Greg McElroy, Alex Smith pay steep price for concussions

2012 will be remembered for epic comebacks.

2013? I'm rooting for something a little more modest.

I'm rooting for a guy named Greg McElroy. And all the guys like him.

Unless you root for the New York Jets or Alabama -- whom he led to a national championship -- you may not know who he is. But it's safe to say McElroy spent most of his young life preparing for Dec. 23, his first NFL start.

He hadn't started since the Capital One Bowl, New Year's Day, 2011. McElroy didn't go till the seventh round that year. Didn't throw a pass as a rookie.

This was his shot. For the record: He went 14-for-24 in a 10-point loss to the San Diego Chargers. He was sacked 11 times. Concussed once. He didn't report the symptoms until the following Thursday. In a matter of hours, the Jets had gone back to Mark Sanchez.

Now, there's a chance -- a good one, in fact -- that Greg McElroy has made the last start of his career. I hope not.

Comebacks might've been the story of the season. But concussions were the story of the year. Twenty-four hundred lawsuits and counting. Bountygate. I mean, what was that really about?

The new protocols are a sign of great progress. But they're not perfect.

In November, Alex Smith reported blurred vision in the second quarter against the St. Louis Rams. Smith was completing 70 percent of his passes. A 104.1 passer rating.

Now he's a backup.

"It sucks," he said. "The only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion."

Smith will get another shot. Somewhere.

But McElroy?

Maybe one day, his kids will thank him. But that's a lot of Happy New Years from now.

Follow Mark Kriegel on Twitter @MarkKriegel.