It’s all but official that Alex Smith is now poised to become the next starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. In a move that has been speculated about for nearly a week now (though still not official; trades cannot be made before March 12th), the Chiefs will send this year’s 2nd round draft pick (1st pick of the round) PLUS a conditional pick next year, to the San Francisco 49ers for the services of the veteran QB.
The early, prevailing opinion amongst Chiefs’ fans seems to be that new general manager John Dorsey needs to be murdered by a thousand rabid dogs, and new head coach Andy Reid is as bad as Hitler at a baby seal clubbing party.
I see things differently.
In fact, I really like this move. It’s what I’d hoped they’d do all along. (Well, once it became apparent that Smith was a goner in SF.) I’ll explain why.
Sure, by all technical definitions, Smith DID become a clipboard-holder during last year’s campaign. How did he get that job? Not by ineffectiveness, but by injury. After suffering a concussion, he ceded his spot to the sensational Colin Kaepernick. This said very little about Smith’s lack of abilities but everything about the long-term plans of the 49er’s organization. The torch would have been passed sooner or later, and with Smith’s injury, it was simply an expedited succession.
Smith is not Matt Cassel 2.0. Alex Smith was a number one overall draft pick in 2005 with all of the promise in the world. He struggled mightily in his first few seasons (which I’m sure had NOTHING to do with the scores of head coaches and coordinators who came and went) before finding a remarkable balance under Jim Harbaugh. Cassel was a backup in high school, a backup in college and a late-round draft pick backup who put together one decent season with a fantastic cast in New England before parlaying that into a gigantic payday from the perpetually QB-talent bereft Chiefs. Not quite apples and oranges, maybe, but perhaps the difference between a Red Delicious and a worm-holed Jonathan that has been accidentally stepped on by the kind Mexican gent who sold it to you.
Most experts acknowledge that there is NO consensus number-one quarterback to be had in this year’s NFL draft. And yes, this sucks because the Chiefs have the first pick, but complaining about this is like blaming Obama when you get dick-cancer: it’s not Obama who gave you the dick-cancer. Sure, Geno Smith might go on to be the next Cam Newton, but he could just as easily become JaMarcus Russell Lite (okay—unlikely, but you know what I’m getting at). Chances are, the experts are probably pretty right, and he’ll be somewhere in between, living comfortably in the land of quarterbacks who didn’t deserve to be a number one overall pick. And since the Chiefs don’t have to take a HUGE risk by blowing their wad on an undeserving QB, they’re free to take the best player for their needs, Luke Joeckel.
Joeckel, the gigantic offensive tackle from Texas A & M, has the skills, size and can’t-miss-osity that denotes someone worthy of a true number one selection. He’s not the sexy pick—gargantuan, hairy white dudes rarely are—but he’s the pick who makes the most amount of sense. He’ll be an O-line stalwart for many, many years, and someone who can make a meaningful, immediate impact on a team craving success. Speaking of “immediate impact…”
This is NOT simply a “win now” move. I’ve seen that notion bandied about, and quite frankly, I don’t get it. Alex Smith is 28. For an NFL QB, that is far from old. Theoretically, he could have 8 really good, productive seasons left, and probably a few more after that (albeit in a slightly crippled capacity). And a couple of draft picks are just that: draft picks. This isn’t the Royals mortgaging the future by dealing an almost-certain commodity like Wil Myers. This is the Chiefs trading a few blank scrabble tiles for a tangible double-word-score space.
Finally—and most importantly—Alex Smith has quietly been turning into a legitimately good quarterback. His last two (okay, fine—1.5) seasons have netted a QB rating of 95.9. He has compiled a record of 20-5-1 over that span (including the playoffs). Before the concussion shortened his season in 2012, Smith had a 70% completion percentage, which—if sustained—would have tied him for the highest completion percentage in NFL single-season history. Against the Cardinals, he went 18-for-19 with three touchdowns. (One more completion would have netted him the record for the most efficient passing game ever.) In 2011, he threw only five interceptions, the fewest full-season total by a San Francisco QB ever. (MONTANA! YOUNG!) He also holds 49ers’ records for most 4th quarter comeback wins in a single season (6 in 2011) and completions without an interception (249 in 2011).
Under proper supervision, he has morphed into the leader he was always supposed to be: rarely flashy but extraordinarily capable of performing with Germanic-style efficiency and surgeonic-like precision.
So the question becomes, will he continue his winning ways WITHOUT the explosive embodiment of angry animation that is Jim Harbaugh? Only time will tell. Reid isn’t exactly chopped liver but he’s also probably not the coach that Harbaugh is (or will become, rather).
Regardless of the fact, I like this move and I will stand by this opinion with unwavering certainty. Alex Smith makes this team better now, and he makes it better three years from now.
Now, please post your dissenting opinions in the comments but remember, if you want to make cusses, use things like @$$-butt so it doesn’t get stuck in Moderation Land. And… GO!
Follow Brandon on Twitter @StanfordWhistle