“A steady, if unspectacular, player surrounded by a solid team.” – NY Times
The above quote was from an article the NY Times wrote about Alex Smith last year. I think the quote sums up exactly what Alex Smith represents as an NFL quarterback. Many would have described Matt Cassel in the same light before he came to Kansas City. When you have a solid team around you, the quarterback position simply needs to be steady, not spectacular.
Let me start off by saying I really liked Alex Smith coming out of Utah. He seemed to have the intelligence that is vital in today’s NFL and was just a good all-around talent. When he was taken number one overall in the 2005 draft, I was extremely surprised. Smith never had that high of a ceiling in my mind, especially with the other All-Pro Quarterbacks in that draft.
I could see the love for Alex coming out of the combine. He ran a 4.7 forty, scored a 40 out of 50 on the Wonderlic exam and did well in the other drills. He started off very slow during his first year in the NFL, throwing only one touchdown pass and 11 interceptions. He was steadily improving until his shoulder injury in 2007. He was placed on IR at the end of the 2007 season. The nagging injury turned into a horrible 2008 season for the young quarterback as well. He had surgery following the 2007 season and Dr. James Andrews believed there was a wire left in his shoulder during that surgery. In 2008, he was diagnosed with a broken bone in the same shoulder that many thought was due to the wire rubbing against the bone.
When Harbaugh arrived, Alex Smith must have felt a relief comparable to a lawyer passing his bar exam. He was finally ready to get to work! After multiple defensive minded head coaches in his short NFL tenure, he finally had a quarterback friendly coach who would do what he needed to succeed. Smith improved leaps and bounds that year. He led San Francisco to a 13-3 record, which highlighted 5 come from behind victories. Although he didn’t put up high stats, he was an excellent game manager. After 7 offensive coordinators and 3 head coaches, the Utah alumnus finally was going to make a play-off appearance. Smith threw for 299 yards, 3 touchdowns, and also ran for a touchdown. Some pretty impressive stats for a first playoff appearance!
In 2012, Smith was playing great. He appeared in 10 games and had a QB rating of 104. However, after suffering a concussion against St. Louis, Colin Kaepernick entered the game and has never looked back.
Now that we know the background, is Alex Smith the correct move for our Kansas City Chiefs?
I believe the answer is yes. He is exactly the kind of QB that I think can thrive from a system like Andy loves to run. He is most certainly an upgrade from who has been playing the position in years past, but the compensation that Andy Reid gave up was idiotic. Alex Smith will never be a top quarterback in this league. He doesn’t have the touch on the long ball that will keep the defense honest (remind you of anyone). In 2011, when he had his best year, the 49ers finished 29th in total passing yards. Their defense was also at the top of the league that year.
With the Chiefs holding the 34th pick in the 2013 draft, we are essentially trading a late first round pick for Alex Smith. That alone is much too high of an asking price in my opinion. Couple that with the conditional pick that San Francisco will receive in 2014, this deal begins to make my stomach hurt. Although the parameters are not set in stone until the league year begins in a couple weeks, by all accounts, it looks like the 49ers will receive a 2nd to 3rd round pick next year as well. In a draft this deep at cornerback and offensive line, I’m not sure how a 2-14 team can stand to lose its “second” first round pick.
We all know something had to be done at the quarterback position going into the 2013 campaign. Many could agree that Alex Smith is the right choice going forward with the options available. The problem is, I think the Chiefs were bidding against themselves. No matter what the 49ers say, they were not going to keep Alex at his current cap number. There is no way that Smith would have restructured his contract again to stay on a team as a back-up. Taking into account the overall context, I think this was a huge mistake by Reid and Dorsey. I have been trying to hold out any judgment on the new regime, but there is no way that this trade could be viewed as equal. Even with the upgrade that Alex will bring, I can’t see giving up more than ONE third rounder. When judging this trade, remember who the 49ers took in the 2011 draft with the fourth selection in the second round. I’ll give you a hint; he was one of the starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl this year.