LANDOVER, Md. -- The Alex Smith honeymoon continues, with the Washington Redskins happily trotting him out before adoring fans -- those who want to believe that this time, with this quarterback, it will be different.
How long it lasts will be determined by his play. But for many, his arrival signals the end of what had been a contentious several years, from debating the merits of Robert Griffin III to then Kirk Cousins -- first about whether he should start, then how good he was, and finally what he was worth. It was draining.
To signal the new era, the Redskins held a news conference in March after the move became official that was also a grand celebration, the sort once reserved for a Joe Gibbs homecoming, complete with receiving lines and tables of food.
Wednesday night was another chance to trot out Smith before the fans, reminding them that, yes, there is life after Cousins and, yes, this guy won't be going anywhere anytime soon. It's safe to embrace him. The team held a question-and-answer session for season-ticket holders inside the locker room at FedEx Field.
There were approximately 200 season-ticket holders in attendance, one of whom apparently rattled off a list of quarterbacks the Redskins have churned through over the past several decades. More than a few showed up in brand-new No. 11 jerseys with "Smith" on the back. One older female fan told him she was "so excited" to meet him. Another fan, after taking a picture with the quarterback, quietly asked him a question. Then he told someone else the answer: "He said he'll hate Dallas!" That, clearly, is a prerequisite in Washington.
One fan in a No. 11 jersey, Brendon Warfel, drove 90 minutes from Delaware to attend and said he had jerseys of previous signals of hope: Donovan McNabb and Griffin. And he had a picture with Cousins (as did his 17–year-old daughter, who was there Wednesday as well).
Warfel joked that in two more years he'll have to buy another quarterback's jersey.
"I hope I don't," he said. "Hopefully he'll be a great quarterback."
For now, all Smith wants is to find a place to live for his wife and three school-aged kids and get used to his surroundings. He learned one crucial thing Wednesday: It's a long drive from suburban Virginia, where the Redskins train, to FedEx Field -- at least an hour and even more in traffic.
And in a nod to the instability, one fan asked Smith if he planned to buy a home in the area.
"I didn't know that was an unusual thing to do," Smith said. "That's the plan."
It helps having a deal that ensures him being around for at least the next four years and possibly five. While Redskins fans are starting over in their love of another quarterback, Smith is starting over in his career. The No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft is now with his third team, having spent the previous five years in Kansas City.
"Definitely energizing," Smith said of starting over. "New opportunity, new challenge."
The challenge will be to produce and lead the Redskins back to the postseason, which they have missed the past two years. Then it would be to win a playoff game, something the franchise hasn't done since 2005. First things first, however. Smith and his new teammates will report for voluntary offseason workouts Monday.
To this point, Smith has met a handful of players at the facility, mostly those who are rehabbing injuries. He's watched film of coach Jay Gruden's offense, though he's not allowed yet to talk football with him. And Smith, 33, continues to stay in shape, hoping that results in many more productive years.
But his goals are understated, which will be one appeal to his new team. He comes across as just another guy in the locker room. That's been his reputation.
"Just be myself," he said. "Come in, get to know my teammates, get familiar with the offense. You're trying to lay a foundation heading into training camp with not only the offense, but with the guys, especially the skill guys. This is the time to take advantage of that. ... Just come in, be a good teammate, get to work."
And, the Redskins hope, become more than just a symbol of hope, but someone who delivers. The Redskins know he's not Aaron Rodgers; they also believe they've upgraded over Cousins. That, of course, is the natural thought after choosing one over the other, and time will tell if they're right.
On Wednesday, Smith got a further sense of the passion that awaits him.
"Everyone wants to win, but no question you got a taste of how invested they are as fans," Smith said. "That's what you want, that's what you want to play for: fans that are in it and want it as bad as you do."
He has no idea.