Alexander Douglas Smith (born May 7, 1984) is an American football quarterback who is a free agent. He played college football for the Utah Utes, where he was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 2004 and led Utah to a victory over Pittsburgh at the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, after which Utah finished in the national top five.
Born Alexander Douglas Smith in Bremerton, Washington on May 7, 1984, he grew up in La Mesa, California. His father, Douglas D. Smith, was an executive director at Helix High School, which he also attended.
During a game against the Houston Texans on November 18, 2018, Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg when he was sacked by Kareem Jackson and J. J. Watt. The injury drew parallels to former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann (who was also present during the game and witnessed the injury), who also broke his leg in a game 33 years to the day prior in 1985 and retired shortly thereafter.
The San Francisco 49ers, who held the first overall pick, had hired a head coach with a strong personality in Mike Nolan. Nolan also evaluated Aaron Rodgers but did not believe that Rodgers's attitude could co-exist with him. Smith was the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, selected by the San Francisco 49ers. In July 2005, Smith agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million contract with the 49ers; the contract included $24 million in guaranteed money.
Overall, Smith improved in his second year by throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions. He threw for 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 2,890 yards, and a 74.8 quarterback rating, all improvements over his rookie year. He became the first 49ers quarterback in club history to take every snap from center over the course of a season in 2006.
Smith met Joe Montana for the first time on November 5, 2006, during a game against the Vikings. The 49ers wore the throwback jerseys of the 1989 team which Joe Montana and teammates wore. The 49ers went on to win 9–3, upsetting the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2007, Smith founded the Alex Smith Foundation and the Alex Smith Guardian Scholars Program, which helps send foster teens to college. He started the program with $500,000, and continues to personally fund the majority of the charity. The Boston Globe held up Smith's foundation as a model charity that properly allocated its funding, noting that it raised over $800,000 from 2008 to 2010 and spent 91 percent of the funds on scholarships and grants.
Smith entered training camp competing for the starting quarterback job with Shaun Hill, who won both of the games he started in 2007, before suffering a back injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and journeyman J. T. O'Sullivan. Smith would be learning under a fourth different offensive coordinator in four seasons; Jim Hostler was fired and replaced by former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator/head coach Mike Martz. Unlike the previous three seasons, where offensive continuity was somewhat maintained, Martz's system was completely different. Smith lost the starting job in training camp to O'Sullivan, who was elevated to starting quarterback, partly due to his familiarity with Martz's offense when he was a member of the Detroit Lions.
On September 30 in the first quarter of a game against the Seattle Seahawks, Smith injured his right shoulder after getting sacked by Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. Smith suffered a grade-three separation and the initial diagnosis was that surgery would not be required. Smith missed the next three games before returning to the 49ers' starting lineup on Sunday, October 28, 2007.
The 49ers did not win another game until November 25. Among all NFL quarterbacks who qualify for league statistics, only the Jets' Kellen Clemens had a poorer passer rating than Smith (57.2), Smith completed under 50% of his passes, far below the league average of 60%. Smith was at odds with 49ers head coach Mike Nolan over the severity of his injury. Nolan publicly implied that Smith was not fighting through the injury, while Smith felt that the injury still affected his ability to throw accurately, an account that was supported by players from the Seahawks. Nolan decided to rest Smith following a loss in that game to the Seahawks on November 12 and start Trent Dilfer to allow Smith's shoulder to recover. Following the decision, orthopedic surgeon James Andrews said that upon further examination the shoulder did not heal as significantly as Andrews thought it would, and on December 11, 2007, Smith was placed on injured reserve to undergo surgery on the shoulder, ending his season.
Mike Singletary became the head coach after a successful term as the interim head coach in 2008, and Martz was fired as offensive coordinator due to the huge differences in offensive philosophies between himself and Singletary. Jimmy Raye II was hired to replace him, marking Smith's fifth different offensive coordinator in five seasons. During the off-season, the 49ers drafted Michael Crabtree to be the featured receiver that Smith had been lacking throughout his NFL career. After restructuring his contract with San Francisco, Smith lost the battle for the starting quarterback position to Shaun Hill. However, in a Week 7 game against the Houston Texans, Smith replaced Hill in the third quarter, after Hill had performed poorly and the Niners faced a 21–0 first half deficit. Smith led the team back with three touchdown passes, all to tight end Vernon Davis, but fell short of victory, 24–21. Singletary named Smith as the 49ers' starting quarterback the next day at his weekly press conference on October 26.
After Nolan was fired on October 20, 2008, the 49ers expressed interest in having Smith remain for the 2009 season if he was willing to renegotiate his contract. On March 10, 2009, the 49ers announced that his contract had been successfully restructured and that he would stay with the team. He took a considerable pay cut to remain with the 49ers, with whom he would be under contract for the next two years. Smith was to make $4 million a season in 2009 and 2010, in addition to base salaries that were not immediately made known. In his previous contract, he was scheduled to make $24.6 million in the final two years.
Smith has a brother, Josh, and two sisters, Abbey and MacKenzie. One of Smith's great-grandfathers was an Austrian immigrant of Serbian descent who immigrated to the U.S. from the Austro-Hungarian Empire when he was 12 years old. To honor him, Smith, his brother, and his father are each tattooed with four firesteels, the traditional Serbian cross. Smith's uncle, John L. Smith, was a college football head coach until 2018, and his cousin, Chris Shelton, is a former Major League Baseball player. In 2014, Smith was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by the University of Utah, where he also delivered the commencement speech for the graduating class. He married former Oakland Raiders cheerleader Elizabeth Barry in 2009. They have two sons and a daughter.
In 2010, he was chosen as the 11th-smartest athlete in sports by Sporting News.
Smith acknowledged that his performances needed to be more consistent. On December 12, 2010, the 49ers played the Seahawks in San Francisco. Smith was booed by the Candlestick crowd after the first two plays. However, the boos turned to cheers after Smith helped lead the 49ers to a 40–21 victory over a division rival. The win moved the 49ers one game behind the division leaders (Rams and Seahawks) with three games left to play. However, the 49ers struggled the following Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers and Troy Smith started the following game against the Rams. Troy Smith struggled in the loss to the Rams and Alex relieved Troy Smith in that game. After the game, Singletary was fired and Alex finished the season starting against the Cardinals. The 49ers finished the season 6–10 and Smith became a free agent after the season. After his firing, Singletary said, "You gotta have a quarterback." Smith had won just 19 games in 50 career starts through 2010.
Following his college career, Smith was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. During his first six seasons for them, he played for a different offensive coordinator each year and struggled with injuries. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011 however, Smith enjoyed his strongest statistical season, leading the 49ers to their first NFC West division title and first playoff victory since 2002, along with their first NFC Championship Game appearance since 1997. The following season, Smith sustained a concussion in the middle of the season and was replaced by Colin Kaepernick. Despite posting strong statistical numbers during the season before the injury, Smith did not regain his starting position after he had recovered.
While the 49ers finished with their most wins since 1997, they did it while ranked 29th of 32 teams in the NFL in total passing yardage for 2011 (including yardage lost from sacks), and Smith was often cynically referred to as a game manager. In this manner, The New York Times wrote that Smith was "a steady, if unspectacular, player surrounded by a solid team" in 2011, whose career year "underscored how much he struggled previously." It was his first season with over 3,000 yards passing, and he set personal single-season highs in virtually every relevant statistical category commonly cited for quarterbacks: in pass attempts with 445, in completions with 273, in completion percentage with 61.3 percent, in passing yards with 3,144, in average per pass with 7.1 yards per attempt, in overall passer rating with 90.7, in rushing attempts with 52, in rushing yards with 179, and in total touchdowns scored with 19 (17 passing & 2 rushing), all while being sacked a league-high 44 times. He also threw a league-low 5 interceptions in 2011, breaking a 49ers franchise record, and setting yet another personal single-season best in fewest passes intercepted per attempt with a 1.123 percent interception rate, likewise the lowest percentage in the league that year.
Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. In his first season, he led them to a 9–0 start and their first playoff berth in three years. Smith went on to guide the Chiefs to an 11-game winning streak in 2015 and their first playoff win since 1993. During his time with the Chiefs, he was named to three Pro Bowls and led the league in passer rating in 2017. That same season he was credited as being instrumental in the development of future NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
On February 27, 2013, the 49ers agreed to trade Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for the Chiefs' second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and a conditional pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The deal became official at the beginning of the new league year on March 12.
After the trade became official, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid stated that Smith would be the starting quarterback for the 2013 season. Smith's job as the starter was solidified during OTA's (Organized Team Activities, a term usually referring to NFL pre-season activities). According to coaches and teammates, Smith displayed a very high "football IQ," and his accuracy in passing was lauded as the best many had ever seen. According to Kansas City's quarterbacks coach, Smith was "super intelligent" and had all of the intangibles that he looked for in a quarterback. The Chiefs were the last unbeaten team in the 2013 NFL season with Smith winning his first nine regular season starts, gaining 1,919 passing yards with nine touchdowns compared to four interceptions. Smith earned his first and only perfect passer rating on December 15, 2013. He was 17 of 20, with 287 yards and 5 touchdowns, four of them going to Jamaal Charles, in a victory over the Oakland Raiders. Alex Smith and the Chiefs lost to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild-Card Playoff Game on January 4, 2014. Smith threw four touchdowns, completing 30 of his 46 pass attempts for 378 yards and no interceptions, while also carrying the ball 8 times for 57 yards. However, he did commit his team's only turnover, losing a fumble. The final score of the game was 45–44 in favor of the Colts.
On August 31, 2014, Smith and the Chiefs agreed to a four-year contract extension. Smith appeared in 15 games and completed 65.3% of his passes in the 2014 season while throwing for 3,265 yards and 18 touchdowns to only six interceptions. However, the Chiefs finished with a 9-7 record and did not qualify for the playoffs.
After another strong season in 2015, Smith was elected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate, but turned down the offer. He once again lead the Chiefs to the playoffs, where the Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 30–0 in the Wild Card round. Smith threw for 190 yards, a touchdown, and one interception in the victory over the Texans. He also rushed 5 times for 27 yards, and had a 64-yard scramble, which was called back due to a holding penalty. The Chiefs went on to lose 27–20 against the New England Patriots in the divisional round. The Chiefs became the first team ever to start the season 1–5 and win a playoff game. At the end of the season, Sports Illustrated named him the best looking quarterback in the NFL, an honor previously won by Tom Brady. He was named team MVP for 2015 alongside safety Eric Berry. In the regular season Smith threw for 3,486 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions, with a completion percentage of 65.3, passer rating of 95.4, and 7.4 yards per attempt. He also rushed 84 times for 498 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an average of 5.9 yards per carry. At the end of the season, he was recognized as the 81st best player by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
In Week 1, Smith led a fourth quarter comeback over the San Diego Chargers to win the game 33–27 in overtime after facing a 24–3 third quarter deficit. Smith won the game in overtime with a two-yard rushing touchdown. This became the largest comeback win in Chiefs history as the Chiefs started the 2016 season on a positive note. In 2016, Smith posted a career-high passing yards with 3,502 and a career-high 328 completions despite missing one game. In addition, he ran for a career-high five touchdowns, with three of them coming in the last three games. He helped lead the Chiefs to the postseason, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round. He was ranked 81st by his fellow players, for the second consecutive year, on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.
In 2018, Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins and subsequently signed a four-year contract extension with them. That same year, Smith suffered a compound fracture injury to his right leg during a game against the Houston Texans, which led to life-threatening sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis that required 17 surgeries to prevent amputation. Despite the severity, Smith completed a lengthy rehabilitation process and returned in 2020 as a reserve quarterback before being named the starter again midway through the season. As the starter, Smith compiled a 5–1 record and led the team to an NFC East division title, although he did not play in the playoff game due to a bone bruise in the same leg. He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year for the season but was released during the following offseason.
On January 30, 2018, the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to trade Smith to the Washington Redskins in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick (78th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. The trade became official on March 14, the first day of the new league year. He subsequently signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with them. In his debut, he had 255 passing yards and two touchdowns in a win against the Arizona Cardinals. Through the first nine games of the season, he helped lead the Redskins to a 6–3 record.
As a part of his recovery process, he wore an external fixation device for nearly a year. Smith was placed on the team's physically unable to perform reserve list in 2019, missing the entire season. Despite the severity of the injury which many thought he would never come back from, in early 2020 he affirmed his intent to return. An ESPN documentary following his recovery, Project 11, aired in May 2020. He was cleared by his doctors to resume football activities in July 2020, with the team placing him on the physically unable to perform list to begin training camp before being activated on August 16, 2020.
Smith's first game appearance since his injury occurred in 2020 against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. He entered the game after Kyle Allen left with an arm injury and finished with nine completions for 37 yards while being sacked six times as Washington lost 30–10. Smith made his next appearance in Week 9 after Allen left the game with a dislocated ankle, where he threw for 325 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in a 23–20 loss against the New York Giants. Smith started against the Detroit Lions the following week, where he threw 55 times for 38 completions and 390 yards, all career highs, in a 30–27 loss. The following week, he had his first win since the injury in a 20–9 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In Week 13, against the 11–0 Pittsburgh Steelers, he helped lead Washington to a 23–17 upset victory with 296 passing yards and a touchdown. He was pulled out of a game against the 49ers the following week due to a bone bruise in his right leg, reported at the time as calf soreness, and subsequently missed the rest of that game and the next two.
Smith returned for the final game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he threw two touchdown passes that helped the team to a 20–14 victory and a NFC East division title. However, he would not play in the Wild Card playoff loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due lingering issues with his bone bruise. Following the season, he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press, Sporting News, and Pro Football Writers of America. Smith was released on March 5, 2021.