It just wasn’t fair.
It wasn’t fair that Alex Smith had suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams. It wasn’t fair that he couldn’t start the next week on Monday Night Football. It wasn’t fair that Colin Kaepernick shined when Smith was hurt. It wasn’t fair that Smith was benched. It wasn’t fair that Smith’s last play as a 49er was against the Cardinals in garbage time, when he filled in for the resting Kaepernick.
And it just wasn’t fair that instead of having incredible talent on defense, a Pro Bowl running back and one of the league’s best (if not the league’s best) offensive lines in San Francisco, he will take over for a squad that went 2-14 in 2012.
Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for draft picks, and Smith will take the reins with Andy Reid in Kansas City (if the trade is finalized, which it definitely should be). While the Chiefs had more Pro Bowlers (six) than 23 other teams, and while they have a great running back in Jamaal Charles, Kansas City will definitely not get mistaken for San Francisco.
With the 49ers, Smith’s completion percentage was an insane 70.2 percent, and his passer rating was over 104. If Smith had qualified, he would have been third in passer rating and first in completion percentage. However, Jim Harbaugh, who helped make Smith a lot better, saw something in Kaepernick that everyone else sees now.
So Smith was done in San Francisco, and Kaepernick took over.
If Smith can play at the level he played at in his last year-and-a-half with the 49ers, the Chiefs will be a lot better. While Smith didn’t throw that many times (26.25 times in every one of his full games), he posted some great stats. However, he still needs to shred his “conservative level,” something that he will have a lot more trouble with in Kansas City.
How Will Alex Smith Fare in Kansas City?
The Chiefs have a great running back, so they will run the ball a lot. Kansas City barely threw last year, and while they will have a new coach, if they can’t re-sign Dwyane Bowe or bring in a good receiver, Smith will have lots of trouble.
A lot of people say Smith needs a great team to operate well, and he won’t have that in Kansas City. While the Chiefs have talent and will likely bring in star left tackle Luke Joeckel with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers are easily a better team.
Also, Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to Kansas City. Andy Reid, who had a terrible 2012 campaign with the Eagles, is going to be coaching Smith in Kansas City. He is best known for his offensive success, and Donovan McNabb was a product of his in Philadelphia. McNabb was terrible with the Redskins and Vikings, but he was a great quarterback for the Eagles, largely because of his coach who took his team to the Super Bowl once and the NFC Championship Game five times.
Reid can relate to Smith because he benched an injured Kevin Kolb after Michael Vick shined. Reid and Smith should fit well together, and it’s safe to say Smith won’t be a disaster just because Harbaugh won’t be with him. However, Harbaugh was the perfect coach for him, and it’s worth noting that Vick and Nick Foles struggled under Reid in 2012. Smith won’t improve much because of Reid, but he can improve because of his teammates.
Chiefs fans will tell you that the coaching staff “babied” Charles last season because of an ACL tear in 2011. However, to make Smith effective, Charles—who averaged 5.3 yards per carry (YPC) in 2012 and has an incredible mark of 5.8 YPC over his career—will have to step up once again.
Frank Gore is an amazing running back and was a huge factor in the success of Smith. So was Vernon Davis, who developed great chemistry with Alex before he went down with a concussion. Smith will need to find at least one receiver he can throw to often, which is something he can do, but it’s hard to adjust to a new team, especially when that team is coming off a 2-14 season.
If Dwyane Bowe doesn’t return, Smith’s first year will be rocky. The Chiefs have no one else to catch passes for Smith, and even if they sign a receiver, the chemistry won’t be great at first. When Smith first came to San Francisco, he struggled mightily under numerous offensive coordinators. While he was just a rookie then and it may not be fair to make comparisons to Smith’s first year, it took him six years to succeed.
If he doesn’t get good support in Kansas City, Smith’s career as a Chief will likely be a failure.
Smith needs significant help to be a good quarterback, and the 49ers provided that. He was a great fit in San Francisco, and that’s why the 49ers went places with Smith. However, Smith isn’t Peyton Manning or Tom Brady: he can’t take any team and make them great. The Chiefs aren't the worst fit, but Smith won't be a star in Kansas City.
And if everything doesn’t go right, he won’t even be good there.