) you have certainty in his abilities when the time comes to sign him to a 2nd big money contract.
 

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35 year old quarterbacks that suffer this kind of major injury think about retirement not a return to the field, especially where Smith is in his trajectory.

He is not a Brees or Brady that has been an elite passer for more than a decade, even at 100% he has been a middle of the pack game manager who was overtaken by other qbs on Super Bowl bound teams in SF and KC.
 

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I think that's my point Boone. I'm not sure Haskins IS a transformational player. And if he's not then (unless we draft QB again *sigh*) we need to build the team around him while he has minimum impact on the salary cap.

If you look at the Superbowl contenders over the last decade or so, what do you see? If you don't have a truly transformational QB (like a Brady, Ryan or Newton), you need a decent one on a rookie (or cheap) deal that allows you to build a team around him. Like Goff, Foles, Wilson.

Mahomes is the scary outlier here because he's cheap at the moment PLUS transformational. It'll be interesting to see how KC do when he signs the big deal that's coming. Which path follows for them? Will they be the Patriots or the Packers?

I know as well as anyone we shouldn't be talking playoffs at this point, and I don't expect to be at that point in the 2020 season, or maybe even the 2021. But the team really needs to prepare to strike while the window is open. That's Ron's job. To get this team into contention status while Haskins is cheap, because that allows us to build the team around him.

In fact it goes beyond Haskins. We have a core nucleus that is going to be very cheap for the next few years. Haskins, McLaurin, Guice (if he can stay healthy), Love (likewise), Sweat, Allen, Payne, Sims.
I think Ron knows it too, because so far the moves he's making are cutting away the old dead weight, creating salary cap and making the team younger across the board.
 

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35 year old quarterbacks that suffer this kind of major injury think about retirement not a return to the field, especially where Smith is in his trajectory.

He is not a Brees or Brady that has been an elite passer for more than a decade, even at 100% he has been a middle of the pack game manager who was overtaken by other qbs on Super Bowl bound teams in SF and KC.
Who are we to say what he should do? If one of us were in a terrible motor vehicle accident, our wife and friends insisting we should retire because the demands of work would be too much for us - would we? What if you didn't agree with them? What if you enjoyed working? What if you felt it was none of their damn business telling you what you could and couldn't do?

We'd do what felt right - to us. We all would.

His perceived skill level has nothing to do with anything. I'm addressing whether he can come back, not whether he should. And he's not competing for a HOF induction, he's got to beat out Dwayne Haskins for a starting job.

He can. And he might.
 

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Knight - whether Haskins is cheap or not doesn't matter. Whether Haskins can play at a high level does matter. If he can, cheap doesn't matter, we'll pay the man. If he can't cheap doesn't matter, because he'll be gone. If the Redskins don't believe he's going to be the man, I hope they trade him and draft Tua.

I'm not advocating for Smith to come back or not to come back. I'm not predicting how it will go even if he comes back and seizes the starting job. I'm simply saying is may well happen. Redskins fans everywhere don't believe he'll ever play again, or if he does, that he can be the starter, much less an effective starter.

The entire point of the thread is - he can. And he might. Whether that's a good thing, or a disaster, you guys can argue. I don't have an opinion on it.
 

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The original poem never indicated Humpty was an egg.

Even if Smith came back and could play without the ghost of his prior injury in his head (he was already over cautious), he’s still largely worthless to us. Does anyone believe Smith will come back, light up the league and lead us to a Super Bowl? I don’t. So why waste the time? Alex Smith was marginal before Watt snapped his leg almost clear off. Now, he’s a project we should’ve cut last year to suffer through the cap hit.
 

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The original poem never indicated Humpty was an egg.

Even if Smith came back and could play without the ghost of his prior injury in his head (he was already over cautious), he’s still largely worthless to us. Does anyone believe Smith will come back, light up the league and lead us to a Super Bowl? I don’t. So why waste the time? Alex Smith was marginal before Watt snapped his leg almost clear off. Now, he’s a project we should’ve cut last year to suffer through the cap hit.
From a practical POV I don't really disagree. But there is another way to look at it. Smith probably has 2-3 years left in his career in the most optimistic scenario. Do you really think the Redskins are winning a Super Bowl during that stretch? So is that really even a factor? On the other hand - if Smith does manage to come back and demonstrate he's currently the most capable QB on the roster, is it really a waste of time having him show Dwayne Haskins how a professional QB operates? Let's not kid ourselves. I love Haskins potential... And. That. Arm. But he absolutely doesn't know how to be a professional QB. From his questionable work ethic (if it weren't questionable, his coaches wouldn't keep talking about the importance of him being the first in and last out) to taking selfies with fans while a game is still going on.... he needs to learn from someone who's been there. I could see worse scenarios. I think 'worthless' could be way off.

I do understand your point and general perspective. I'm looking at it more from the long haul perspective.
 

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CDC has done studies: the suicide rate is lower among NFL players than the population at large. A lot lower. Whether there was a proclivity to self-destruction (i.e., other factors such as depression, societal pressures, drugs, lack of purpose) hasn't been discussed. The media, as in everything, grabs these memes and pushes a point-of-view - generally condescending and destructive of any institution rather than analytic, unbiased and honest.

Again, I favor the individual. There is risk in everything all of us do each day. Generally, in our society, the "rule setters" step in and deny personal freedom/choice when there is great risk to others. I don't see it in this instance. This is among the player, his doctors, his family and his personal risk acceptance thresholds. Paternalism is a path that should be walked very, very carefully - one skeptical step at a time.
 

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The original poem never indicated Humpty was an egg.

Even if Smith came back and could play without the ghost of his prior injury in his head (he was already over cautious), he’s still largely worthless to us. Does anyone believe Smith will come back, light up the league and lead us to a Super Bowl? I don’t. So why waste the time? Alex Smith was marginal before Watt snapped his leg almost clear off. Now, he’s a project we should’ve cut last year to suffer through the cap hit.
I tend to agree with you. While Smith was an improvement over his predecessors, what I observed was a QB whose play deteriorated in each successive game. Sure, plenty of factors in play, but the trend was there. We overpaid for his services. A better offensive mind than anyone on the Skins (Andy Reid) knew there was better and once again shed an aging QB off to the Skins and the genious of Bruce Allen. The FO mindset, as most know, was that we were just a few players short of play-off level competitiveness. Leading, again, to avoidance of the sorely needed rebuild.

Most of what I am reading argues more for Smith as a coach.
 

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CDC has done studies: the suicide rate is lower among NFL players than the population at large. A lot lower. Whether there was a proclivity to self-destruction (i.e., other factors such as depression, societal pressures, drugs, lack of purpose) hasn't been discussed. The media, as in everything, grabs these memes and pushes a point-of-view - generally condescending and destructive of any institution rather than analytic, unbiased and honest.

Again, I favor the individual. There is risk in everything all of us do each day. Generally, in our society, the "rule setters" step in and deny personal freedom/choice when there is great risk to others. I don't see it in this instance. This is among the player, his doctors, his family and his personal risk acceptance thresholds. Paternalism is a path that should be walked very, very carefully - one skeptical step at a time.
As I said, I generally agree in maximum personal freedom as long as it does not impact others freedoms in the process. I don't think this sidebar is relative to the Smith conversation though. First of all, I'm not among those that thinks the NFL should prohibit players from continuing to try to play if that's their choice. That may well be the direction the NFL is going, and as I mentioned, they won't be the first sports league to move in that direction (see boxing analogy). The statistic you pointed to may or may not have any validity as 'being an NFL player is hardly the only factor involved in suicide risk. NFL players are affluent, have access to the best healthcare anywhere, etc... Whether overall their suicide rate is lower than the national average isn't the point, rather that there have been some very well documented instances of links between CTE and erratic behavior, decline in cognitive ability, and depression and suicide. Again - there's an obvious difference in serious bodily injury and irreparable brain injury. They are both obvious negatives in a high risk sport.

Despite all of that, I'm not sure anyone has a right to tell a Jordan Reed he can't keep playing if he's determined to. So obviously I likewise support Alex Smith in his comeback if that is something he desires.
 

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I tend to agree with you. While Smith was an improvement over his predecessors, what I observed was a QB whose play deteriorated in each successive game. Sure, plenty of factors in play, but the trend was there. We overpaid for his services. A better offensive mind than anyone on the Skins (Andy Reid) knew there was better and once again shed an aging QB off to the Skins and the genious of Bruce Allen. The FO mindset, as most know, was that we were just a few players short of play-off level competitiveness. Leading, again, to avoidance of the sorely needed rebuild.

Most of what I am reading argues more for Smith as a coach.
Agree with all that - although the idea that going to Patrick Mahommes over Alex Smith was somehow a referendum on Smith's 'poor play' is way off. Mahommes has already shown he IS a generational talent. What QB short of a Tom Brady wasn't going to lose his job to him, and quickly? Not to mention Alex was literally coming off his greatest year as a pro ever and still was let go. If Smith can physically come back, the question is, what does Rivera place a higher priority on. Stable, efficient, and sound decision-making? Or electrifying talent? I have no idea which way he might go. I'm just suggesting NFL coaches, in the short term, almost always go with experience over raw talent. Even in KC, Smith was the guy for a full year before they moved to the youngster.
 

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Personally, I'm not committed to any pov vis QB....with the caveat that Smith is a short-term solution for obvious reasons. As you know, I had some doubts vis Haskins based on some analyses vis performance under pressure (which may have been wrong) and lack of experience in College which I do believe is germane and derivatively contributes to his evident immaturity. More importantly, I think the point is secodary to an O-line that needs serious improvement and stability. Rivera can manage the QB situation as he choses, certainly better than the foot-shooting Gruden. I'm watching the O-line and secondary, Boone, as primary need areas. TE would be really, really nice to to elevate to NFL standards......but I'm focused on aforementioned priorities first. It'll be interesting how FA is handled....and not exclusively what happens with Cam.

btw...the thought wasn't Smith's play was poor...it was that Reid had better and knew he needed to make the move to win a SB. The parallel with McNabb is also fairly obvious - unload an aging QB by taking advantage of the Skin's QB problems. Smith is no Favre; no reason to sit MaHommes as was Rogers.

Here's a fun question: are we in a better situation today with Smith/Haskins and drafting Chase (one assumes); or, would we be better off had we drafted other than Haskins and selected from this upcoming draft's better (according to the pundits) QB opportuntities? I know the easy response is that the point is moot. Just the same......
 
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