Forever a Kansas City Chief: A letter to Alex Smith

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on as the Chiefs play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys won 28-17. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on as the Chiefs play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys won 28-17. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

After watching ESPN’s ‘Project 11’, a documentary on former Chiefs QB Alex Smith, there are some things that I’d really like the quarterback to know.

Dear Alex,

You don’t know me, but I’m a fan. I’m an Alex Smith fan and a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. I’ve been a fan of the Chiefs for decades. While Chiefs Kingdom has suffered through some down years, I also have some truly amazing memories from following the Chiefs, which is why I keep coming back year after year. I’ve seen a lot of former players come and go. Some exits were devastating and others, well, not so much.

I’ve been writing about this team for almost a decade now, but I’ve never written a letter directly to a player before—until now.

Before I even get to the emotions I felt watching ESPN’s recent E60 documentary Project 11, I need to back up a little. I need to go back to 2012, the darkest time in my history as a sports fan. As I already stated, following the Chiefs has given me a lifetime of good memories. Even when the Chiefs didn’t win, following the team still brought me joy. I love watching Chiefs football, but 2012 was different.

I’m guessing no fan ever enjoys seeing their team lose week after week. A 2-14 season stinks. Period. But this was worse than just a losing season. Something felt broken. The fans (that showed up) wore black to the games and paper bags on their heads. There were banners flying over the stadium begging the team to make a change and “Save Our Chiefs”. The fans were so desperate for any change that they cheered when the backup came in for an injured Matt Cassel, leading to Eric Winston‘s much publicized “sickening and disgusting” rant.

Then on December 1st, what already felt like the darkest time in my life as a Chiefs fan would get significantly darker when Jovan Belcher would first take the life of Kassandra Perkins before driving to the Chiefs facility and taking his own in front of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. This was beyond sports now. There was no more joy.

Everything felt broken. Chiefs Kingdom felt broken.

It was the closest I ever came to walking away from my fandom. I didn’t really want to watch anymore. I certainly didn’t know what to write. The only thing that kept me going was the idea that change would come that offseason. If that change could just re-ignite some spark of hope, maybe everything would be okay.

That spark came when Clark Hunt hired Andy Reid as the Chiefs new head coach. Reid was a well-respected coach and proven winner. All he needed was a Super Bowl for his resumé. The hiring of John Dorsey as general manager would soon follow. I don’t know if I was ever as excited to see what the Chiefs would do in free agency and the NFL draft. In my excitement, I convinced myself that the Chiefs should draft Geno Smith with the first overall pick for Andy Reid to groom and develop. I even made a 14 minute long Youtube video breaking down why he was the right man for the job. I was SO excited for the Chiefs to have their own quarterback, not another hand-me-down from another team.

Then the trade that brought you to Kansas City was announced. I’ll admit, I was frustrated. “Another hand-me-down!” I thought. “And not only another hand-me-down, but it’s another San Francisco 49ers hand-me-down! First Joe Montana, then Steve Bono, then Elvis Grbac, and now Alex Smith. When are we going to get our guy?!”

Here’s the thing, Alex: like a lot of fans and especially a lot of us that write things on the internet, I was wrong. The Chiefs didn’t need Geno Smith. They needed Alex Smith. A rookie wasn’t going to steady a ship that had been rocked by a 2-14 season and all the drama that came along with it—not even with the steady influence of a coach like Andy Reid.

I didn’t see it then, but I do now. The Chiefs needed you as much as you needed them. After everything you went through in San Francisco, it was the right fit for both of you. Then factor in everything that went on in coach Reid’s personal life, and it’s clear that this union was bound to help everyone. The Chiefs may not have won a Super Bowl during your tenure, but the rebirth of the Chiefs franchise was, in a lot of ways, every bit as important. One could not have happened without the other.

That brings us back to present and what you’ve gone through recovering from your injury. As I watched Project 11, I was truly amazed by your mental toughness and perspective. If ever there was an athlete that could have become bitter and felt sorry for themselves, it’s you.

What must have felt like a dream come true, being the first pick in the NFL draft, turns to frustration as injuries, an endless turnover of offensive coordinators, and (you won’t say it, but I will for you) sub par talent around you keeps you from really being able to show what you are capable of. Then, finally, Jim Harbaugh arrives and provides the stability you need to shine. Things are starting to really look promising and another injury causes you to lose your starting job. Suddenly you have to watch your team play in the Super Bowl from the sideline.

Then comes the fresh start in Kansas City. You help a desperate franchise bounce back from its darkest hour and instantly return to winning and respectability. The franchise is reborn. Coach Reid’s career is reborn. Your career is reborn. Then just when things are looking really good again, the Chiefs draft the most dynamic young quarterback the league has seen in years. You still don’t complain. Not only do you not complain, you take Patrick Mahomes under your wing and help groom him. You have a direct impact on his rise to stardom. Then you are forced to step aside so he can shine.

While I’m sure every fiber of your being wanted to stay and see things through in Kansas City, you get another chance with the Washington Redskins. The Redskins make a major commitment to you to bring that same leadership and stability to their franchise as you did for us in K.C. It appeared to be working, too. The season was off to a good start—then the injury.

I sat and watched that documentary and tried to put myself in your shoes and I simply couldn’t do it. I can’t imagine—from frustrations of the start of your career in San Francisco to the loss of your starting job, from getting a fresh start in Kansas City to losing your job again to a young quarterback, from yet another opportunity in Washington to the devastating injury and subsequent concerns for your life.

I’m a pretty positive person. I don’t get down too often. I try to trust my faith in hard times. But as much as I hate to admit it, if I was in your shoes, I don’t think I could have taken any more at that point. I would have had some very angry conversations with God at that point. “I’ve gone through all of this and now I may lose my leg? What more do you want from me? Better yet, why me to begin with?!”

That’s where I would have been. So when I heard your wife say that you told her that there were countless people that would kill to switch places with you because of all that you’ve been blessed with, it hit me. HARD. I’ve seen some amazing plays on the football field. I’ve seen quarterback sacks that had me standing up to cheer and touchdowns that made me run through the house in joy. However, I don’t think any play on the field has ever impressed me more than hearing about your outlook despite all of what you were going through. I love football, but that moment was bigger than football, and I don’t think there’s a person on this planet that could have handled that situation better than you did.

I wish there was something I could do to say thank you, some way for me to show my respect and appreciation for what you did for my team, some expression of my admiration for how you’ve carried yourself through all of this. The Chiefs Kingdom got their Super Bowl win. The journey from that nightmare in 2012 to champions is complete. Andy Reid got the Super Bowl win he deserved and needed to complete his Hall of Fame career. You got traded to Washington and suffered an injury so bad that it threatened your very way of life.

That’s not fair.

It’s not fair, but you don’t seem phased and I simply can’t find the words to tell you how impressed by that I am. I don’t know what the future holds for you. I don’t know if you’ll ever take another snap in the NFL again, but I am here to tell you that you don’t have to because you’ve already won. You’ve won something bigger than a football game. You’ve gone through things that should make you a miserable, angry and bitter person and the fact that you’re not is a triumph. I am a fan and I always will be.

Even if you aren’t able to play another game, I hope you’ll return to Arrowhead some time soon. You are an essential part of the story that is the Chiefs’ return to Super Bowl glory. The Super Bowl winning team was built on the foundation that you helped lay. I can’t speak for all of Chiefs Kingdom, but if you do return to Arrowhead, I will be there cheering. I’ll cheer a player that helped take my team from the darkest point in franchise history to a Super Bowl winner and I’ll cheer a man that has earned my respect in ways that simply scoring touchdowns never could. I’m also guessing that I won’t be the only one.

So thank you Alex Smith, and know that you will always be a Kansas City Chief.

dark. Next. Grading each of the Chiefs draft choices