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Is Alex Smith a top 5 Washington QB since its last Super Bowl win? And is John Beck the worst?

The two former Utah college quarterbacks have been part of a rotating door of starting quarterbacks for the NFL franchise

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Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith  throws the ball during an NFL game.

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws as San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward (20) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz.

Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Washington NFL franchise last won a Super Bowl. 

The time since has been rife with struggles to find a reliable starting quarterback. How do BYU and Utah play into that history?

ESPN ranked the 30 starting quarterbacks between the franchise’s most recent starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who left Sunday’s game with an injury, and Mark Rypien, who led Washington to its last Super Bowl win in January 1992.

That includes two quarterbacks — Utah’s Alex Smith and BYU’s John Beck — who led Utah college teams in the 2000s.

Utilizing ESPN Analytics to come up with the rankings, reporter John Keim — who’s covered 28 of the 30 quarterbacks on this list — shared his own thoughts on where ESPN Analytics may have had it wrong.

In the case of both Smith and Beck, Keim would rank them different.

Where does Alex Smith rank?

For example, Smith — who went 11-5 as a starter during 18 games in Washington — was ranked No. 18. He threw for 3,762 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for Washington, though his career took a different trajectory when Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury in late 2018 that became infected and nearly led to an amputation of his leg.

Smith, who wrapped up a successful 16-year NFL career in Washington, made a remarkable return in 2020 and was named the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year before retiring in April

Keim argued that he “would have ranked (Smith) in the top five.” A big reason for that was how Washington fared when Smith was out — the franchise went just 6-27 in games he didn’t start during his time in Washington. 

“This is way too low for Smith,” Keim concluded. 


Washington’s John Beck (12) throws a pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.

Mike McCarn, Associated Press

Where does John Beck rank?

Beck had a mostly forgettable NFL career, going 0-7 as a starter, including 0-3 for Washington. He’s now known for his work as a quarterbacks coach, which included working with Zach Wilson the summer before his breakout season at BYU in 2020 that helped lead to Wilson being selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL draft by the New York Jets. 

Beck ranked No. 23 out of 30 on the ESPN Analytic’s rankings, after throwing for 858 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions for Washington over four games. 

Former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who played at Utah State, recalled Beck’s confidence, telling Keim, “What I remember is he called everyone and said, ‘This is John Beck, your starting quarterback.’ We all called each other and said, ‘Is he the starting QB or just saying that?’ I didn’t hate the confidence.” 

That confidence didn’t translate to games or with teams, though, according to Keim. “I would have ranked him No. 30 based on the eye test and also with input from a number of ex-players,” Keim wrote.