Multiple media outlets report that the Kansas City Chiefs have unofficially traded two draft picks for San Francisco 49ers back-up quarterback Alex Smith and potentially filled the biggest hole in the team roster for the next few years. Because the 2013 NFL year does not technically begin until March 12, the Chiefs and 49ers have to wait to make the trade “official”, but every indication is that the deal will go through.
The Chiefs will send this year’s 2nd-round draft choice (#34 overall) and a conditional mid-round pick in 2014 to the 49ers for Smith. The Chiefs will honor Smith’s current contract, which he signed during the 2012 offseason.
Among fans and the media (both national and local), reaction to the trade and what the Chiefs gave up is ranging from tempered excitement to contempt and disdain for how stupid the Chiefs front office is in giving up “too much” for Smith.
Fans that are excited (such as your KC Chiefs Examiner) see a 28-year old former #1 pick of the draft that survived rocky times and unrealistic expectations in San Francisco since he entered the league in 2005. In eight seasons, Smith has had four head coaches, 6 offensive coordinators, expectations of being the next Joe Montana or Steve Young, and the unfortunate comparison to the other first-round QB taken in his draft, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, arguably the best QB in the NFL.
Excited fans see that Smith has flourished since Jim Harbaugh showed up in San Fran in 2011. Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record that season, throwing for 3,144 yards, 17 TDs with only 5 INTs and a quarterback rating of 90.7. He had the 49ers on the cusp of going to the Super Bowl that year, but two Kyle Williams fumbles on special teams deep in NY Giants territory in the NFC Championship game resulted in a 20-17 loss in overtime.
Smith began the 2012 season playing even better before a concussion knocked him out of his starting job in the season’s 10th game. Before the concussion, Smith had thrown for 1,737 yards, completing 70.2% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Smith led the league in QB rating (104.1) when he got hurt and the 49ers replaced him with 2nd-year QB Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick never gave the starting job back to Smith and the 49ers’ trip to the Super Bowl cemented Kaepernick as the starter and made Smith available for a trade. Throughout the playoff run, Smith never complained about not getting his job back and did what was best for his team, despite the professional cost. It was a team-first quality that made Smith immensely popular with his teammates over the years.
Now that Smith has been traded to Kansas City, excited fans see the reaction that virtually every 49er player has had in the aftermath of the trade, reading the tweets and posts about what a terrific teammate Smith was and how they will miss him, but wish him the best of luck in Kansas City. Excited fans believe that they now have their first real leader at quarterback since Trent Green’s heyday in the early 2000’s.
Critics of the trade – and they are vocal – discount the last two seasons that Smith has played as a fluke and don’t believe Smith will have the same success here. Many have decided that the main reason the Chiefs haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1970 is because the organization hasn’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since Todd Blackledge in 1983. Because the Chiefs own the first pick in the draft this year, they should draft West Virginia’s Geno Smith, arguably the top-rated QB in the draft.
And, while it is true that Super Bowl-caliber teams are generally led by quarterbacks taken in the first round these days, that is not written in stone. There are far more first-round busts at QB than successes. So just taking Geno Smith at #1 doesn’t mean squat unless Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey truly believe he is worth the pick. Judging by today’s trade, it looks as if they don’t.
Critics ignore the fact that many scouts believe that this is the weakest class of quarterbacks in many years AND that Geno Smith isn’t worth a first-round pick, much less the #1 pick overall. The same scouts also acknowledge that the NFL has become so quarterback-centric that every prospect is ranked higher in 2013 than they would have been 10 years ago. In other words, a first-round pick this year might have been a 3rd-round pick in 2003.
Chiefs fans just need to remember than none of the talking heads on TV and radio – or Steve, the
“draft expert” currently employed in your company’s mail room – spend much time breaking down years of game film on players like a professional scout does. They saw Geno Smith’s amazing 8-touchdown game against Baylor early in the 2012 Big 12 season, but discount him wetting his pants against Kansas State, Texas Tech, or Syracuse in three of WVU’s more embarrassing losses last year.
These critics wanted the Chiefs to go after Arizona’s Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, or Seattle’s Matt Flynn because they believe the Chiefs could have gotten them “cheaper” than what Smith cost. They ignore the fact that the sample size of success for all three quarterbacks covers a game or two in the NFL and that none of them will probably be starting for their teams in 2013. In one breath, they complain about Smith being a “49er retread” but ignore the fact that these other three would be retreads too without a fraction of the ability Smith has already shown in the NFL.
As stated earlier, your Chiefs Examiner is among the excited fans and my hope for success in 2013 will come out in my articles. The Chiefs made a significant improvement today in the most important position on an NFL team. It’s not unreasonable to surmise that if Smith plays to the level he has shown in 2011 and 2012, the Chiefs could see a 6-game improvement in wins. Add in the fact that a real NFL-quality head coach is in place could mean a 10-win season is within reach.
However, no matter what happens in free agency and the draft, both Reid and Dorsey have shown that they are not afraid to make a bold move to improve the team. They will fight the taint of past failures – and especially the name of Scott Pioli – until they deliver on the field. It’s too bad that a vocal section of fans and media cannot – or will not – wait until they actually fail at something before judging them as failures.
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