Alex Smith only know how to spell redemption one way. P-L-A-Y-O-F-F V-I-C-T-O-R-Y
The man has had quite a year and a half. Just over midway through last season, Smith was the starting quarterback for another franchise, the San Francisco 49ers. He had led his team to the NFC Championship Game the year before, falling just short of punching a ticket to the Superbowl against the eventual champion New York Giants. Last season, he was well on his way to taking his team back to the big dance when he was hit in the head and missed a game due to a concussion.
That Week 10 match up last season would prove to be his last as a starter for the 49ers, a tenure that proved to have its ups and downs.
After surviving through a different offensive coordinator — and thus different offensive system — every year he spent in San Francisco, not to mention three head coaches, it’s no wonder Smith was eager to leave the train wreck behind.
He was blamed for the poor performance of the 49ers from day one, but never given the offensive weapons — or system — needed to succeed. The history of Smith has been well documented, as has his transition to the Chiefs, and I won’t try to rehash it here. What I will say that for this “marriage” to finally be “consummated” the Chiefs need a playoff win.
Would the 49ers have released Smith outright from his contract had they not found a trading partner for his services? I don’t think it very likely. Jim Harbaugh isn’t stupid and neither is general manager Trent Baalke. They knew that they had a good quarterback on their roster and let’s face it; the NFL is a business. Good feelings and “thanks for what you’ve done for us” be damned, they’re not going to give something for nothing. That’s why they wouldn’t release Smith and it’s why the Chiefs ended up paying the price for him that they did.
With Alex coming to Kansas City, there was a lot of expectations. He would be playing under famed “QB Whisperer” Andy Reid. Though he wasn’t a Reid draftee, the Chiefs new head coach had reportedly been quite high on Smith since his college days and had even contacted the 49ers about a trade for Smith earlier, when he was still coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
With a 1-1 playoff record and coming off of a season and a half of good performance, Smith was expected to produce immediately — even if nobody would say it. The last thing this fan base wanted was another Matt Cassel debacle.
With the team starting out 9-0 before the bye week, the expectations got higher and higher with each week. Granted, Smith wasn’t lighting up the stat book or the scoreboard. In fact, of the 23 touchdowns Smith threw this season, only nine came before the break in Week 10. During that nine game winning streak, Smith went three games without even throwing a TD pass.
Regardless, he managed Reid’s offensive system well, and put play makers like Jamaal Charles in position to score touchdowns on the ground. The fact that the Chiefs had the best defense in the league through nine games and one of the easiest schedules didn’t hurt either.
Of course going 2-5 in the final seven games including losing to every AFC playoff team they played (and twice to the Bronocs and Chargers) doesn’t instill much confidence. But how bad can it be? With the exception of the loss against the Colts two weeks ago, the Chiefs lost their other four games by a combined total of 23 points. That’s less than six points per game. To say they were in those games, is an understatement.
But the real question is: Can Smith do what many think is the impossible with this Chiefs team. Can he take a squad that was 2-14 last season and do something no quarterback wearing the Red and Gold of the Chiefs has been able to do since Joe Montana wore the uniform? Can the team complete the Cinderella Story with a playoff win?
If they can, the two second round picks the Chiefs used to bring Smith to Kansas City would see to be well spent. However, if the Chiefs are “one and done” like so many playoff games since 1994, many will begin to question Smith’s worth immediately and the calls for a new quarterback will start anew.
It’s quite the monkey on your back, Mr. Smith. Now, it’s up to you.