Kansas City Chiefs: How Good Will Alex Smith Be in Kansas City?
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It was bound to happen at some point.
After the emergence of budding star Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers saw little reason to keep their veteran quarterback Alex Smith following their loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. Smith had made it known that he was frustrated at the demotion and reports surfaced that he would request a release.
The 49ers did not exactly grant him that, but they did give Smith the opportunity to start somewhere else. On February 28, ESPN reported that San Francisco traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for two draft picks. If all goes as planned, the deal becomes official on March 12.
In San Francisco, Smith had his fair share of struggles. Playing a total of eight seasons under three different head coaches and seven different offensive coordinators, he took a very long time to develop and would be at the center of numerous quarterback controversies, injuries and media speculation for the majority of his San Francisco tenure.
Despite occasional signs of brilliance early in his career, Smith did not develop into a winning quarterback until head coach Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers in 2011. In Harbaugh's first year, Smith would lead San Francisco to the NFC Championship game and eventually lose to the New York Giants.
During the season, Smith developed the reputation of being a tremendous game manager who protected the ball and ran the offense efficiently. He engineered multiple come-from-behind victories for the 49ers during the regular season and played well during the playoffs. All the difficulties of the past seemed to be distant memory.
Yet in 2012, Smith saw his 49er career hampered and coming to an end. After suffering a concussion against the St. Louis Rams in Week 9, Kaepernick took over the starting job and never looked back.
San Francisco had a surplus at quarterback after the season and the Chiefs were interested.
Kansas City had reasons to make the Smith trade. Coming of an abysmal 2-14 season, the Chiefs were looking to rebuild. One of the moves included hiring former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid. Despite the last two forgettable years in Philadelphia, Reid was successful with the Eagles and has a history of shaping good quarterbacks that include Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb.
Reid figures to utilize that expertise on Smith, who also looks for a fresh start away from the rollercoaster career he had in San Francisco. Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson could also play a vital role.
With the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, the Chiefs are in a good position to revamp the franchise. By trading for Smith, they recognized that there were no quarterbacks coming out of the draft worthy of such a high pick; one concern that no longer needs to be addressed.
Smith is undoubtedly an upgrade over the soon-to-depart Matt Cassel. He seems to have found his groove and provides veteran leadership and playoff experience to a young core of players the Chiefs look to build upon.
Smith is not alone on offense either. His offensive line, led by tackle Branden Albert and guard Jeff Allen, remains strong and Smith will hopefully benefit over center in this situation.
In addition, Smith will have some offensive weapons to work with. Running back Jamaal Charles figures to be a big part of the offensive game plan and fills a role that may be similar to what Smith had with Frank Gore in San Francisco. Smith likes backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield and Charles may fit into that sort of system under Reid. Smith will also enjoy the services of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who recently became the third-highest paid wideout in the NFL (via USA Today).
Combining a good offense with the knowledge of Reid and Pederson, and Smith could very well thrive in Kansas City. He will not be the dynamic difference-maker in the prospects for the Chiefs' success, but having him helps tremendously.
There are statements, however, that the Chiefs paid too much for Smith. Critics of the trade have made note that the second-round pick given up to the 49ers was too high for what some consider a journeyman quarterback at best. The argument is that there are plenty of young and talented quarterbacks that come up in the middle of the draft, of which have included Kaepernick, Seattle's Russell Wilson and Cleveland's Andy Dalton in previous years (opposingviews.com).
More critically, the argument states that Kansas City's problems circulate primarily around the defense, which ranked 25th in the NFL last year (pro-football-reference.com). It is hard to argue that the Chief's need help on defense, and that pick would have given them help.
Yet the Chiefs have to be commended for doing something to redress their situation. Smith is an upgrade over Cassel and Reid should be able to pick up where Harbaugh left off. The move at least makes them more competitive within the AFC West (rantsports.com). In addition, there are no guarantees of success regarding quarterbacks coming out of the draft (footballnation.com); look no further than Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell.
Over nine NFL seasons, Smith has thrown for 14,280 yards, 81 touchdowns and 63 interceptions (pro-football-reference.com). He also has a completion rate of 65.75 percent over the last two seasons.
Chiefs fans have not seen a winning quarterback in some time. Smith might not be the type of quarterback fans would pack in to see, but he at least will provide more excitement and be part of the solution and not the problem.
Smith will succeed if the situation is right. It looks like it can be that way for him. For Kansas City, it is a statement that they are trying to move in the right direction.
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