I’m going on record before we get into this conversation that I like Alex Smith. The 31-year-old quarterback and first-overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft has his warts, but he can lead my team anytime. Already, some of you are nodding your heads, and some want to punch me through the computer. That’s alright. You just needed to know my stance before we move along.
Smith is never going to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. However, the Kansas City Chiefs have been just fine in the regular season without him doing that over his two years here. In that span, the Chiefs have posted consecutive winning seasons, something they had not done since Dick Vermeil and Trent Green were running the show.
In 2012, Smith made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after leading Kansas City to an unlikely playoff berth. The former San Francisco 49er threw for 3,313 yards with 23 touchdowns (career-highs) and seven interceptions. Last year, Smith regressed to 3,265 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. In both years, Smith played in 15 games.
On most teams, those numbers would be ugly. Few teams in the NFL are built to win with a quarterback failing to throw for 3,500 yards and 25+ touchdowns. Yet, that is exactly what Kansas City can do.
Look, the Chiefs don’t need to be airing it out. In fact, I would argue they are better off using a controlling ground attack and short passes, a staple of the West Coast offense which head coach Andy Reid runs. When you have Jamaal Charles, De’Anthony Thomas and Travis Kelce, the best course of action is getting the ball in their hands with room to roam.
All that said, Smith needs to start taking some more shots downfield with Jeremy Maclin and Albert Wilson in the fold. Both have top-tier speed and (Maclin, especially) has shown a penchant for getting open. Smith has to be willing and able to unload the deep ball when applicable. In fairness, you also need protection to throw long. Smith was pounded last year and had terrible receivers for the most part. Think about this…outside of Dwayne Bowe, Smith was throwing to Junior Hemingway, Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins and Frankie Hammond most of the year.
Done violently throwing up yet? Yeah, neither is Smith.
For the Chiefs to win the AFC West and make a run at the Super Bowl, I believe Smith needs a career year, but nothing insane. I’m thinking somewhere around 3,700 yards with 27 touchdowns and less than 12 interceptions. Above all, I want to see that turnover number staying low. With a defense like Kansas City’s, don’t give any team a short field to work with. Smith is typically excellent in this portion of the game.
With Charles, Kelce, Maclin, Thomas, Wilson, Jason Avant and Knile Davis, along with the rookies, Smith has more talent around him than ever before. Add in the changes to the offensive line, and Smith should be jumping for joy (although that’s still not a great unit).
If Smith can perform and take some calculated risks, Kansas City should be a juggernaut if healthy. If not, it could be a struggle to make any noise in the playoffs.