But in his Kansas City debut Sunday, Smith was every bit the quarterback the Chiefs thought they were getting. Smith got the Chiefs out of some potentially bad outcomes by changing several plays at the line of scrimmage.
He threw for just 173 yards on his 21 completions, but was most efficient by completing better than 60 percent and throwing for two touchdowns. He got out of trouble on a handful of plays with his scrambling. He committed no turnovers.
While Smith wasn’t the star of the day, he more than did his part in the Chiefs’ 28-2 win over the Jaguars.
It was a game best described by his coach, Andy Reid, who almost from the day he joined the Chiefs in January pushed hard for the Chiefs to trade for Smith.
“I thought it was just good smart, solid football,’’ Reid said.
There was no better example of Smith’s efficiency than this statistic: The Chiefs scored a touchdown on each of their three trips inside the Jacksonville 20. They repeatedly settled for field goals last season, scoring a touchdown a league-low 27 percent of the time when in the red zone.
Smith was involved each time. On the first touchdown, he saw wide receiver Donnie Avery had single coverage to his left. He delivered a quick pass to Avery, who broke a tackle for the touchdown.
Next, he lofted a pass in the end zone that only his receiver, Junior Hemingway, was in position to go up and get. On the other touchdown, Smith scrambled for 9 yards on third-and-5 to get the Chiefs inside the 20. From there, Cyrus Gray and Jamaal Charles finished the drive with three running plays.
“It was probably our best stat of the (day) offensively,’’ Smith said. “We were efficient down there and when you could capitalize on those opportunities, you could get away with some other things. We left some (points) out there in the second half but because we were efficient in the red zone in the first half, it allowed us to jump out to a lead and our defense (then) just played lights out.’’
The Chiefs had every reason to believe Smith would eventually play the way he did against the Jaguars. He was efficient for much of the past two seasons with the 49ers, completing 70 percent of his passes last season and throwing just 10 interceptions in his last 25 starts.
But the Chiefs have a new offensive system, new offensive coordinator in Doug Pederson, new playcaller in Reid and a roster full of teammates who were new to Smith. So it looked to be a lot to ask of Smith to be so sharp so quickly.
“This always gets talked about: new faces, new system, new guys coming in,’’ Smith said. “But once the regular season starts, no one cares. Those are just excuses.’’
Another thing Smith did the past two years with the 49ers: win. San Francisco was 19-5-1 in his last 25 regular season starts before Smith was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. That’s eventually how his time with the Chiefs will be judged, a fact Smith didn’t overlook.
“It’s always (better) to go watch the film and try to get better after a win,’’ he said. “That’s the goal.
“It’s early on. Were we perfect out there? Heck no. But we got the W and we’ll look at it and get better."