Alex Smith is finally calling it quits.
Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick back in 2005, announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, ending a 16-year odyssey that had more than its fair shares of high highs and very low lows.
The 37-year-old made the announcement via a two-minute video posted to his Instagram account, citing time with family as a leading reason he’s decided to hang ‘em up. Smith also spoke to ESPN’s Outside The Lines later on Monday.
On the show, Smith elaborated on his situation and discussed how he came to his decision to retire. Smith said that he visited with the Jacksonville Jaguars—who are now led by Urban Meyer, who coached Smith in college at Utah—after he was released by Washington earlier during this offseason.
While the prospect of a reunion with Meyer had Smith excited and he did consider signing with the Jaguars, the veteran signal caller was already considering retirement by that time. The Jaguars are likely to pick Clemson star Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in next week’s draft, and Smith would have been a great mentor to the youngster in his first year.
Considering the rebuild in effect for Meyer and the Jags, they don’t have a great shot at achieving a lot of success next season, as evidenced by their +800 NFL odds to win their division. They still somehow sit ahead of the Houston Texans (+1,000 NFL odds) on 888sport’s AFC South odds table, however.
While those teams duke it out on the gridiron next season, Smith will watch from home with his family, which was the biggest reason he retired. On OTL, Smith told a story about going snowboarding with his father and children recently.
It had been the first time Smith had hit the slopes on a board since college, and when he thought about his journey through that lens, he felt as though everything had come full circle, helping to solidify his decision to leave the game.
Smith started his NFL career when the San Francisco 49ers made him the top pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Seen as a game-manager and not someone that could lead them to the next level, Smith was eventually overtaken by exciting youngster Colin Kaepernick (who did, it so happens, lead them to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012).
“For eight years, Alex represented our franchise with class both on and off the field, and his contributions to the 49ers organization will be remembered forever,” San Francisco CEO Jed York said in a statement released on Monday. “Throughout his time in the Red and Gold, Alex showed how perseverance, commitment and hard work were core principles to him as a person and it was truly special to see his impact in the locker room and in the community.”
He was expendable for San Fran at that point, so he was then traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent five seasons, led his team to four playoff appearances, and earned three Pro Bowl nods.
Once again, however, the Chiefs found Smith’s successor, this time it was Patrick Mahomes, and his time in Kansas City was up as well. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid seemed bullish on Smith’s prospects as an NFL coach in the future when speaking about Smith on Monday, however.
“If he gets into coaching, I get first dibs on him,” Reid said. “I doubt he will, but if he decides to go that route, he’s a guy you would love to have on your staff.”
Smith then signed with Washington and played well as their starter for the first 10 games of the 2018 season before he suffered possibly the worst injury in NFL history. Smith broke his leg very severely and eventually contracted life-threatening sepsis from an infection in the repaired leg that required 17 additional surgeries.
At one point, doctors thought the best route would be to amputate the leg, but Smith stayed the course and worked his way all the way back to Washington’s active roster for this past season. He made his triumphant return to the field in Week 5 and went on to become a leading contributor to the team’s NFC East division title.
“I was a skinny no-name recruit who wasn’t supposed to play in college, let alone go to New York as a Heisman finalist or be the first one to have his name called on draft night,” Smith said in the Instagram video. “And then on a routine play, I almost lost everything — but football wouldn’t let me give up because, no, this isn’t just a game.
“It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and commitment they require, it’s how hard and how far you can push yourself and it’s about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room. It’s about fully committing yourself to something bigger, and most of all it’s about you.”
The Bremerton, Washington native piled up 35,650 passing yards, 199 touchdown passes, 109 interceptions, and a 99-67-1 overall record as a starter throughout his career. He had thrown just 46 picks since 2013, the second-fewest among guys with at least 70 starts in that span, behind only Aaron Rodgers.
The Utah alumnus earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors for his efforts during the 2020 campaign before this decision to call it quits. It was almost as if he wanted to come back just to show everyone he could do it. He certainly achieved that last year, and hats off to him.