We all know that the quarterback situation is a need that would be foolish not to address this offseason. And by address, I mean not continue with Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn. Whether the Chiefs take a quarterback first overall has yet to be seen, but nothing is a certainty, especially with this draft class. And even with taking a quarterback first overall, or even later in the first or early in the second, doesn’t mean that quarterback will be the starting quarterback for the Chiefs next season.
Jake Locker was drafted in the 1st round in 2011, but Matt Hasselbeck had been brought in for competition and ended up winning the starter’s job. Christian Ponder was drafted in the same first round as Locker, and also started the season on the bench until Vikings head coach couldn’t stand Donovan McNabb’s awfulness anymore. Heck, back in 2003, Carson Palmer was drafted #1 overall to Cincinnati and didn’t even start his rookie year behind (drumroll) Jon Kitna.
Some quarterbacks are NFL-ready when they arrive – Andrew Luck, RG3, Russell Wilson, etc. Others would be better off with a year to learn the offense. And while coaching staffs usually feel immediate pressure to start a first round pick their rookie year, especially at the quarterback position, that doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for the team. Could you convince me that Blaine Gabbert might not look like such a bust if he had a year or two to adjust to the NFL? Probably not. And let’s not forget that a lot of people thought that the Colts would draft Luck while also keeping Peyton Manning, sort of like the Aaron Rodgers-Brett Favre scenario in Green Bay not too long before that.
What I’m saying is: it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have another QB on the roster that is credible competition.
And since that potential competition is probably not on the roster – I have very little faith in Ricky Stanzi and even the mystique of Alex Tanney isn’t enough to convince me – it will likely have to come in free agency.
With the free agents at the position, there are three different classes that I believe quarterbacks fall into. The lowest level are backups that have just had their contracts expire and are looking for jobs: Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton, both McCown’s, etc. The middle level are those who have had significant playing time, but for some reason or another, have found themselves in a backup role and are best suited in that backup role: Jason Campbell, Tarvaris Jackson, Rex Grossman, Matt Moore, Matt Leinart, David Carr. The highest level is the one where quarterbacks are highly sought, and for some reason became a free agent: this would include Manning’s release from Indianapolis last season, the impending release of Tony Romo (just kidding), and Carl Peterson’s wisdom to go with Elvis Grbac over Rich Gannon. This third category doesn’t happen often, and usually has an interesting story behind it, or at least the name of a younger talented quarterback.
If, somehow, Joe Flacco craps his pants in the Super Bowl and the Ravens say, screw it, we’re changing direction, then he will find himself in that third category. But since that is unlikely, and since I wasn’t really impressed with any of the names I mentioned earlier in the first two levels of free agent quarterbacks, what are the Chiefs to do?
Enter Alex Smith.
The 49ers may or may not trade him, but it’s already been leaked that Smith will request a release from the team in order to pursue the most possibilities for employment. With the last season and a half of resume, Smith will be pursued in free agency, and will likely come on a short contract, possibly even one year, although I’m sure he and his agent will try for three. If the Chiefs could get Smith on a two-year deal or less, I think that it’s a no-brainer the move makes sense.
A lot of people, of course, disagree with that sentiment. The very intelligent Bob Fescoe, one that speaks logically and wisely at all times, and someone that I would never speak facetiously about (I am) tweeted out that anyone that wants Alex Smith on the Chiefs is OK with mediocrity. I happen to disagree with that. Alex Smith is not a long-term answer, and everyone would know that, especially if we draft his replacement this season. What Smith would be is a stop-gap; someone to tutor and mentor a young quarterback who could find himself in a similar situation that Smith was in back in 2005. And besides, there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract.
Smith was perhaps the latest blooming quarterback since Jim Plunkett, but he did find that consistency that was so lacking early in his career. It’s amazing what a good head coach and an offensive coordinator that lasts more than a year can do. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Alex Smith had a 64.3 completion percentage, 4,881 yards, a 7.36 yards per attempts, with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. True, Smith did his best in an offense that didn’t allow him to expose himself like a West Coast Offense surely would, his numbers are still impressive.
While the effectiveness of former 49ers quarterbacks coming over to the Chiefs has had mixed results – Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac – I hold that against Smith about as much as I hold USC quarterback struggles in the NFL against Matt Barkley; not at all. The Chiefs need to improve their quarterback situation, and if that means bringing in Alex Smith and Geno Smith to compete against each other for the starter’s job, how is that a bad thing?
My Super Bowl Pick: San Francisco 27 Baltimore 17