Why Alex Smith will be the 2018 starter despite Patrick Mahomes’ showing today

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes /

Week 17 represents the opportunity to see into the future of the Chiefs, but success will continue to ride with record breaking Alex Smith

It goes without saying that I am excited to see the first quarterback drafted in Patrick Mahomes since Todd Blackledge (in 1983) start for the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.

Sunday’s end of season trip to the Mile High Stadium, with a second successive division title already secured (who thought we’d be saying that four weeks ago!), is a perfect opportunity to provide the former Red Raider with real game snaps. While I’m looking ahead in anticipation, having only run the scout team in mimicking the opposing quarterbacks all season long, I am also nervous. If you could find a crystal ball into where this Chiefs franchise will be in 2-3 years time, Sunday’s matchup is as close as you could get.

I expect the son of the former major league baseball pitcher of the same name to be raw and rusty, of course‚—thats the nature of being a rookie in the NFL. As a scout I’ll be looking for the next-level, elite flashes he will show—and he will—as well as the self-confidence without being cocky to dust himself down and the short memory that stood out to me during his time under Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Throughout the excitement since the announcement on Monday of his starting, it is assumed widely that Alex Smith is in his final bow as the face of the franchise and Sunday is purely practice for Mahomes ahead of starting in week one in defence of the AFC West title next season.

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Not so fast. It is assumed without basis that Alex Smith will be traded this offseason. The former 49er has just eclipsed his own career records, becoming just the fifth passer in NFL history to have  thrown for 4,000 yards and completed five times more touchdowns than he did picks—joining the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. He’s led an underachieving franchise to consistency and stability into a perennial playoff presence.

Many point to him having seen the best of his career, but I counter this, with Smith doing what so many said he could not do and air it out, this season being the top quarterback when throwing deep, throwing the most passes over both 20 and 40 yards he has ever done. The same offense he has led with toughness and tenacity to launch two 1,000 yard receivers in the process and a division title having dug out his team over the line and in postseason form.

Of course, the assumption I speak of revolves around the final year of his contract, the elephant in the room. We are also armed with the reality that the Chiefs have the worst cap space in the league this offseason. The $17m cap saving in trading Smith gives further credence to the majority who see no room for him in the 2018 destiny of the team.

However, what the narrative does not consider is the fact that having had as good as close to an MVP-caliber campaign, his trade this offseason becomes a more distant possibility with each passing week. Smith is Andy Reid’s quarterback and he rightly wants stability and insurance at the position. With that in mind, there has to be consideration that Smith will consider a ‘team-friendly’ dealt or backdated guaranteed money arrangement to stay on the team.

I qualify this with the acceptance that I have not spent any time in the building or the quarterbacks room this year. We hear whispers of Patrick Mahomes developing quicker than his coaches ever anticipated and having scouted him in college and knowing his character this doesn’t shock me. That said, going from scout team quarterback to starting as the face of the franchise while jettisoning the very basis of Kansas City’s success these past (winning) 5 years doesn’t make sense. If Smith opts not to shift around his numbers, and who could blame him after the season he is having then there will be of course little the front office can do but try and trade him.

However, with all things being equal, and a deal reached, Kansas City can go into the 2018 season, remembering they will have to go into New England, Seattle and Pittsburgh with the security of one of the best passers in the NFL and the experience he brings with the excitement of a nearly ready Mahomes waiting to take the reins.

The alternative is a potentially disastrous one. Allow Smith to head to one of the Chiefs main AFC rivals, be it Jacksonville, Buffalo or Denver, and you enhance your competition while asking a first year starter to carry the reigns and potential injury, leaving the Chiefs with no fall-back option. The thin line between 10-6 and 6-10 has never been more narrow in the NFL.

Sunday’s matchup will be exciting. I am a huge fan of Patrick Mahomes, but let’s not cash in all our chips just yet if we have a chance of ensuring long-term success. The longer the gunslinger has time to soak up all that experience, get comfortable with the terminology and being an NFL quarterback, the better the odds on him succeeding will be.

Barring a spectacular showing by the rookie on Sunday, Alex Smith will still be the starter in week one of the 2018 NFL season, and will need all that experience to defend the title and ensure a seamless transition to the future of Kansas City Chiefs football.