Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Jay Gruden Confident That Alex Smith Will Fit Right Into Offensive Scheme


According to head coach Jay Gruden, the team's offensive scheme is quarterback friendly, meaning Alex Smith shouldn't have any issues transitioning to his new home.

For a good portion of his discussion with Chris Cooley on Wednesday morning, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden listed a series of attributes and traits he looks for when he evaluates the quarterback position. Where does he look when pressure is coming? Can he escape the rush and keep a good throwing motion? Is he accurate under duress? The questions, which functioned more like boxes to check, kept flowing as he detailed his process for watching tape each day.

But in late January, when the Redskins were on the verge of acquiring quarterback Alex Smith, Gruden plainly stated he didn't need to watch much film when team president Bruce Allen came to him for his opinion. "If he were available, if we could get him, how do you feel about Alex Smith?" Allen asked Gruden. The answer was easy, one that didn't require Gruden to pour quickly over the tape.

"If you're a coach, you're going to watch Alex Smith over the years," Gruden said. "I feel great about Alex Smith, he's a great quarterback. He's very smart, we know he's a great leader everywhere he's been. Everybody's had nothing but positive things to say about him. So yeah, and then the deal got done."

The Redskins are confident in their new offensive leader for a variety of reasons, but primarily because of how smooth the transition to a new team will be for Smith. Gruden, a quarterback himself in college and Arena football, has developed the reputation of creating offensive systems that cater to the quarterback's skillset. For Gruden, it's about adjusting game plans to maximize the skillset of the man under center.

"I think it's very easy," Gruden said. "We adapt to what they can do and I think we have enough in our offense where we can make it simple for our quarterback to get the ball out of his hands. If you're accurate, if you can see coverage, then I think you'll be very successful. We can protect you a little bit. But eventually, it's going to be third down-and-8, in a critical situation, you're going to sit your foot in the ground and you're going to have to hit a crossing route or a deep dig or a curl or whatever it is, and you're going to stand in there, you're going to have to re-mic, you're going to have to adjust the protection, you're going to have to throw the ball under duress, Cover-0 against Philadelphia or whoever it is, you're going to have to adjust and you're going to have to make some plays. First and second down, we'll try to do the best we can to protect you with some bootlegs, some screens to get the ball out of your hand. Eventually we're going to be behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and we're going to have to get quick scores, throw it in known passing situations where we can't just throw three-yard hitches or screens."

With Smith in the fold, Gruden doesn't foresee having to change too much in terms of coaching or scheming differently.

"I don't think we really have to adapt a whole lot," Gruden said. "I think we're going to teach him more concepts on our offense because we've done a lot of the similar things that they've done. Andy Reid come from the same tree, so to speak, as what we do, the shallow crosses, drives, all that stuff that we run. So he's going to easily adapt, just going to adapt to the terminology we run. And as far as some of the things he's really good at, we've been doing. But just could do a little bit more and can add to it a little bit."

As for how the offense will function with Smith, Gruden acknowledged the question that's seemed to follow him since the trade announcement. Will the Redskins be using more run-pass option plays?

Last year, the Chiefs ran the RPO with good success, so Smith has experience playing it. Gruden reiterated what he has said throughout the offseason, stating that it's a play he may call about "8-10 percent of the time" during the course of the game.

"We did a little bit of that last year," Gruden said. "Teams are doing that a little bit more. Not going to make a whole offense out of it, but some of that is pretty good, you've got to be good at that stuff. The [running] back is very important in that also, because if he does hang back and you give it, you've got to run and you've got to find daylight and hit it and go."

Certainly having a productive run game will help in these scenarios, and Smith has had the fortune of having one in Kansas City for most of his tenure there. Should the Redskins draft an explosive running back in this year's draft, see similar production from Chris Thompson, and see progression from Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, Smith might not miss a beat.

Cooley also noted that Smith seems to fit well in the team's locker room, not that he's had any trouble transitioning before.

"I think he can adapt to any locker room personality, that's what makes him a great leader is he can adapt to all different kinds of personalities around him, that's what quarterbacks have to do, that's what leaders have to do," Gruden said. "He's a chameleon."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.