Mr. Smith goes to Washington, takes another team to playoffs

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Washington Football Team's Alex Smith plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is the biggest reason Washington became the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 2-7 and make the playoffs. The 36-year-olds journey back from a broken leg and 17 surgeries was a long one, but the difference with him at quarterback has been simple: Smith doesnt make major mistakes, manages the game and is the cool hand coach Ron Rivera wanted in control of his young team. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton, File)

If the Alex Smith story becomes a movie, Alex Smith doesn't want to see it.

“Heck no,” he said, “I wouldn’t watch it.”

Smith is living it and already documented the long journey back from breaking his right leg and needing 17 surgeries to rehab. As inspiring as it is to teammates and coaches, his story on the field this season has little to do with the 2018 injury that looked career-threatening at the time and is more about Smith leading Washington from 2-7 to NFC East champion as a veteran quarterback who has been there before.

“Once you are out there and the whistle blows, this is a result-oriented game and you really have to be accountable to your teammates, to the coaches, to everybody in this building that’s depending on you,” Smith said. "At the end of the day once you step on that field, you better be able to hold up your end.”

Smith has done that and more, proving coach Ron Rivera right that the offense worked better with an experienced hand at the wheel. Five touchdowns and five interceptions in six starts don't stand out as glimmering numbers, but the 5-1 record has everything to do with the 36-year-old managing the offense in a way 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins never could.

Haskins lost five of his six starts and has since been released, Kyle Allen won one of his before getting hurt and now this is Smith's team — even if the limitations from a strained right calf in his surgically repaired leg force Rivera to rotate backup Taylor Heinicke in at times Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rivera said, “It’s something we most certainly have to look at,” but the Buccaneers are zeroing in on Smith.

“When Alex Smith plays quarterback, they’re a heck of a football team,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. "They’re an extremely well-coached team, a ton of talent on that defensive front, but Alex Smith is really the key to everything.”

How is that possible? Arians gives Smith credit for throwing the ball so quickly he avoids sacks. Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson, who was Kansas City's offensive coordinator for three years with Smith, points to decision-making. Cincinnati's Zac Taylor praises Smith's efficiency.