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Alex Smith’s Injury Conjures Up Joe Theismann Flashbacks

Alex Smith's season-ending leg injury conjures memories of when Lawrence Taylor ended Joe Theismann's career.

33 years to the day that Lawrence Taylor of the Giants ended the Hall of Fame career of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann with a vicious sack that snapped Theismann’s knee,  current Redskins quarterback Alex Smith breaks two bones in his leg against the Texans on Sunday when he was sacked by J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson in the third quarter.

Sports Illustrated on Twitter

Alex Smith was carted off with a serious ankle injury exactly 33 years after Joe Theismann’s famous injury https://t.co/LuEPY40kXV

Similar to Theismann’s gruesome injury, Smith’s broken fibula and tibia in his right leg was compliments of one of the game’s most ferocious sack attackers. Taylor and Watts are both considered, elite and feared defenders of their eras.    

Joe Theisman

Clips showing the tackle by Lawrence Taylor that causes Joe Theisman to break his leg and end his career.


If the irony isn’t making you spit up your morning coffee, Theismann also happened to be in attendance yesterday, which heightened the historical drama.  The Super Bowl champion acknowledged the coincidence in a Tweet.   


Joe Theismann on Twitter

Alex’s leg is exactly like mine 33 yrs ago

If you want a vivid description of how Smith might have felt on Sunday, just check out Theismann’s recollection of his incident that he shared with the New York Times in a 2005 interview: “The pain was unbelievable, it snapped like a breadstick. It sounded like two muzzled gunshots off my left shoulder. Pow, pow! It was at that point, I also found out what a magnificent machine the human body is. Almost immediately, from the knee down, all the feeling was gone in my right leg. The endorphins had kicked in, and I was not in pain.”

Smith writhed on the ground in pain, the same way Theismann did that November 18th night at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Then, he gathered himself and was carted off to the applause of the fans and with his hands held in prayer.  


“I knew immediately his season was over,” Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said. “Your heart drops when something like that happens. He’s such a great person.

“It’s devastating. After seeing the pain in his eyes, I teared up, and it hurts me.”


It hurts Washington too. The Redskins traded a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith in January. They signed him to a four-year extension worth up to $94 million with $71 million guaranteed. With journeyman Colt McCoy ready to assume the helm, the “sign Colin Kaepernick” chants will be in full swing. And why not? 

The MMQB on Twitter

In order to stay in contention in the NFC East after Alex Smith’s injury, Washington needs to start a QB who’s not Colt McCoy. Why not Colin Kaepernick? https://t.co/DPI5rnCVE4

The Skins were pulling away in the NFC East before this incident and a win over the Texans would have maintained their two-game lead in the division. Instead, they lose the game 23-21, they lose their QB and maybe we need to start talking about the curse of Joe Theismann because the Redskins have lost a crop of All-Pro caliber QBs to injury and defection over the years. RG3’s Redskins career came in like a grenade and then promptly blew up after several injuries. Kirk Cousins abandoned ship to go to Minnesota and now the 34-year-old Alex Smith is not only out for the season but possibly for the remainder of his career.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.