Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith's unlikely return to the gridiron this season was undoubtedly one of the NFL's ultimate feelgood stories. This week, the three-time Pro Bowler and former No. 1 overall pick received multiple pieces of hardware in recognition of his miraculous comeback campaign.
On Thursday, The Sporting News recognized Smith as its Comeback Player of the Year for the 2020 season. Less than 24 hours later, the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) followed suit by naming the veteran signal-caller its own comeback king.
"Smith wasn't quite unanimous but garnered 90 percent of the players' vote," noted TSN's Vinnie Iyer. "The veteran QB came back from a scary leg injury that put both his career and life in jeopardy. He was a testament to perseverance just working to get himself back on the field."
Iyer further opined that Smith became "a bigger inspiration" by reclaiming his starting job and playing a key role in his team winning its first NFC East Division title since 2015.
Entering the year, it seemed unlikely that Smith would even make Washington's 53-man roster, let alone actually play in any meaningful games for the club or lead it to the playoffs.
In November 2018, he suffered a grisly compound leg fracture just 10 games into his tenure with the team. After undergoing surgery to repair the damage, the one-time Heisman Trophy finalist developed life-threatening cases of necrotizing fasciitis and sepsis. Seventeen surgeries -- including eight debridements -- followed over a nine-month period; at one point, amputation above the knee was being considered by doctors.
Nevertheless, Smith battled back and earned a spot as Washington's No. 3 QB behind second-year starter Dwayne Haskins and back-up Kyle Allen. He was thrust back to the top of the depth chart mid-season when Haskins struggled to perform and Allen's season came to an end as the result of an ankle injury.
After taking over for Allen in Week 9 (Smith had previously made his return in emergency duty several weeks earlier), he went on to post a 5-1 record as the starter. Although his numbers paled in comparison to the standard he had set before his two-year absence, he was a steadying presence on and off the field and the instigator for Washington's return to postseason play.
As tracked by Pro Football Reference, the 36-year-old threw for nearly 1,600 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions over eight games played. He also completed 67 percent of his pass attempts and logged a QB rating of just under 80.