In this piece, I want to discuss why I think Alex Smith was brought here. Some on this blog cannot find any reason to do so, noting the following reasons:
a) He is a re-tread, somebody who is old team doesn't value enough to keep.
b) He is a game-manager, incapable of carrying a team on his back.
c) Only reason he was as good as he played the last 2 years were that he had the best coach and team in the NFL to support him.
d) We are "fearful" to draft our own QB, so we settle with a safe option.
e) The cost was too much, 2 high draft picks.
However, I believe there are compelling reasons why this was done.
The Chiefs are in a window of time, whether some recognize it or not, to win. It may come as a surprise to some that this team is not fully rebuilding after being the worst team (by far) in the NFL last season. However, many of our core players are all in their prime and cannot wait for years to hope we can develop a QB in this draft:
Derrick Johnson 30
Tamba Hali 29
Dwayne Bowe 28
While we do have some younger guys ready to step up like Houston (24), Poe (22) and Berry (24), our core players above are what this team has been built around. We cannot hope for Geno Smith or another QB to lead their teams to instant success like latest crop of rookies, this is the exception to the rule. Alex Smith provides that instant credibility and trust at the QB position that no other option on the market provides. It gives a chance for this team to let all of these players succeed right now.
Moreover, as we look at the recent signings the Chiefs have made, many of the new players are citing how they are "buying into" what the Chiefs are pitching them. How many potential FAs would sign with the Chiefs knowing we would "possibly" draft Geno Smith? Alex Smith provides instant credibility which allows the Chiefs to be players in FA.
PART OF A GROWING TEAM IDENTITY: RECLAMATION OF SUCCESS
No player and coach in the NFL has had a further fall from grace than Alex Smith (ok, maybe Mark Sanchez) and Andy Reid. Perhaps no organization had a sharper decline and season of humiliation than the Chiefs have had. When Clark Hunt was shopping around for his new head coach, he was looking for someone who could rid them of the stain of last season and change the culture in Kansas City. Sure, you can change the culture instantly by adding Peyton Manning; however, such an option is not available. One can add a dynamic young rookie with an ever-growing ability to learn whose first step seems more impressive than some player's entire career; however such an option was likely not available. These are the quick fix ways to change you organization. However, drafting 1st round QBs won't always solve your problems (see: Jax, Tenn, Minn, Oak). Adding a stabilizing force with someone with experience and room for growth is much the safer bet. Although Alex Smith will not bring that instant success that Manning did, Alex provides that edge Andy Reid describes in the above video. Although Andy does describe the fit for "his offense" (which Alex actually does fit fairly well), he also fits a mold that Clark and Andy have been eager to fill.
Some may call this group a band of "re-treads" or "previous failures." I see this group more hungry than those trying to establish themselves in the first place. While the others have never tasted success or been close to it, both have been to the Super Bowl and came away empty. Both have been rejected by their previous regime for "younger and newer." Sometimes tasting success--but never getting it-- can lead one to become even more hungry for it than never having tasted it before.
Other storylines include: Bowe proving that he can become a top receiver with a competent QB; Eric Berry proving he is who everyone says he is (and that he isn't the 2nd best safety in his draft class); Others who want to show they are not declining: Tamba Hali and Dunta Robinson among others. Sean Smith will want to prove he can overcome his inconsistency issues. Geoff Schwartz and Jeff Allen will want to prove they can become starters. The team seems to be shaking up full of people who have something to prove. This edge may very well be the culture change that was envisioned.
Alex Smith is capable of seeing the field in front of him. He will more often than not make the right decision--or at least not a bad one. Here, Alex finds that Crabtree got tugged on his shirt very subtly (you can't see it on the bottom of the screen). Alex scans the whole field and throws the ball to force the PI call. This is a very high IQ quarterback play.
Yes, he has great O-line help and the run game sets up the play. However, that is not a deficency, it is the sign of a balanced and complete team, one which Alex Smith fits right in. He doesn't have to do everything on his own.
Smith will give a chance for our play-makers to have the ball in their hands. He will give a chance for Dexter McCluster to take on his man in space with an open stride. He will give Bowe a chance to shove a defender to the floor after a quick pass. He will give Charles the ball in open space to slip past someone as if he wasn't there.
Taking Care of the Football
The Chiefs in 2012 turned over the ball 37 times last season, tying for worst in the NFL. I remember re-watching the 1st half of the Chargers game in Arrowhead and marveled at the 5 TOs in the 1st half.
Smith has a career 2.9% INT rate. This is not stellar; however, there has been a decrease in his most recent years, pointing towards his growth:
*Of note, this was his season with the MOST pass attempts (445).
These two factors alone will skyrocket the amount of wins we get. However, there are areas of concern for me coming into this next season. We all have no idea how Andy Reid will run his offense but these are areas to monitor:
Amount of Sacks
Alex Smith has taken a lot of sacks, especially in the last few seasons:
2011: 2.8 sacks/game
2012: 2.4 sacks/game
2010: 2.3 sacks/game
There are a few reasons for this.
1) Alex Smith does not have great pocket presence. He will on occasion be able to dodge someone coming at him but he will often fall into the lap of someone else. His lack of ability to manipulate the pocket can backfire on him.
2) He will hold onto the ball too long sometimes and try to wait for a play to develop. This isn't bad; however, taking a sack is a costly mistake when done poorly.
Alex Smith has never been very efficient on 3rd down. This is one of the key QB stats you look at and he has been subpar throughout his career. During his last full season, the Niners were 31st in 3rd down conversion. Better playcalling, taking less sacks, establishing better position on each down will help solve these problems.
Of course, Andy Reid and co have all of these stats, better ones too. They have seen this and watched the film and determined that he is the best QB available, perhaps even good enough to be for the long term. From the look of the FA so far, Reid intends to surround Smith with many different weapons. Moreover, fortifying the defense and offensive line will be in line with how the Niners maximized Smith's value.
All in all, Smith was the way Reid and co saw was the best piece to maximize the value of every player on this team. He will get the ball in the hands of our play-makers and keep the game flow going well. This move makes perfect sense given the age of our roster and their desire to be active in free agency. It has been a while but Kansas City is in win-now mode and brighter days appear to approaching.