Have the Kansas City Chiefs finally found their long-term franchise quarterback with the pending acquisition of Alex Smith?
That may be a stretch.
But he is a solid solution for the next few years, and considering the quality of available quarterbacks and the Chiefs’ considerable talent level, that may be good enough.
I don’t consider Smith a franchise quarterback. Frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who does. But I do consider him a fine bridge starter, and he was the best option for Kansas City in 2013.
There is no question Smith gives the Chiefs the best opportunity to win now out of the group of available quarterbacks. Let’s face it: This is a bad year to need a quarterback.
Smith, who played well while compiling a record of 19-5-1 in 2011 and 2012 before he was hurt and replaced in San Francisco, is the best option. This trade means the Chiefs will not draft Geno Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. Smith was considered a major reach with the No. 1 pick, anyway.
Other potential options were Nick Foles of the Eagles and Matt Flynn of the Seahawks. New Kansas City coach Andy Reid drafted Foles and made him his starter last season. He would have been a fine fit -- a better fit than Smith because of his age and familiarity with Reid. The Chiefs asked about Foles, but he wasn't available.
New Kansas City general manager John Dorsey was with Flynn in Green Bay, but the Chiefs never really showed interest in Flynn. Besides, Smith is a better player than Flynn.
Yes, the compensation Kansas City paid is steep. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Chiefs sent a second-round pick this year (No. 34) and a conditional high pick in 2014. It’s a load, and the 49ers made out like bandits in this deal considering they were moving away from Smith.
For Kansas City, though, it’s the cost of doing business when you need a quarterback. If Smith leads the Chiefs to the playoffs a couple of times and finally solidifies the position, then the traded draft picks will be well worth it. The Chiefs think they can win with Smith, who turns 29 in May.
Getting a starting quarterback isn’t cheap. Oakland gave up a first- and second-round pick for Carson Palmer when he was 31, and Arizona gave up a second-round pick and standout cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the unproven Kevin Kolb.
Let’s not forget that Kansas City has a solid roster overall. A major reason this team went 2-14 in 2012 was poor leadership from coach Romeo Crennel and his staff and terrible quarterback play from Matt Cassel, who should be released any day, and Brady Quinn. The Chiefs addressed the coaching issue by hiring Reid, who is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL.
And now they have their quarterback.
I know many people worry that Smith is similar to Cassel, who was brought in by the previous regime in 2009 to be the franchise quarterback. Cassel played well in 2010 but regressed badly the past two years.
Smith is a better version of Cassel because he doesn’t turn the ball over. Smith turned the ball over six times last season, while Kansas City quarterbacks turned it over 29 times. He plays well in the West Coast system. And he'll benefit from a premier running game in Kansas City.
A key here is Reid. He reportedly has liked Smith, who was the seventh highest-ranked quarterback in Total QBR in 2012, since he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. Reid has shown he can succeed with multiple quarterbacks.
I think Reid and Smith have similar personalities. Both are calm and level-headed. Smith responded to good coaching when he played for Norv Turner and Jim Harbaugh. He will continue to get good coaching from Reid in an atmosphere that he should respond well to. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said Wednesday that Smith and Reid could make a good pair.
“Smith is great at valuing the football,” Williamson said. “How many wins would Kansas City have had last year with a quarterback who didn’t turn over the ball?”
If Smith continues to play well and continues to value the ball, the Chiefs should be much better in 2013. Are they a surefire playoff team with Smith? Well, that depends on a lot of variables, but there is no question that the addition of Smith gives them a better chance than any of the other available options.
For now, that’s all the Chiefs can ask for.