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COLUMN LIKE I SEE 'EM: Second guessing of Brett Smith is off base

It hasn’t worked out. Yet.

Brett Smith’s initial foray into the NFL has been a failure, but that doesn’t mean his decision to leave college a year early was wrong.

University of Wyoming fans were disappointed when the former Cowboys’ quarterback was overlooked during three days and seven rounds of the NFL draft, but were given reason to celebrate when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Smith as an undrafted free agent shortly after the final pick was made.

The blogs and pundits — self-proclaimed and otherwise — labeled Smith as a good value in a good situation.

The Bucs signed stop-gap starter Josh McCown, who will be 35 by Week 1, to a two-year contract and their backup is a second-year player who apparently didn’t do enough to hold down the job.

(Personally, I thought Mike Glennon was impressive in his rookie season and should be Tampa’s guy long-term, but I didn’t write “QB analyst” or “Draft guru” under my Twitter bio, so maybe it’s not my place to say.)

The consensus was Smith, just 21, had a chance to stick in Tampa.

But less than two weeks later, on the morning of May 21, Smith was released along with two other players so the Bucs could sign, among others, journeyman quarterback Alex Tanney.

You might know Tanney, a 26-year-old Division III product, as the guy from YouTube who can throw a football with great accuracy from library rooftops in an unknown number of takes. This is who was more desirable than Smith.

Within an hour of the news hitting Twitter, Wyoming fans responded like bitter exes who are almost happy their formerly beloved QB has a reason to rethink his decision to leave Laramie.

This column was finalized on Friday, and Smith may have already found a new employer over the weekend.

But Smith’s choice to test the NFL waters can’t be judged on whether or not he actually succeeds in the pros, but whether or not it gave him the best chance to succeed. The only thing that matters is that the process in deciding to declare for the draft was sound.

Smith, of average size and a mid-major conference, had to leave school when his draft stock was at its peak, and if he believed his stock would never soar higher than after his junior year he made the right decision.

Smith can always return to school (albeit not to play football) but had only one chance to declare for the 2014 draft.

As a non-Wyoming fan it’s easy for me to say Smith probably got out at the right time. But if I dreamed in brown and gold I might be of the opinion that Smith bailed on my team and is now facing the karmic consequences.

From an objective football fan’s perspective it’s hard to blame Smith for trying his luck this year.

His choices were (a) enter the 2014 draft after putting up monster numbers while knowing his name would likely get buried in 2014’s QB-deep pool, or (b) return to an uncertain situation in Laramie that was almost guaranteed to be less conducive to his skill set — and quarterbacks in general.

When Wyoming fired head coach Dave Christensen on Dec. 1 the team lost a proven offensive mind. The consistency and bowl wins that Cowboy fans expected never came, but Christensen knew how to utilize Smith and score a lot of points.

It took a coach like Christensen to make it possible for Smith to even sniff the draft as an atypical quarterback for a mediocre mid-major team.

New head coach Craig Bohl might end up leading the UW football program to more success than Christensen did, but it’s hard to imagine a coach who has built his reputation on running and defense guiding a UW quarterback to a season that interests NFL scouts.

With Bohl at the helm Smith knew his NFL prospects were not going to be greater than they were right then, and staying for his senior season, though great for Wyoming and its fans, could only hurt his shot at a pro career.

A new offensive scheme and the ever-lurking threat of injuries were more than enough to push Smith into the draft.

Throughout this we have to keep in mind that maybe Smith just isn’t an NFL quarterback. Not this year, or the next, as a Wyoming Cowboy or the product of another school (not that he had many options). But if it was ever going to happen, this was the time to try.

It hasn’t worked out yet. But it doesn’t have to for Brett Smith’s three-and-out to be the right choice.


  • posted by Craig Ericson

    July 30, 2014 9:59 am

    Two words... Brock Jensen. Obviously Brett Smith had no way of knowing, but NDSU's senior quarterback was signed by the Miami Dolpins as an undrafted free agent.

    The argument that his stock would have dropped under new HC Craig Bohl is absurd. I don't know the time line, but my belief is Smith didn't want to play Bohl's way. Which is too bad for Bohl. The next three years are going to be rough ones for Cowboy fans, but if you stick it out... good things are coming. Smith sticking around his senior year would have given you guys a repeat of last year... maybe a tish better. And that would have helped the impatient fans endure this tough stretch to come. Three years of below five hundred is going to be hard to stomach.

    Congrats to Smith and his new team in the CFL. Perhaps Jensen will be heading to the CFL as well, since the Dolphins just cut him two days ago.

  • posted by Eddie

    June 26, 2014 5:47 am

    I am a Tampa bay fan and a Brett Smith fan. I think TB made the wrong decision to cut Brett so soon. Like the author, I think it is too early to tell whether Brett's decision was right or wrong. However, why doesn't he (perhaps he did?) try to hook up with an AFL or CFL team and pursue his dream that way?

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