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Alex Smith: The Journey to Becoming The Chiefs' Quarterback

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Smith officially became the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs on March 12, 2013 and he hasn’t looked back.

It has been a long, hard road to get to this point. The fanfare his departure from the San Francisco 49ers received was full of mixed emotions. Many 49ers fans were as happy to see the oft maligned Smith leave the “City by the Bay” as Chiefs fans were to see Matt Cassel head north to Minnesota. Yet, others were sad to see him go, and thought he was never given a fair shake, despite the fact he spent eight seasons with the the 49ers.

Smith produced a playoff winning season in 2011, had an overall 90.7 quarterback rating (the highest in his career to that point) and

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led his team to within a fumble of a trip to the Superbowl. He then followed that up with a 2012 season where he boasted a 104.1 QBR and an incredible 70.2 percent completion rating. Still, fans of the other “red and gold” team, cheered when he was replaced by backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion in week 10 of the 2012 season. Fans continued to cheer as the man who started the season carrying Smith’s clipboard, carried the team to the 2012 Superbowl, ultimately losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

Many 49ers fans had grown disenfranchised with the man who was selected with the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2005 draft. Smith was taken by the 49ers to lead the once great franchise back into relevancy. They had fallen so far from the days of Joe Montana and Steve Young to the bottom of the NFC West, the division considered by many to be the worst in football at that time, that those “glory days” of the 80’s and 90’s were a distant memory. However, Smith fell into the same trap that many rookie quarterbacks fell into, which was he was given the keys to the brand new Ferrari when he should have been given the keys to a used Yugo.

Smith’s rookie season was atrocious. It’s easy to see why he fell out of favor with the fans in San Francisco as well as the coaching staff of, then head coach, Mike Nolan. Dealing with an injury, Smith started the season as a $24 million guaranteed backup quarterback.  He didn’t actually get his first start until week five, and he threw five interceptions. He was far from the quarterback of the future the ‘Niners were hoping for when they drafted him with their No. 1 overall pick.

Smith’s second season in the league was marginally better, but he only continued to cement the moniker of “game manager” that would follow him throughout his career. Smith spent the offseason and then preseason learning a new offensive scheme under the second offensive coordinator of his career. Learning under future Superbowl winning coach Mike McCarthy as a rookie, Smith then tried to pick up the offense of future San Diego Charger head man, Norv Turner as McCarthy left the team to lead the Green Packers to the Superbowl. Smith finished the season with as many touchdowns as interceptions at 16, and the 49ers finished the season at 7-9.

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Smith battled injury and another offensive coordinator in his third season with the 49ers ,and only played in seven of the 16 games that year. He regressed in every statistical category, only throwing two touchdowns in those seven games. The man who was supposed to save the franchise was in danger of being run out of town on a rail. Fans are forgiving, but the NFL stands for “not for long” when you’re not winning – and Alex Smith and the 49ers were most definitely not winning.

At the start of the 2008 season, Smith took the biggest slap in a face a former No. 1 overall draft pick can take. He was expected to compete for his job in training camp.

Smith lost the battle and began the 2008 as the backup QB to J.T. O’Sullivan. This was due partly to O’Sullivan’s knowledge of the new offensive system being taught by the team’s fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. After the Niners offense failed to perform in the 2007 season, offensive coordinator Jim Hostler was fired and Mike Martz was brought in. Alex stayed behind O’Sullivan on the depth chart until the 49ers placed him on the injured reserve list due to a complication with his shoulder from the previous year’s injury. Many thought this would at least be the end of Smith’s tenure with the 49ers – a fact which many San Francisco fans cheered – but Smith restructured his contract after the firing of head coach, Mike Nolan. Alex Smith would return for another season in the red and gold of the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith’s clash with head coach Mike Nolan became something of legend in San Francisco. In fact, years later, Nolan was still not shy about saying he should have dumped Smith earlier. In this quote from Nolan in 2010 when he was the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, Nolan had this to say about Shaun Hill, the man who replaced Smith on and off again.

“He’s a very good quarterback. I always thought he was good. I would admit to making a mistake not making him a starter at the end. The last year I was there I should have [switched QBs] because he’s a baller.”

Smith didn’t take all of Nolan’s (some would say unwarranted and extreme, some would say abuse) criticism sitting down. In 2007, just before Smith was put on his season ending IR, Mike Nolan allegedly informed the ‘Niners locker room that Smith was using his injuries as an excuse for his “poor play.” This led to a rare outburst by the quarterback in which he rebuffed the statements by Nolan.

“I think if (my teammates) would have heard what I actually said out there that day, it wouldn’t have been an issue. But all of a sudden Nolan spins it as if I was making excuses for an injury. What I really felt like was, ‘Yeah, I tried to play on it. And that was my decision and obviously I wasn’t playing well enough.”

Regardless, with Nolan gone, Smith would, perhaps, get the fresh start in San Francisco he thought he deserved.

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Former Superbowl winning player and interim coach Mike Singletary was hired to take over the head coaching job full-time for the 2009 season. With Singletary, came a fifth offensive coordinator in as many years for the team. A renewed (and ultimately surgically repaired) Smith returned, ready to compete for the job of starting quarterback. While Smith would begin the Singletary administration on the bench, he was thrust into the starting role in week 7, when the 49ers played the Houston Texans and incumbent starter, Shaun Hill was benched for poor playing performance. Smith would start for the rest of the season and led the 49ers to their best record, 8 – 8, since the 2002 season.

The 2010 season started with the retention of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, which was the first time since 2003 the 49ers had the same OC for two consecutive seasons. However, after a disastrous 0 – 3 start, Raye was fired, and Smith was forced to learn under a sixth OC in as many years. The team and Smith (to a smaller degree) regressed in the 2010 season. The overall record fell below .500 again, with the team finishing at 6 -10, marking the 10th season in a row the team failed to finish above the .500 mark. Singletary was fired at the end of the season after alienating his locker room and the 49ers front office. To say Smith’s future with the franchise was uncertain would be an understatement.

The 2011 season was the turnaround year for the San Francisco 49ers, but more importantly, for Smith. His restructured deal expired at the end of the 2010 season, and with the player lockout putting a stop on all negotiations, Smith began the 2011 NFL league year as an unsigned player. Despite this fact, and despite the fact that Smith’s family wanted him to leave San Francisco, Alex organized team workouts with fellow players that quickly became known as “Camp Alex.”

When the lockout was lifted, and the new collective bargaining agreement signed, Alex did his own signing, re-upping with the ‘Niners for one more year. With former quarterback Jim Harbaugh taking the reins in the Bay City, there was hope that Smith could finally succeed. A quote from Harbaugh after he had the chance to evaluate the 2010 49ers on film, summed up his feelings about Alex Smith.

“So excited, yeah, I’m going to say it, I’ve been studying Alex Smith and watching him and I believe that Alex Smith can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League. I’m excited to work with him, get to know him.”

Smith was now on his third head coach and learning his seventh offensive system since joining the league in 2005. Many 49ers fans (and now Chiefs fans) biggest complaint about Smith is that he hasn’t been able to bring his team back from a deficit.  While that statement may be true for the beginning of his career, in 2011 Smith set the single season 49ers’ franchise record for most game winning 4th quarter drives in a single season.This is on a team that has a #16 jersey worn by Joe “Cool” Montana hanging in from its rafters.

Smith’s accuracy and ball protection also improved in the 2011 season, as he threw only five interceptions the whole year. That, by the way, is also a 49ers record. Those records weren’t just for show, however. Smith put that team on his back and led them to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 with a 13-3 record.

It was during the playoffs that Smith really proved his ability to reach down and find that something special that only championship quarterbacks have. In, what can only be described as a shootout under the lights of Candlestick Park, the 49ers and the New Orleans Saints played one of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen. Smith had just retaken the lead from the Drew Brees led Saints with an electrifying 28 yard run up the left sideline with 4:02 left on the clock. This score put the 49ers up 29-24 and many thought sealed the game for the Niners. After all, Brees would have to take the field and defeat the stout San Francisco defense, who many said got the team to the playoffs – rather than Smith.

However, Brees took the field and did what Drew Brees does, hitting tight end Jimmy Graham on a 66 yard strike to go ahead 30 – 29. After converting the two-point conversion, the wind – and most of the hope – was sucked out of Candlestick Park like an extinguished flame. It seemed not one fan in the crowd thought their “mediocre” quarterback could engineer a game winning drive to advance the team in the playoffs, even though he’d already done it a record six times that season.

Brees’ drive left 1:37 on the clock. It would truly be a “two-minute offense” the 49ers would have to run. After Kyle Williams returned the ensuing kickoff from five yards deep in the endzone to the 49ers 15 yard line, Smith went to work. Watching the video from that game is a sight to behold. Smith was the picture of the “calm, cool and collected” quarterback as he walked to the line for the first play. After moving through his reads, he found running Frank Gore open in the flat and manages a seven yard gain. With the clock still running, Smith – ever the field general – commanded his troops to the line and set off another play, finding Gore on a screen. That gave the 49ers an 11 yard gain and a first down. Lining up on their own 33 yard line, Smith tried for a deep shot to wide receiver Brent Swain. The ball fell just in front of a well covered Swain’s outstretched arms, stopping the clock. Smith huddled up the offense and called the next play, a 27 yard shot over the middle to tight end Vernon Davis, who turned up field and ran another 20 yards before being tackled at the New Orleans 20 yard line. Smith hurried his team to the line after the 47 yard gain and quickly found his sure handed running back, Gore for another quick six yards. Gore tried to make it out of bounds on the play, but was unable to. Smith, watching the clock wind down under 15 seconds, quickly moved the team to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball, stopping the clock.

At this point, a coach who didn’t believe in his quarterback would have brought in the kicker. A field goal would have tied the game and given them a shot at overtime. That season, 49ers kicker David Akers was the highest scoring member of the team.

The 49ers had no time outs remaining and less than 15 seconds on the clock. But, in a show of faith (at least in that moment) Harbaugh let his quarterback try for the game winner. Sending his team to the line with the play, Smith dropped back and fired a missile to a double – nearly triple – covered Vernon Davis, who caught the ball, scoring the touchdown and sealing the 49ers victory. Call it channeling his inner Montana or Young (depending on your generation of 49ers fan), Smith had done what no one thought possible. He beat Drew Brees at his own game and won the game.

The culmination of that season was a trip to the NFC Championship game the following week, where the 49ers lost to the New York Giants after a fumble by 49ers kick returner, Kyle Williams. Though the season ended in disappointment, it was a huge improvement over the last nine years in San Francisco and hope was restored to the city and the team.

After the 2011 league year ended, Smith found himself a free agent once again. However, he wasn’t the only NFL QB who was testing the free agent market. Recently released Indianapolis Colts starter, Peyton Manning was in the unemployment line as well, and every owner and general manager from Nashville to New York was salivating at the chance to get their hands on him. The 49ers were no different.

When news broke that Harbaugh and his staff had secretly been courting Manning, and had even brought him to California for a private workout, Smith decided to look elsewhere for employment. After not seeing a lot of interest in the teams in need of a quarterback, and with Manning deciding to join the ranks of the AFC West and sign with the Denver Broncos, Smith eventually decided to re-sign with the 49ers on a three year deal worth about $8 million a year.

Smith did admit that the situation was “awkward” in a later interview, and said that the Manning interest was motivation for him to re-sign with the team.

“Certainly there are a lot of forms of motivation. I guess that’s there a little bit as far as motivation.”

Of course in the backlash of everything involving the perceived quarterback controversy, Harbaugh tried to back pedal and claimed that there was never any interest in Peyton Manning.

 “I’ve said it all along, Alex Smith has been our quarterback. There’s no scenario other than Alex choosing to sign with another team that we would have considered him not as our quarterback. It’s time to set the record straight. Alex Smith is our quarterback, was our quarterback and (we) had every intention of always bringing him back.”

Thus, that’s how the 2012 season began in San Francisco.

While the Kansas City Chiefs were beginning their worst season in franchise history, the Niners were starting their epic Superbowl run. Little did anyone know that the two teams’ destinies were linked, and the situation both teams would find themselves in at the end of the season would lead them to where they are now.

Despite having Smith firmly locked in, and Harbaugh’s claims that Alex was the man in San Francisco, the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the 36th overall pick. That, combined with the apparent (and well documented) interest in Peyton Manning in the 2012 offseason was a definite foreshadowing of what was to become of Alex Smith, despite what coach Harbaugh said in an interview.

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In week 10 of the 2012 season, injury struck Smith once again. He suffered a concussion in the first half against the St. Louis Rams and was removed from the game. Kaepernick replaced Smith and led the 49ers to a tie against the Rams. The following game, Smith was ruled ou,t and Kaepernick got the nod for the start — leading the 49ers to his first win. As luck (or the previously mentioned destiny) would have it, the game was on Monday Night Football against a tough Chicago Bears team, which Kaepernick carved up easily. This thrust the new San Francisco 49ers quarterback controversy into the national spotlight. However, the final blow to Smith’s time in San Francisco was the following week against the New Orleans Saints. Smith was cleared by doctors to play, but Harbaugh, in a departure from every interview and soundbite he’d given to that point, said Smith was not going to play and Kaepernick would remain the starter. Harbaugh was quick to say that the quarterback’s starting job was “week to week,” however, that would turn out to be lip service as well.

This frustrated Smith, and understandably so. Many Smith detractors say that Alex lost his starting job. This wasn’t the case at all, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. When a quarterback is benched in the NFL it is generally due to poor performance. However, at the time of his injury, Smith had completed 153 passes on 218 attempts, which was good for amazing 70.2 percent completion rate. His QBR was 104.1, the best of his career. Additionally, Smith had led his team to a 6-2 start, so poor play wasn’t the reason for his benching in San Francisco. Smith voiced his frustration shortly after the benching was made official.

“It stings the most because I really feel like there’s something special going on here. You sacrifice and you invest so much time. Like I said, I really feel like I hadn’t done anything but get a concussion to really to facilitate this. I feel like I was playing good football.”

Smith could have spent the rest of the 2012 season a bitter and angry man. But, in a true show of his professionalism, he didn’t. He helped bring the 49ers team together as much or more than when he was on the field. This, as much as Smith’s excellent play, was noticed by all of his teammates, as well as the man who once said there was no scenario in which Alex Smith wouldn’t be the starting quarterback.

“Alex has really helped coach Colin in meetings every single day. He coaches Colin now more than I do. That speaks volumes to how good a teammate Alex Smith is. It’s the best focus on unity and winning I’ve ever been a part of.”

This sentiment was echoed by the others in the 2012 49ers locker room as well. When Smith could have been the sledge hammer that drove the team apart, he was the glue that held them together. Frank Gore still spoke quite highly of his quarterback, even after the benching.

“I respect Alex so much. He’s been a pro. He still prepares and studies like he’s the starter. When Kaep comes to the sidelines, he tells him what he sees. Whatever happens, I just wish the best for Alex.”

As the season worked its way to the eventual Superbowl letdown for San Francisco, many knew that Smith would be traded. Being benched during the season because of a concussion is one thing, but starting the season on the bench with an $8 million a year contract and previous playoff success, was another entirely. Though no one knew where Smith would end up, there were only a couple of logical choices.

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Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the tides were turning as well. Gone was the iron handed (and hard headed) regime of Scott Pioli. Gone was the bumbling and barely comprehendible coaching of Romeo Crennel and Brian Dabol. Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt had brought in recently unemployed Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid to lead his team back to relevancy, just as 49ers owner Edward Bartolo Jr. brought in Harbaugh two years earlier. He followed that hiring with highly regarded Green Bay Packers personnel man, John Dorsey as the Chiefs new general manager.

Both Reid and Harbaugh (though light years apart in coaching style) have a couple of things in common. They both run a version of the West Coast Offense, and they are both renowned for the abilities as “Quarterback Whisperers.” Thus, it was no surprise that despite the quarterback needs of teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and even the New York Jets, Reid and Dorsey were able to strike a deal a month and a half before it was able to be made public. After all, the first thing Reid and Dorsey did was evaluate the Chiefs quarterback meeting room – and it wasn’t pretty.

Reid and Dorsey know two things. In order for a team to have success, there must be a system in place, and the team must have a quarterback who can excel in that system. Coming into Kansas City, Reid brought his version of the WCO with him. That offense requires that the quarterback be able to execute extremely accurate short to mid level throws and be able to hit receivers in the “sweet spot” in order to allow them to get yards after the catch. In going after Smith, Reid knew exactly what he was getting.

“I loved him coming out [of the draft]. Like man this guy would be great in our offense. But we had one that was pretty good. I kept my ears open. Great locker room guy. [He] understands the game, has the physical tools. He’s won and he has a certain mentality. But he also has been through tough times and good times and hasn’t changed. He has the work ethic and presence. That’s why.”

In probably the smartest move Dorsey did in the trade that brought Smith to The Fountain City, Smith wasn’t given a contract extension. Unlike the Pioli regime ,who brought in the previous Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback Matt Cassel on a trade with the New England Patriots and then gave him a huge seven year deal, Smith is essentially playing for his supper in KC. If things don’t pan out with the signal caller after two years remaining on his contract, the Chiefs leadership aren’t’ stuck with the choice of playing him because they can’t afford not to, or cutting him and incurring a huge debt to their salary cap.

However, all comparisons and mentions of Smith and Cassel should end with that paragraph. Though many would like to assign Smith the moniker of “Cassel 2.0” to go along with his title of “game manager” if you look at the progress the two quarterbacks have made, they’re going in opposite directions. While Smith has continually improved on every season, Cassel has gotten worse.

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Many critics of Smith are quick to point out that he didn’t lead the team to the playoffs during the 2011 season. They like to say that the only reason Smith had the performance that he did was due to a strong running game and a stout defense. I’ll let that last sentence sink in for a moment. Sound like another team you’ve seen play recently?

The 2011 season was Smith’s last full season as a starter in San Francisco and perhaps his best, in regards to showing what kind of quarterback he is. But, as everyone knows, football isn’t just about what the quarterback can do, but what the team can do. Since so many like to say that the 2011 season had nothing to do with Smith, and everything to do with the rest of the team, let’s take a look at who made up that team.

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On offense, the two key players were tight end Vernon Davis and running back, Frank Gore. Davis was perhaps the most important weapon on offense (at least in regards to who Smith was looking to) as the duo developed a very special rapport. In fact, that year, Davis caught six of Smith’s 17 regular season touchdowns. Gore has been a prolific back since entering the league, and the 2011 season was no different. Though the Chiefs have no answer for the question “who is the Vernon Davis of the team?” they have a pretty prolific running back themselves in Jamaal Charles. Getting the ball from Smith to Charles seems to be well ingrained into the Chiefs’ 2013 plans as Charles is the only member of the team to score a touchdown in each of the first four games.

Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, the similarities between the 2011 49ers and 2013 Chiefs becomes a bit clearer. The 49ers pass rushers that year featured linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahamad Brooks. Though it was just Aldon Smith’s rookie year, he ended the season with 14 sacks. His 2013 Chiefs equivalent, Justin Houston, has half that in four games. Other comparisons that can be made are between the 49ers linebacker (and defensive leader) Patrick Willis and the Chiefs own “quarterback on D” Derrick Johnson. Both have similar experience in the league and both have similar stat lines. Saying one is better than the other is an exercise in futility. To say they mirror each other quite well would be a bit more accurate.

Both teams have a “lights out” defense and playmakers on offense around Smith. Both teams have coaches who value and favor their quarterback over all else.

So, what’s the difference?

A fresh start.

Smith comes into Kansas City with a clean slate. The dark clouds of past mistakes are erased with a new fan base. Winning cures everything – especially for a franchise and fans who have been deprived of winning football for so long.

Smith can throw the short passes and never have more than 250 yards passing and two touchdowns per game, and as long as the result at the end of the game is a “W”, Chiefs fans won’t care. Though, some will say they do.

Some will scream for a “franchise quarterback” (whatever that is these days) who can throw 500 yards a game and six touchdowns (because that’s the only two stats that makes you an “elite” quarterback.) If that’s what you’re expecting out of Smith, I’m here to tell you, you’re in for a disappointment. But, don’t just take my word for it. Here’s Smith’s take on passing yardage:

“I could absolutely care less on yards per game. I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what, you’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great. You’re not winning, though.”

Reid has proven he knows what he’s doing with quarterbacks, whether it’s bringing rookies into the league (Donovan McNabb) or refurbishing quarterbacks nobody else thought could make it happen anymore (Michael Vick). Smith has the chops to take this 2013 Kansas City Chiefs team to the same destination he had the 2011 San Francisco 49ers on before the train was derailed by an untimely turnover.

Smith is driven. He is driven like perhaps no quarterback in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs has been driven. He was a No. 1 overall draft pick. He’s been booed by his own fans, called a bust by everyone from ESPN to the hometown press. His own coach all but called him a malingerer and questioned his toughness in the locker room, effectively undermining whatever leadership position he may have had on the team.

Smith was a part of a proud tradition of quarterbacks in San Francisco. It’s not easy playing in the shadow of #16 and #8. Those are big shoes to fill. Smith did everything he could in 2011 to take his team to the big game, only to return the following season to learn his team was shopping for the services of another quarterback, and then eventually replacing him. Not because of poor play, but because of injury. To be so close to the Superbowl in 2011 and then watch the game from the sidelines the next year does something to a man. It either destroys them or makes them stronger.

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Smith is all about proving everyone wrong.

Oh, he’s driven all right. But, it’s a new ball game in Kansas City. In a game sometimes seeded in superstition and tradition, the last time a Chiefs’ quarterback won his first four starts, he was another San Francisco cast off. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game was with that guy too.

Talk about living in the shadow. He can’t seem to shake it.

Still, Smith can be that guy. He’s got the pieces around him.

Now, it’s up to him.

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  • berttheclock

    Great breakdown, Jason, but, one major quibble.

    Your paragraph describing his first season as atrocious. What was truly atrocious was the fact that offensive line of the Niners in his first year was one of the worst O-lines in the league. The team as an overall unit was one of the most atrocious teams in the proud history of the Niners. There was a major reason why the Niners had the first pick in the draft. They were horrible and their coaching staff was not much better, nor was their GM.

    Tim Rattay, a lowly picked QB, was their starting QB and the season began with Alex Smith on the bench. However, many wanted to see the newly 1st round pick become the savior of the team. Smith was inserted after several games and had to perform behind that terrible offensive line. It was very similar to David Carr being thrown to the rabid wolves when he had to start behind another terrible O-line in Houston.

    Three things saved the career of Alex Smith. First, Baalke was given more control in the draft room and started to bring in talent, especially on the offensive line and when he was promoted to GM, he hired Harbaugh and stopped the Jimmy Raye fiasco. The two other things were the mental and physical toughness of Alex Smith and his intelligence to learn from mistakes and perfect his game. This was a young man who was really forged through fire.

    • berttheclock

      One other thing about the toughness of Alex Smith. Did anyone notice his first run, last Sunday? He slid and came up one yard short. On each of his next runs, he did not slide, but, dove for the 1st downs. That is mental toughness.

    • Jason Seibel

      I agree with you (as I often do) about the blocking during Smith’s first year in the league. However, this piece was long enough already, I had to put as much info as I could without completely filling in the blanks regarding his formative years. But let’s be honest, crappy O-line or not, that doesn’t excuse five picks in one game. You have to a Superbowl winning QB and the second highest paid QB in the league to catch a break for doing that. I’m just saying…

  • oldchiefsfan

    When it was first announced he was coming to the Chiefs I wasn’t very excited about it to say the least. I was on the Geno Smith bandwagon. I was wrong!!!!

    I began to hear Alex’s press conferences and began to get an inkling of what kind of person he appeared to be and I began to come around. I watched him engineer that first drive in pre-season and I started thinking maybe this IS the guy! Maybe we have found a real QB that can take us where we all want to go.

    Since he got here he really appears to want to be here and it is extremely obvious to me that he wants to win. I have heard the comments many times “He is a game manager.” Well after watching Cassel and Quinn thank god he is a game manager. It goes far beyond that to me though. He has shown excellent accuracy in the short to medium range passes. He is hitting receivers in stride. If there is nothing there he is perfectly capable of taking the ball down the field himself and he will fight for those tough yards. I admit he does scare me from time to time when he runs but he’s a REAL QB and he wants to win. If Alex Smith is able to take us to playoffs, and it appears he is, this city will back him and cheer for him. If he is able to win a playoff game this city will fall in love with him and if he gets us a Super Bowl he will become a legend in this city.

    Every time I watch him play I get a bit more enamored with him. When he talks you just know he wants to take our Chiefs back to the top.
    I have my first QB jersey in the 47 years that I have been a Chiefs fan. I wear my Number 11 proudly because I BELIEVE!!! The Chiefs have a REAL QB now!!!

    • Chris Tarrants

      First QB jearsey? Glad to hear that you are sporting a Smith jearsey. I am waiting, I want one also but I want to make sure he sticks first. These damn jearseys keep going up like they are made of pure egyption spun silk or something! I got a Trent Greene jearsey in 02 just to have my ex wife take it in the divorce

      • oldchiefsfan

        I generally go with Wide Receiver or Linebacker jerseys.

        • Chris Tarrants

          Hope you didn’t buy a Baldwin jearsey lol I have been cheap myself here lately I have only snagged a Berry and a Charles jearsey

          • oldchiefsfan

            No Baldwin but I do have a Bowe.

    • Jason Seibel

      I currently own three KC Chiefs jerseys. My most prized possesion is a Joe Montana #19, a D-Bowe #82 and my newest addition, a white, away #11. My brother told me I was crazy, but so far it’s looking like a great investment. We haven’t lost a game I’ve been wearing it at, so there’s that!

      • PunjabiPete

        I think I saw you at a recent game. While I can appreciate the superstition, wearing ONLY the jersey is ill-advised.

        All jokes aside, I wish we could go out and show the ENTIRE team the same level of support we show people like Justin Houston and Tamba Hali… what can it hurt? I am going to go out on a limb here and say if we have an Arrowhead like we did at the Giants game (and could that day have gotten ANY more beautiful? I had to pick my wife up from work right by the stadium at halftime and I almost teared up from pure, unadulterated jealousy), I think we can take Denver. I know, I know, I sound crazy and I accept that. I feel like we will eat it in Denver, but mark my words, if we have a convergence of the same when they come here, Manning won’t be able to get his calls off at the line and I think we win. A Dallas 1 point win, but I think it happens.

        How awesome is it that it’s possible when we meet we could be undefeated still? Does anyone know when the next tough game is going to be? Maybe Houston… I just don’t see Tennessee winning… Jeez my diabetes is acting up, can I get some sugar-free Kool-Aid here?

    • KCMikeG

      Well said old timer! I have been loyal to the Chiefs for 44 years falling for them in 1969 as an 8 year old boy who finally got to see them live for the first time for my 9th birthday present the following year. They lost badly to the Steelers but it didn’t matter. I was had been swept away by the Sea of Red. I vowed that the Chiefs would always be my team win or lose. I now am a season ticket holder sharing the joy of being a part of the Sea of Red with my children and now my grandson. It warms my heart knowing that they will be able to experience the sweet taste of successes as I did in 1969. It has been a long road with some incredibly exciting times but I have a feeling that we are all at the cusp of something very special. I believe we are about to experience the greatest success our franchise has ever known.

      • oldchiefsfan

        I got hooked when my Uncle and my Dad started taking me to games at the old Municipal Stadium. It was the season we lost to Green Bay in the 1st Super Bowl. I would have been 7 at the time if my ciphering is correct.

  • ILChiefan

    Great article, Jason. You covered a lot.
    I read on another blog that any Chief fans that will be at the game Sunday in Nashville should do their tailgating at the point where Lots B, C, and D meet. Hope to see other Chief fans there.

    • berttheclock

      Yes, do show those folks from Tennessee some real KC BBQ.

  • berttheclock

    One point on the evaluation of QBs by fans. Last season, in SF, the switch was made to CK. CK became the fans favorite. He was going to take them, on his talents alone, to the Promised Land of the Lombardi Trophy. Started this season as though that would be true, then, sputtered for the next two games. However, in his 4th game, he, once again, showed promise. Why the difference? It was due to the fact the Niners went back to their strength, which was superior offensive line text book blocking for Gore, which opened two freeways for him to romp. So, the defenses backed off CK and he flourished. He had more time to find receivers.

    The same is true for Alex Smith. Establish the run with Charles throwing fear into defenses and you will see far less blitzing and more time for Alex to set up.

    • Jason Seibel

      Let’s not forget that Smith’s numbers are better than CK’s so far this year. I’m just saying…

      • Chris Tarrants

        Exactly! Time is closing in to give kaperdinkle the monicker of Milli Vanilli because that kid is a won hit wonder who was lip syncing to Alex Smiths song

        • Jason Seibel

          Here’s what’s funny about Smith haters. They talk about Smith’s inability to put up yards, but right now, Smith is on target to throw for 3828 yards, 28 TDs and 8 INTs. All of these would be career numbers and a damn sight better than what any Chiefs QB has put up in the last ten years. I’m just sayin…

          • JimHarbaughsguys

            And, Alex has more yards, TD’s, more wins and fewer Int’s than Kap. All things that Smith haters ragged on about Alex, Smith has better numbers than Kap.

            So the Niners got rid of a guy who won more games than any other QB since 2011 in favor of a guy who puts up bigger numbers, but who in fact isn’t putting up bigger numbers this and hasn’t won as many games either. Despite the fact that Kap is on a Super Bowl team, and Alex is on a 2-14 team.

            The Chiefs have looked good in spots, but a lot of times, I can see a bunch of reasons why they were 2-14 last year. In the Philly game, they dropped a ton of passes, and they allowed pressure to get to Alex with a 3 man rush multiple times during the game. That shouldn’t happen 2 times all year.

            Reid is right when he says the Chiefs can improve a lot. The best part for Chiefs fans is that they can improve a whole lot while being 4-0.

    • Harm Williams

      Please don’t act like Kaepernick was lights out against St Louis. His stats were worse than what and below average game for Smith was in 2011. There is enough film on Kaepernick now that decent defenses are scheming him properly and taking away his running threat. Seattle showed the blueprint and the colts followed it. Now that Kaep is starting to have to become one dimensional, he is struggling because he isn’t as good at reading defenses, calling audible’s, and progressing through his reads compared to good/elite pocket passing QB’s in the league. We all know there is panic in the bay area right now because Balke and Harbaugh traded in the older reliable jeep for a shinny brand new suv that has all the bells and whistles but it has broken down a couple of times and it only has 10000 miles on the drivetrain.

      • JimHarbaughsguys

        Sad but true.

        Also, it is very interesting to note that the Niner win vs. the Rams was largely following the Alex Smith led Niner blueprint.

        Run a lot. Good defense. The very same things fans complained about as having Smith as their QB was “limiting”. Well, when Kap played poorly, what did they do? Give it to Gore.

    • KCMikeG

      It also helped that they played a horrible team in the rams.

  • steve james

    Good write up. I started this year with low expectations mentally nuked and emotionally drained and beat down as a fan. Hoping to reach 8-8. I think it would be hard to not reach that now, something horrible would have to happen. So I have raised the bar, sweep the Raiders, split with San Diego and the Donkey’s and walk into the playoffs. Wow, what an emotional year. Last year was just as emotional for me as a fan but for all the wrong reasons. I dare to hope and dream, worst to first? Could it be? O what a dream. Alex as superbowl mvp, Reid as coach of the year and Dorsey as gm of the year and me getting my Dex jersey signed at the superbowl. Off to get some work done with some pleasant dreams in the back of my mind.

    • Jason Seibel

      I had this team at 10-6 before the season started. I had them losing to the Giants, Texans, Broncos (x2), Redskins and splitting with the Chargers. They’re 4-0 where I had them at 3-1 and the Texans and Redskins don’t look as good as I thought they were going to be. I think this team has a shot at being 13-3 if it all falls right. Right now, the sky’s the limit and they’re only getting better.

      • steve james

        I agree but realistically they will still probably lose to the Texans. Being a home game may give them enough to get it done though. It is something to view the Chiefs as being able to compete with any team in the league. Such a different mindset as a fan than last year. If they keep it up it will be hard not to get cocky and I sure don’t want that. Then you would be acting like a donkey fan and they are just insufferable right now.

        • Harm Williams

          Did you see Shaub in the last game against the Seachickens? The Texans are coming apart at the seams and Arrowhead is gonna make Shaub nervous as hell. The Texans would have gotten destroyed by Seattle if they played in Seattle. Seattle’s D is good. I think the Chiefs is all around better than Seattle’s. If the Chiefs get by the Titans this week, I think they will be 9-0 going into the bye…

          • KCMikeG

            It is going to be difficult for any team to win at Arrowhead from now on. The NYG and Texans worried me the most preseason when I had us going 10-6. But now we know the giants failed miserably and the Texans are stumbling into Arrowhead after we dismantle what ever is left of the faiding faiders the week before while breaking the Guinness World record for decibels at an outdoor stadium. The games that concern me the most are the road game vs donkeys of course, the Bills (boy do we owe them!) and the Browns and Colts here at home. We will sweep the dolts and faiders. Peyton will crumble under our pressure and drown in the Sea of Red without the ability to change the plays at the line. WE HAVE TO FILL EVERY SEAT IN THE HOUSE AND SCREAM FOR OUR TEAM!!!! It was loud at the NYg game but Monday Night vs SD in 2010 was louder. Neither are worthy of the 116 decibel games and it will take us ALL to beat the record. BETHERE SUNDAY 10/13 LOUD & PROUD!!

          • oldchiefsfan

            We have tickets to the Browns game. Tried for tickets to the Faiders but damn they want an arm and both legs for them. The cheapest we found on stub hub were $400 a piece in the upper decks. 3 tickets was way out of my price range. We ended up with good seats for the Browns for 100 bucks a piece though. My son and I can do our customary walk around Arrowhead and drink beers before the game. We usually get 4 or 5 times around the stadium before the game. My wife doesn’t drink so she is designated driver and me and my boy can party for the game! Not sure what to expect from the Browns but I think we can beat anybody at Arrowhead from what I am hearing about the stadium this year. Arrowhead appears to be back!!!!

      • oldchiefsfan

        I had it at 10-6 before the season also. I just thought maybe I was an overly optimistic homer.

  • Gwoody

    Wow what a great article. Been a longtime fan of Alex since he played for Utah, and I’m really happy with what he has done so far in KC. Go chiefs!

    • Jason Seibel

      Thank you. I’m glad you like the write up.

  • D forte

    Nice article, my favorite Alex Smith moment (minus the Saints playoff game) was when Singletary tried to bench him vs Andy and his Eagles in 2010. The Niner were down about 20 points in the third. I had never seen Alex so fired up during a game, but seeing Vernon and Frank take his side, getting in Singletary’s face along with Alex was great. Alex responded by coming out winging it, he came up short but the final score was something like 27-24. I then realized, Alex does have the heart his former coach claimed he didn’t, he can wing it when needed, his teammates loved him and Singletary had lost control of his team.

    • JimHarbaughsguys

      And, guess, as if you don’t know, who the HC was on the other side of the field observing that shout-out?

      And the HC who was present in the game which truly put the Niners on the map in their comeback win vs. Philly on the road in 2011?

      There is a reason why Reid wanted Alex. He saw, first hand, just how good he can be.

  • Conman23

    Phenomenal article! Didn’t really sink in how crazy of a journey it’s been for AS11 until this read. I will say this with confidence: Any Chiefs fan who does not fully support Alex Smith is a buffoon. When is the last time us Chiefs fans had ANYTHING to be excited about? When is the last time we were actually ranked in the TOP 5 of power rankings? When is the last time we received an OUNCE of respect from the national media? AS11 has rejuvenated this franchise and has provided our fanbase with a sense of hope and pride. I can once again take out my Chiefs jersey and wear it without talking about “next years draft,” or “how good we COULD be.” No. Now I get to talk about the versatility and effectiveness of Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston potentially setting the NFL sack record, how Alex Smith’s style of play is PERFECT for this team. We may doubt it now, but I guaran-goddamn-tee that we are going to win the AFC West. Denver isn’t going to be perfect, and I KNOW that they’re terrified for their upcoming games against us. This all starts, and ends, with Alex Smith. Thank you AS11 for saving our franchise. Our prayers have been answered.

    • KCMikeG

      Amen brother!

  • Chris Tarrants

    Great article but there is something off topic that has been running through my mind for two days now. People said last week was a trap game for us against the gmen but every true fan knew we had that one. After reading comments from donkey fans could this be a trap game for them? Dallas has the guys to rush Manning and that’s how you beat him! We play the Titans without locker at the helm! Could we see a shift in the standings this week? Kc 5-0, Denver 4-1? It’s a possibility because as I said Dallas has weapons on offense and defense. How sweet would it be fans? Undefeated chiefs sitting atop the division

    • Jason Seibel

      There are a couple of things people (the media) are overlooking when it comes to the Broncos. They are quick to say the Chiefs are only looking this good because we’ve played substandard teams. I’m not disputing that fact. The combined record of Chiefs opponents in 2013 is 3-13. However, the combined record of teams the Broncos have played is 4-12. It’s not like Denver is knocking off the top teams in the league. In fact, in terms of “strength of shedule” the Broncos have the easiest schedule in the NFL this year. Doesn’t really seem fair, does it?

    • KCMikeG

      Dumbver is giving up almost 23 points per game, their offense is turning it over more than ours, they can’t get to the QB like we can and they have only played one road game vs the lowly nyg. i hope the Boys kick their asses (get it donkey/ass) all the way to the airport.

    • KCMikeG

      I got sick of hearing the “wounded animal” crap all week. That critter may have been wounded but we put it out of its misery KC style! I called the game 31 – 9 unless the Chiefs turned the ball over then 31-13. The truth was even better than my dreams!

  • ArrowFan

    Good Job, this was great. One question if Hardbro wasn’t and idiot and instead of going with Cap stayed with Smith, would the 9ers been SB champs?

    • Jason Seibel

      I think they would have. Smith would have figured out a way to score on that final drive when the Niners were so close.

      • KCMikeG

        Their loss is our gain. Fantastic work by R&D!

    • JimHarbaughsguys

      Alex never makes a deal with Crabtree to go to him no matter what, which Kap did make with Crabtree.

      And what happened? 3 passes. All to Crabtree. Even though on 2 straight plays, Davis and Walker were open for the winning TD in the endzone. But Kap didn’t bother looking. He made a promise to Crabtree to give him the ball.

      Do you think Alex throws the ball to Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker to win the game at the end? Well, he had already in 2 prior games. In Detroit 2011, Alex threw a strike to Delanie to beat the Lions in Detroit (they were 5-0 at that point). Then in the NO playoff game, he threw the winning TD pass to Davis.

      So, yeah. I do think Alex wins that game.

    • Suzi Conger

      Yes, with Alex

  • KCMikeG

    That was a fantastic read and one of the best articles I have ever read on AA or any where else for that matter. Thank you Jason! I believe R&D have created the perfect storm for Capt. Smith to navigate us to playoff victories! Alex Smith will step from the shadows this year to bathe in the glow of the Sea of Red! We are so blessed to be a Chiefs fan today and for years to come. Thank you Clark Hunt! Your father must be so proud of you!

  • Jamesvic

    I strongly disagree with the statement that niner fans were as happy to see Alex Smith go as chief fans were about Cassel leaving. Most niners fans were upset that he was leaving or happy that he was going to a good team that he could win with.

    Alex Smith is a top 10 QB. I personally think Colin Kaepernick is better and the niners made the right choice- but in no way did I ever think Alex Smith wasn’t a great qb and an even better person. My family all still keep track of Smith’s career- all of us want him to do well.

    I hope it is a niner/ chiefs super bowl.

    • Jason Seibel

      I will agree to disagree. I saw and have spoken to plenty of 49ers fans who couldn’t wait to get rid of Alex Smith. I will further disagree that Kaepernick is the superior quarterback. Everyone jumped on the CK7 bandwagon and thus far this season, Smith has outperformed CK in both stats and wins.

      • D forte

        I’d say it was around 50/50 split on happy/sad to see Alex “all I do is win” Smith leave. Before 2011 is would have been 90/10, if that, with me and a handful of others sticking up for him. An Kap maybe a better athlete then Alex, MAYBE (check the combine #’s), but Alex is a far superior passer. Kap has a big arm, but lacks accuracy, the ability to read a defense, and the touch Alex has. Also Kap’s throwing motion allows defenders to jump his receivers routes and break up the pass. For all that big arm is worth, Alex still had the longest pass through the air for the Niners last season, 56 yard bomb through the arm to Moss.

  • gtiger

    One detail to correct: in his first ever NFL game (against the Colts), Smith threw 4 interceptions, and fumbled once. He did not throw 5 INTs in that game.

  • Ignacio Facundo

    When I first heard about Jim Harbaugh trying to decide weather to go with Kaepernick or Smith for the saints game last year, i was baffled because I felt Smith was the guy for the job. Although Kaep did lead us to the superbowl, I feel his inexperience combined with his inability to manage a game was the reason the niners had to fight the entire time to stay in that game. It left a sour taste in my mouth when I read that he was gonna be traded in the first week of the new league year. Nonetheless, I’m hapy for Alex being able to find success in Kansas City. I still feel that Alex was the better choice since last year and I still hope that one day he’ll return to retire as a niner.

    • 7yahweh7

      Why would Smith degrade himself by retiring in the place where the fanatics, coaches and front office took a big dog sh*t on him? SF doesn’t deserve to have Smith back……. EVER.

      • Suzi Conger

        Totally true

  • JimHarbaughsguys

    You really messed up your Smith’s 3rd season summary.

    He had the Niners at 2-1. Then his shoulder was blown away. And the idiot HC, Nolan continued to throw him out there. Even Julian Peterson of the Seahawks said at the time that it was clear Smith was hurt.

    That injury is why his 3rd year did’t get off very well. You write it as if it was some minor injury. It was the guys shoulder. And Nolan made his injury worse by continuing to put him out there when he wasn’t healthy. Last I checked, shoulders are kinda important for QB’s.

    • Jason Seibel

      I just said he battled injury and another OC. As I’ve said before, this piece was already approaching 5,000 words. Some stuff had to be cut out.

      • JimHarbaughsguys

        You could have removed your next paragraph. And like you said. if you are approaching 5,000 words, why worry about adding another 10-20?

        That injury basically cost him 2 full seasons. If you’re documenting Alex Smith’s career, you need to make room to document basically 1/4 of his career. He had an 8, going into his 9 year career. You wrote 5,000 words, or on average 625 words per year. That injury was a huge deal for SF fans/media.

  • James Harper

    Excellent story. I’m a life-long 9ers fan and I totally called the Chiefs success. I predicted they’d go 11-5 at worst because Alex is a serious beast at QB. He isn’t a stats monster but that isn’t why he is great. He works hard and is as smart as there is in the NFL. He is also very experienced. He learned SEVEN different offenses while playing against the best football players in the world. There isn’t too much he hasn’t seen. He is limited in certain traits. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he knows that so he won’t do something to hurt his team. Why would he try to chuck it 70 yards if his surgically-repaired shoulder can’t do? Chiefs have legitimate shot at superbowl as long as Smith and Charles stay healthy.

    • Suzi Conger

      Great post James…well said.

  • csframeSD

    Very impressed with the article and even more impressed with how so many KC fans have embraced Alex Smith. It’s too bad my fellow 49ers fans never realized what we had.