Much has been made of Alex Smith’s experience and the battle scars he brings to the Washington Redskins. He’s earned three Pro Bowl selections in 13 seasons and was a member of a Super Bowl team with the 49ers, where he worked under three coaches and six coordinators. Smith learned from three more offensive coordinators, including current Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, in five years with the Chiefs. Two highly rated offensive minds, Jim Harbaugh and Andy Reid, both groomed Smith.
The 49ers were putrid when Smith arrived, hence the organization having the No. 1 pick to select the quarterback, but they grew into a NFC champion. The Chiefs went to the playoffs in four of five seasons with Smith at the helm.
Redskins passing game coordinator Kevin O’Connell said Smith’s presence has altered how the offensive coaching staff operates.
“When I was in Cleveland I coached Josh McCown and the one thing I learned real quick was you’re wasting a lot of knowledge if you don’t rely on those guys,” O’Connell said. “And Alex has reps in a lot of different systems. … There’s a lot of times we call a play, we execute it, we go in and watch the tape and he can call back to a play they either had in Kansas City or San Francisco and say, ‘Hey, we might’ve read it like this or this is how we attacked this coverage.’ ”
The feedback has led to a number of small tweaks and changes by the Redskins to better tailor the offense to fit their new quarterback.
“Maybe it’s a little tweak here and there that people may not notice, but from our standpoint in the system, it’s a big deal to get it implemented,” O’Connell said. “But we’re doing that to make him as comfortable as we possibly can.
“Then there’s other times where you say, ‘No, we’ve really done it like this and here’s why.’ I think that’s the key word, ‘why.’ Why are we doing the things we’re doing offensively? If there’s a better way to do it that he’s done somewhere else, we’ll incorporate that. But if we feel strongly about how we’ve done it here or how Jay’s done it, even going back to his time in Cincinnati or Tampa, we’re always trying to incorporate things to make what is a really good offensive system even better.”
O’Connell was promoted during the offseason from quarterbacks coach to passing game coordinator and now has more input on the entire offense. The transition in 2018 will be significant with new playmakers at quarterback, wide receiver and running back.
The Redskins ranked 16th in points (21.4) and total offense (324.9 yards per game) in 2017. The pass game ranked 12th (234.4 yards) while the run game was 28th (90.5).
“The influence [has changed] on what this year’s version of the Redskins are going to be with a new quarterback, with some new personnel, a guy like Paul Richardson, Derrius Guice,” O’Connell said. “Obviously, from a standpoint of incorporating Jordan [Reed] back in, hopefully, full time and Chris Thompson coming back. We’re trying to put together a system that maximizes everybody’s skill sets.
“Obviously, Jay has had a ton of success calling plays in this league. But to not only learn from him, but for him to ask what do you like here or how would you guys have done [it] there at other stops as a player or coach? It’s a constant round table of information to lead to putting these guys in the best possible situation. You only get so many shots at it. Once you establish a system, these guys learn it and you like to make things concrete so they can move forward with set rules and examples of how we want them to operate.”
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