Alex Smith was integral for this KC Chiefs era of success

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Alex Smith /

Alex Smith revived the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. He didn’t do it alone, mind you, as he had one of the most consistent and level-headed coaches in NFL history alongside him. Yet his leadership and cool-headedness, in a sport where fiery personalities are the rule and not the exception, was integral to this Chiefs era and the Lombardi Trophy they raised just 14 months ago.

In the six seasons preceding Smith, the Chiefs had anemic win totals of four games twice and two games twice. They had only finished above .500 one time in that span, with a postseason birth and first round exit in 2010, and they’d amassed an embarrassing record of 29 wins and 67 losses. More so than at any time in the franchise’s history, the Chiefs were the laughingstock in the NFL.

Yet it’s not as though the Chiefs of NFL-past were juggernauts of the gridiron whose shelves were adorned top to bottom with Lombardi Trophies. Outside of the great decade of the 1960s, in which the red and gold Chiefs often found themselves atop the AFC, the Chiefs had only won three playoff games in 44 seasons.

Much of that had to do with consistent quarterback play, something the Chiefs franchise was not known for. For 52 seasons—between 1965 and 2017—the team would only draft three quarterbacks in the first round. It’s no shock the position lacked any kind of consistency over this time frame.

Alex Smith was integral to this KC Chiefs era of success.

While the great franchises of the NFL had stalwarts at the position, future Hall of Famers whose careers with their respective teams seemed to stretch endlessly, following the retirement of Len Dawson, the Chiefs had only three quarterbacks start consistently for more than three seasons.

Alex Smith was the first quarterback to start consistently for the team since Trent Green, and for a time he had decidedly less talent to work with. Green had an all-time offensive line, a superstar running back, and arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the league. Those locker rooms were also just a few years removed from “Marty ball,” an era that while disappointing because of its promise and Chiefs legends, carried with it a level of respect and prestige the 2013 Chiefs simply did not have.

Smith took this all in stride. While his play lacked, for some, the electricity that some of the league’s greatest quarterbacks played with, Smith got the job done. In his five years as the starter Smith won 53 regular season games, nearly as many as the nine seasons before he arrived. The Chiefs were one of the winningest teams in the league during his stint, and made the playoffs every season except 2014. They finally got the proverbial monkey off their back, the first one of many, when they defeated the Houston Texans for their first playoff win in 22 seasons.

This is to say nothing of likely Smith’s greatest achievement as a member of the Chiefs. Many will try, and many will fail to cultivate a quarterback the way the 2017 Chiefs were able to. Every season, pundits swoon about the next “Smith-Mahomes” situation. The truth is, that’s rare for a reason. Most starting quarterbacks have no interest in nurturing their replacement. Just ask Joe MontanaTom Brady, or any number of people who have made it to the pinnacle of their profession.  Nobody in their right mind would help the person gunning for their job get better.

We don’t know the full extent of their relationship, but when most of these cases a mix of positive and negative stories come to light, not a single negative tale has ever seen the light of day. From all appearances, Smith was the consummate mentor to Patrick Mahomes.

It’s no surprise Smith was able to overcome a devastating leg fracture and pull off a tremendous comeback with the Washington Football Team. While I don’t necessarily gravitate toward the idea of “karma,” or “what goes around comes around,” the world tends to result in better outcomes for those who consistently carry themselves with dignity, grace, and kindness. I don’t know the man personally, but he cultivated that character at least publicly.

After resurrecting the hope of another fan base, the third of his career, Smith has decided at the ripe old age of 36 to call it a career. Though his time on the gridiron may be over, his impact in Chiefs Kingdom will live on for years to come.

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