Alex Smith is no franchise savior, but he's exactly the kind of quarterback the Chiefs need.
Smith is a high-percentage passer, and one who doesn't turn the ball over. Though his game has limitations, his style of play is perfectly suited to these Chiefs. So even though he's no Aaron Rodgers, he'll have a fantastic year in Kansas City and bring them back to the playoffs.
And it all starts with how the Kansas City Chiefs are constructed. Specifically, the run game.
Kansas City was fourth in the league in rushing this past season with 2,491 yards. Most of that is thanks to their star running back Jamaal Charles and his 1,509 rushing yards.
In other words, Alex Smith is not finding himself in a situation where he has to throw 30 times a game. It's a situation just like the one he left in San Francisco.
During Smith's great 2011 campaign, San Francisco was eighth in the NFL in rushing at 2,044 yards. That allowed Smith to pick his spots. The Niners threw 451 times that year, the second fewest in the NFL. But they had the 12th-best completion percentage and eighth-best QB rating.
In other words, Smith was incredibly efficient. He didn't have to be the playmaker on offense, that was the job of Frank Gore and co. in the backfield. Much like it will be this year in Kansas City.
And the similarities between Smith's 2011 season and Matt Cassel's 2010 season are amazing. The Chiefs only threw 274 times, which was 30th in the league in 2010. But they had the 13th ranked QB rating. And the best rushing attack in the league.
The thing that held the Chiefs back was their inability to push the ball downfield, and of course a significant uptick in interceptions. Alex Smith's yards per attempt in 2011 was 7.1, and he's proven he can keep his interception tally low.
Neither of those things make an All-Pro QB, but both are exactly what the Chiefs need.
One thing the KC running game doesn't bring that San Francisco's did was a nose for the end zone. in 2012, San Francisco scored 17 rushing touchdowns to Kansas City's nine. And in 2011 it was worse, when the Niners scored 14 TDs and KC scored just five.
That's where Alex Smith comes in. He struggled in the red zone in 2011, but had significantly improved in 2012. He completed 70.6 percent of his passes in the red zone, and connected for eight touchdowns in his eight starts.
Need more evidence? How about the 2011 NFL playoffs, down three. It's third and three from 14 yard line and there are 14 seconds left. And Alex Smith throws a pinpoint pass to Vernon Davis in the end zone to beat the Saints. Talk about coming through under pressure.
As long as Alex Smith isn't forced to do things outside of his comfort zone, he'll be exactly what the Chiefs need: an efficient passer who doesn't turn the ball over.
And even if Kansas City Offensive Coordinator Pederson thinks Alex Smith is the best quarterback in the league, it's most likely just confidence in his guy. From the way he describes him later in that interview, Smith sounds more like the veteran ball-handler he is rather than a gunslinger.
He’s a sharp guy, he brings a wealth of knowledge, he’s experienced, he’s a proven winner the last couple of years, and he needs a team to embrace him.
That sounds like the Chiefs know exactly who they have. So KC fans shouldn't worry about them trying to throw for 5000 yards this year, but they might try to push the envelope a tad more.
The last thing that Alex Smith needs to be successful is a coaching staff that believes in him. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff rebuilt Smith's confidence and made him into a fantastic game manager who has the ability to go big when needed.
Well, Andy Reid is a successful veteran head coach who has a knack for coaching quarterbacks, and it's obvious his offensive coordinator thinks highly of Smith. So even that's in place.
All the Chiefs need from Alex Smith is Matt Cassel 2.0, that's it. And that's exactly what Smith is. But he's also a more accurate passer, a better deep thrower, throws fewer picks and is a sneakily athletic quarterback.
He has the running game with Jamaal Charles to take the pressure off him, and is exactly the type of quarterback this team needs to be successful. He has the requisite tools, the right mentality and is a perfect fit.
He might not be the best quarterback in the league, but he's one that will bring the Chiefs back to the playoffs.
All statistics, unless otherwise noted, come from espn.com/nfl/statistics