Not long before his award-winning comeback tale in Washington concluded with his release, Alex Smith surprised many when he revealed that all was not sunshine and rainbows upon his return to the franchise.
Noting in a GQ article that he "definitely threw a wrench" in the Washington Football Team's plans ahead of the 2020 season, Smith recalled that he "definitely surprised a lot of people that never thought I would even be trying" to play again following a horrific leg injury.
Washington head coach Ron Rivera didn't disagree with Smith's comments, admitting he had little idea what to expect and was often frightened about the prospects for the veteran QB's comeback journey.
"To be quite honest with you, I don't disagree with a lot of things that he said. I really don't," Rivera told the news media Wednesday. "And the biggest thing that he and I talked about really was, that there really was no road map to get us to where we were. And I told him, I said, 'Alex, I'll be honest, I was scared to death. I didn't know what to expect.' Which I believe he appreciated, was that I [was] just telling him how I felt — how hard it was for us. I think that's the thing that everybody forgets, is Alex did a great job. He worked his butt off to put himself in position to come back and play. But I said, there's a part that people don't understand and that is we — as a coaching staff — had to look through this and think through this. And it was always in the back of my head, what if he gets hurt again? What if he hurts that leg — that specific leg — again? I'm going to be the guy that put him back on the field to let him get hurt again."
Taking on his first season coaching the Washington Football Team while battling cancer, Rivera had more than enough on his plate. However, the concern surrounding Smith never waned.
"I told him, I fought with that, struggled with that every day. Every day. That was tough," Rivera said. "As we talked more and more, the realization that there's two sides to it [set in] and as he said, 'Coach, there really is no road map to get to where we are today.'"
Today, Smith is bound for free agency. His season did conclude with an injury, but it was another injury, one to his calf that sidelined him for Washington's season finale – a playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Taylor Heinicke starting at QB.
Rivera maintains he's far from desperate as it concerns finding another quarterback to join Heinicke and Kyle Allen on the Washington roster and believes the decision to release Smith was the right one for the franchise.
"There's a lot of things that factor to into all that stuff," Rivera said. "As far as I'm concerned, we made the decision that we thought was the best for us going forward."
Though Rivera admitted to his hesitance of handing the reins to Smith before the season, that was not the case with Washington owner Daniel Snyder, who the head coach noted was always in the corner of the quarterback.
"Mr. Snyder said, 'If he plays, Ron, I'm betting on the old guy,'" Rivera said.
And now Rivera, even though he and Smith have parted ways, is betting on "the old guy."
"Knowing Alex, just from just this year, he'll get an opportunity to play again. He really will, I think. And he'll do a great job at it," Rivera said. "That's who he is."