Commitment to Smith is the right move

One of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years is their failure to commit to the right quarterback for the long term.

If they don’t win one in the next five years, at least a lack of commitment to a quarterback won’t be the problem.

The Chiefs made a bold move with Alex Smith, agreeing with him on a four-year contract that various media reports put at about $68 million. From the Chiefs’ standpoint, this is a step they had to take.

While Smith isn’t one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks, he’s good enough to win with, even in the playoffs. He was good enough to throw for 378 yards and four touchdowns and guide his team to 44 points in last year’s playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, and it’s hardly his fault it wasn’t enough for the Chiefs to win.

Failing to lock up Smith for the long term would have left the Chiefs where they’ve been many times before, floundering around and looking for a quarterback. There’s nobody they could reasonably acquire who’s in Smith’s category. The Chiefs have a couple of developmental quarterbacks in Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray, but at this point both represent wishful thinking when it comes to becoming as productive an NFL quarterback as Smith is.

The price tag of $17 million annually is steep, no doubt. But that’s the price of a high-quality starting quarterback these days. Anything less for a veteran quarterback and you’re looking at someone in the Matt Cassel category.

The Chiefs have been down that path too many times. This was their moment to seize and they took it. It’s their job now to make Smith into a playoff-winning quarterback and they happen to have a head coach in Andy Reid who has a history of making quarterbacks better than they otherwise might be without him.

The Chiefs can now move on to the important business of building around Smith. Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston is in the final season of his contract. His holdout from offseason practice failed to produce an extension.

The Chiefs can now get to that. Failing an agreement with Houston, the Chiefs are free to secure him by making him their franchise player, a move they won’t have to make with their quarterback.

Big-money, long-term contracts always carry some risk. So it is with Smith and his new deal.

But the bigger risk in this case would have been to set him free after this season. That would have increased the likelihood of another 20 years without a playoff win for the Chiefs.