The story of the 2017 Chiefs’ quarterback room is well-told in Kansas City. After the team traded up to No. 10 to select Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech, the incumbent starting quarterback, Alex Smith, was told he would be the starter for the season as Mahomes learned what it meant to be a professional football player.
Smith handled it like — well, a pro. In years past, head coach Andy Reid has said that Mahomes owed Smith a mansion for what that year meant for his growth. Rather than look at the rookie Mahomes as a competitor, Smith took him under his wing.
The Chiefs traded Smith the next offseason to Washington. The rest is history.
The anecdote popped up again earlier this week as Reid joined “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” Its relevance has re-emerged with veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill recently scoffing at the idea of mentoring rookie Malik Willis.
“We’re competing against each other,” Tannehill said of Willis, via NFL.com. “We’re watching the same tape, we’re doing the same drills. I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him, but if he learns from me along the way then that’s a great thing.”
Smith handled things differently.
“I told Alex, ‘Man go out and have the greatest year you’ve ever had and to you don’t have to teach Pat. We’re here to do that as coaches. You’re out there to go produce and win games and do the best you possibly can for your team.’ And so that’s the way we approached it with him,” Reid told Cowherd, via The Kansas City Star. “Now Alex by nature, though, was the greatest thing that ever happened to Patrick Mahomes. There are different ways to do this thing, whether you play the player right now or some behind a veteran player. Alex was perfect for that. Alex did let Patrick into his world without being forced on it or anything and he let Patrick in it.
“Patrick handled it the right way and didn’t step in the way of Alex and what he needed to produce and had respect for him. So it worked out perfect. I didn’t have to say a whole lot other than, ‘You go play and go win games, let’s go win a championship. and do the best you possibly can do at the quarterback position.’”
Smith was the Chiefs’ starter from 2013-17, a stretch that saw Kansas City make the postseason four times and notch its first playoff win in more than two decades. For several reasons, Smith belongs in the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor.