From the FanPosts — JD
As the sun set on the 2012 NFL season, I had pretty much decided that I was finished with the Kansas City Chiefs.
And I have tried to be a good fan. The losing I could deal with. But by that time, the cat was out of the bag as to what was happening inside the building. So it wasn’t just the losing. It was the losing combined incompetence at the top that showed no sign of changing.
As the season went down the stretch, I knew we would be picking in the top five of what every analyst said was a terrible draft.
Then, December 1, 2012 happened.
After the Jovan Belcher incident, the Chiefs were the black eye of the sports world. There would be no lovable losers aspect to a team racing to the No. 1 pick. It was a franchise so stained that from the outside looking in, it felt like it was time to move on.
After eight seasons of faithfully following the Chiefs from Fort Worth, Texas, I felt finished. After the incident, I felt that I could never watch a game with the childlike innocence and blind faith with which I had grown up — and that had sustained me through the Gunther Cunningham and Dick Vermeil years.
I was encouraged when the team finally let Scott Pioli go. However, I felt Andy Reid was a washed-up coach who never rebounded from his Super Bowl loss. And as for Alex Smith — despite having a couple of solid seasons with the San Francisco 49ers later in his career — he felt like a bust of a No. 1 overall pick.
I was not sold, but I decided I would give the new regime a chance.
With the lowest expectations, I went to a bar to watch Smith's first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After years of horrific play, I was thrilled when the Chiefs won — although, in that game, Smith did not exactly distinguish himself from Matt Cassel.
But the next week, the Chiefs played the Dallas Cowboys. Living in Fort Worth, I had been invited to multiple watch parties, where the hosts were certain they'd be able to rib me as Dallas took down Kansas City. Except in that game, Alex Smith went toe-to-toe with Tony Romo — and the Chiefs went to 2-0 with a solid (if unspectacular) 17-16 win.
Then almost in the blink of the eye, Alex Smith had taken the Chiefs to 9-0.
Yeah, the bubble burst. The way the Chiefs closed the season — going from 9-0 to 11-5 — was a clue that the magical start was pretty much a dream. In the postseason, every ghost of past playoff nightmares seemed to happen at once — except bad quarterback play. Against the Indianapolis Colts, Smith turned in what was probably his best game of the season; in the list of reasons the Chiefs lost, Smith was a non-factor.
The following year, the Chiefs followed that postseason appearance with a very ho-hum 9-7 team that missed the playoffs. Smith's play was neither great nor terrible — but we felt like the team was trending down.
...which brings me to the reason I love Alex Smith: the 2015 season. In my mind, that season-best illustrates the culture that Reid and Smith brought to Kansas City.
After a 1-5 start that included Jamaal Charles being lost for the season with a torn ACL, it looked like the Chiefs were once again racing to the number one pick of the draft. But at the end of October, Kansas City hosted a 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers squad. They beat the Steelers 23-13 — and didn't lose again for the rest of the regular season.
Smith had some very unremarkable stats that season. But though I am generally a believer in things that can't be quantified with stats, I do not believe that the 10-win stretch that took Kansas City to the playoffs would have happened without Smith under center.
At a time when it looked like the 2013 run was a fluke — and that the team was headed straight back to the old days — the Chiefs had gone from 1-5 to a becoming a 11-5 Wild Card team with Smith as quarterback. And at the age of 33, I saw something I had not witnessed since I was in seventh grade: the Chiefs won a playoff game, defeating the Houston Texans 30-0.
It's easy to say that Smith didn't do anything special that season. But he was able to do something that so many other Chiefs quarterbacks had been unable to do since Joe Montana in 1994: make the playoffs -- and win.
I honestly wish that night in Houston was the end of Smith's time in Kansas City. The following weekend in New England — in a game where it never felt like the Chiefs had any chance of winning — he played fine But after the 2015 playoff win, the stakes started to feel higher. The playoff losses to the Steelers and Tennessee Titans over the next two seasons soured us on Smith — even though statistically, they were the two best seasons of his career.
Rightly or wrongly, Smith's limitations became even more apparent when Patrick Mahomes took the same cast to an offsides call away from the Super Bowl in 2018. Now that we're years past the emotional high we felt at the time, the unprecedented success of the last three years has made us look back at the Smith years and come away unimpressed. And that's probably unfair. Alex Smith was the quarterback we needed at the time. His story is one of the rare examples of how a player's intangibles (and impact on team culture) can end up being more important than anything quantifiable on the field.
Still, Smith probably should edge out Trent Green as the third-best Chiefs quarterback of all time. With 12 fewer games played, he is within 4,000 yards and 16 touchdowns of Green. For me, Smith's higher completion percentage, higher passer rating and 52 fewer interceptions give him the edge. Smith also was the quarterback for four playoff teams and won a playoff game as the Chiefs quarterback.
I have seen a ton of speculation about what Smith will do next. I very much doubt he will go into any kind of coaching. Most players who have made close to $200 million will likely be uninterested in the insane hours a quarterback coach or offensive coordinator must put in. I would say he is probably more likely to land a front office position or a job in an athletics department at a university than try to enter coaching. Other business opportunities will present themselves as well. While his inspirational story is still on everyone's mind, he could land a network or sports media job — if he wants it.
And if he attaches himself to an NFL team in an advisory or consulting role, it's pretty clearly more likely to be with his college coach Urban Meyer in Jacksonville than with Andy Reid in Kansas City. As much as we appreciate his professionalism in mentoring Mahomes — and then being stoic about being traded — professionalism and courtesy go both ways. As fans, we need to understand he is a competitor. It would be totally understandable if he doesn't have the warmest feelings towards the Chiefs. Just because he was so professional about it doesn't mean he was totally OK with it.
So at this point, I do not expect he feels any kind of loyalty to Kansas City. It is enough that while he was here, he did his job in the best way that could be expected of him — and when his time was done, accepted his fate with class. A great number of players could — and should — learn from his example.
I would like to thank Alex Smith for coming to Kansas City — and showing me that the Chiefs were a team that still deserved my affection. I have been inspired by his ability to return from a devastating injury and compete on the field. From the time I started watching the Chiefs to the beginning of the Mahomes era, the playoff win in Houston — and the two huge primetime wins against Tom Brady and the Patriots — are definitely among my top five moments as a fan.
May Alex Smith find success in all he does.