The Kansas City Chiefs have lost four of their last five games and have been held to 17 or fewer points in three of those losses.
Despite those struggles, however, "the Chiefs are not inclined to make any switch at quarterback, team sources said, though the staff does remain very bullish on first-round pick Patrick Mahomes and his ability to take over as soon as next season," according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Per that report, "Mahomes continues to impress teammates and coaches with his efforts in practice and how he conducts himself in meetings and around the facility, and there is a strong sense that he could be a franchise quarterback sooner rather than later."
La Canfora also reported the Chiefs would only promote Mahomes to starter this year if Alex Smith suffered an injury.
Mahomes is the future in Kansas City. The Chiefs traded the No. 27 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, a 2017 third-round pick and a 2018 first-rounder to the Buffalo Bills this April to move up to No. 10 overall and select Mahomes.
It's rare that teams give up that number of assets for a player they intend to keep on the bench for more than one season. While having Smith has allowed the Chiefs to ease Mahomes into a new system, they were always likely to turn the reins over to him sooner rather than later.
That could make Smith an intriguing trade chip.
As La Canfora noted, "Numerous other general managers anticipate the Chiefs shopping Smith, who has one year left on his contract, in the offseason."
Smith, 33, was brilliant between September and October, throwing for 2,181 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 69.1 percent of his passes. The Chiefs went 6-2. But in the team's two November games, both losses, he's thrown just two touchdowns and three interceptions.
His passer rating has also steadily declined each month, going from 132.7 in September to 107.0 in October to 80.5 in November. Smith's declining play mirrored the overall recent struggles for the Chiefs.
"I think this team is ready to get back to work and get back on track," Smith said, per Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride.
"That's where I am at. I think this team realizes we can't talk our way out of this. You just have to go do it, and that is the only remedy. I think we are anxious to do that. We know we are capable of playing a lot better than we have and looking forward to going out there and doing that."
If Smith doesn't improve his play, however, there will be calls for Mahomes to get his shot.