Should the Chiefs part ways with Alex Smith?
The toughest thing for an NFL team is finding its franchise quarterback. There are not many quarterbacks in the NFL that a team would feel comfortable strategizing and putting all its resources towards.
The Kansas City Chiefs were hoping that Alex Smith would be that quarterback when they traded for him before the 2013 season. Is there the possibility that he is the right guy or should the Chiefs move on?
At first it seemed as if the Chiefs may have their guy as Kansas City went 11-5 with a trip to the playoffs in 2013 with Smith as quarterback. However, four years later and the Chiefs have yet to reach the promised land, a Super Bowl. In fact, the Chiefs have only won one playoff game in that time. Four years is not a very long time. It took Brett Favre five years to reach a Super Bowl. On the other hand, Favre was in his sixth NFL season while Smith is in his 11th season.
One thing to straighten out first is that wins are not a quarterback stat. It is very similar to how wins are a terrible stat for MLB pitchers. Obviously the better the quarterback the higher chance there is that his team wins. There are also many different factors that are involved in the outcome of a game that is outside the quarterbacks control, such as defense, playcalling, etc.
What do the Chiefs have in Smith? They have a safe and average quarterback. Smith has been known for years as a game manager. He is someone who is smart and can run the offense, but his physical abilities are nothing too special. Smith will rarely lose his team a game, but also isn’t good enough to carry his team to a win.
He is also very consistent and the Chiefs know what to expect. In the past six years, Smith has had a passer rating between 89.1 and 95.4 five times. This season, Smith finished the year with a 91.2 passer rating, which ranked 16th in the NFL.
The Chiefs’ roster the past few years has been constructed great for the regular season, but not so much for the playoffs. Since Smith has become the quarterback in 2013, the Chiefs regular season record is 43-21. A major reason for Kansas City’s success is its defense. In the past four years, the Chiefs have ranked fifth, second, third, and seventh in points allowed. Put an elite defense like that with even an average offense and the team will win games. That’s fine for the regular season when the quality of play is not that strong.
The problem is when the playoffs start. The Chiefs no longer play teams like the Los Angeles Rams, but instead play teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. The common denominator between almost all the teams the Chiefs face in the playoffs is that those teams have above-average or elite quarterbacks. Even with a great defense like the Chiefs have, those offense are going to put up points. Smith isn’t good enough to carry a team in a shootout or if it has to score something like 24 points or more.
It’s possible the Chiefs can reach and win a Super Bowl with Smith. An elite defense and likely a very good running game would be needed and both would have to produce every game. It’s just not very likely. Smith is also 33 and is at the point of his career where he will start declining instead of getting better.
The issue is that the Chiefs are in a tough situation. One one hand, unless the roster changes significantly in the next couple years, Kansas City will have good records in the near future, but probably won’t advance far in the playoffs. That puts the Chiefs in a tough spot if they were to try and find a replacement. Unless Kansas City trades up in a draft, most of the top quarterbacks are likely to be taken before the Chiefs have their first draft pick. It’s also no guarantee that whoever Kansas City drafts would be better than Smith.
If the Chiefs want to win a Super Bowl, they need to find a new quarterback. That being said, Kansas City shouldn’t just dump Smith this offseason. The Chiefs should look to trade or draft a quarterback, but keep Smith as a mentor for a few seasons. Smith has a smart football mind and can help develop a new quarterback.
If Smith starts to decline the Chiefs can try out whoever their new guy is. If it takes time to find and develop a new quarterback so be it, but at least the Chiefs fans will still have a quality team to watch with Smith as quarterback