Washington's most impactful players of 2020: Alex Smith originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
* The Washington Football Team's 2020 season was a memorable one filled with impactful performances. Over the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler will take a look at 10 players who provided the biggest impact.
As recently as this past August, there was significant doubt that Alex Smith would play professional football ever again.
The quarterback was still recovering from one of the most gruesome leg injuries in the sport's history -- one that nearly cost him his life -- and still had to prove to himself and the coaching staff that he could play once again.
Fast forward a few months to early January and Smith is walking off of Lincoln Financial Field following a victory over the Eagles, one that clinched Washington's first NFC East title in five seasons.
And without Smith and his remarkable comeback, Washington's 2020 NFC East title does not happen.
The 36-year-old quarterback made his 2020 debut (and triumphant NFL return) in Week 5, replacing Kyle Allen in the second quarter of a rainy contest against the Rams. Smith didn't necessarily impress in that game -- he finished with just 37 passing yards -- but did prove his surgically repaired leg could handle the physical play of the NFL.
So, when Smith was thrust back into action four weeks alter following another Allen injury, he was more than ready. Smith threw for a whopping 321 yards in just over three quarters of action, and although a trio of interceptions prevented Washington from completing the comeback against New York, Smith showed he could still play.
Smith would start the next five games for Washington and would win four of those contests, including victories of the previously unbeaten Steelers, reigning NFC champion 49ers and a Thanksgiving blowout on the road over rival Dallas. During that month-plus span, Washington went from last place in the division to the top of the standings.
In Week 14 against the 49ers, Smith suffered a calf injury to his right leg that would sideline him for the next two weeks. Faced with a must-win situation in Week 17, the veteran would return to the starting lineup for Washington's regular-season finale against Philadelphia. Clearly playing in pain, Smith did just enough to help Washington defeat a sinking Eagles squad to finish the year as division champs.
Smith's injury prevented him from playing in Washington's Wild Card playoff loss to Tampa Bay, but the club doesn't nearly make it that far without the QB's efforts throughout the season. If Washington didn't have Smith to take over in Week 9, playoff hopes in 2020 would have vanished right then and there.
Following the season, Smith said he plans to take some time to evaluate his NFL future. While he has yet to make a decision, recent comments make it seem that Smith still wants to play. Whether that will be in Washington is yet to be seen. Smith's $24 million cap hit, combined with his durability concerns, makes a return to Washington at his current contract unlikely.
Regardless of what happens next for Smith in Washington, his 2020 season is one that fans will never forget. The quarterback made an improbable return and led Washington to the playoffs, something the franchise does not accomplish without him.