More proof Alex Smith was perfect mentor for Patrick Mahomes

Alex Smith took Patrick Mahomes under his wing last season, despite the latter quite obviously being his eventual successor as Kansas City's starter. AP Photo/Ed Zurga

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This is what quarterback Alex Smith told me in his first comments after the Kansas City Chiefs drafted his eventual replacement, Patrick Mahomes II, last year:

"I get it, right. If any of us were the [general manager], this in my opinion might be the most important position in all of sports. You'd be crazy not to be stockpiling talent. So I get it, going into Year 13. You understand it."

This is what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told a Pittsburgh radio station after the Steelers recently drafted his possible replacement, Mason Rudolph:

"I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now. ... I just don't know how backing up or being a third-[stringer] -- well, who knows where he's going to fall on the depth chart -- helps us win now. But, you know, that's not my decision to make."

Smith also reached out to Mahomes shortly after he was drafted, not only to wish him well and offer his help but, to diffuse any awkwardness that could easily develop.

That awkwardness is already there in Pittsburgh, where Roethlisberger said if Rudolph asks for his help, "I might just have to point to the playbook."

Mahomes may have eventually gone on to become a better player than Rudolph regardless of the welcome each player received from the respective veteran quarterback who would be his teammate. Mahomes was drafted in the first round, Rudolph in the third.

But if it happens, don’t underestimate the boost Mahomes received to begin his career from Smith. The veteran QB was by all accounts most gracious with his time and knowledge with Mahomes, even though it was obvious from the moment the Chiefs made the pick that a change at the game’s most important position was imminent.

Sure enough, with Smith’s help, Mahomes developed at a rapid enough rate the Chiefs felt comfortable in trading Smith to Washington at the end of last season.

As Roethlisberger’s comments on Rudolph show, veteran quarterbacks don’t always throw out the welcome mat when a threat to his job comes to town.

"I told Patrick that he could buy [Smith] a castle and it wouldn’t pay for the experience that he was able to have working with Alex and his introduction into the National Football League," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

Mahomes said: "Just watching Alex on and off the field, he’s a true professional, a guy that really knows how to be a quarterback and lead a team and a franchise. Just watching him, being around him pretty much all day and every day, I got to see how he interacted with fans, how he interacted with his teammates."

This side of Smith didn’t get enough attention in his five seasons with the Chiefs. But he was the consummate teammate, even when faced with the arrival of the player acquired to take his job.

He was one of the most respected and most appreciated players in the Kansas City locker room. Many of his teammates came to his public defense last season after the Chiefs drafted Mahomes.

More attention was focused on his record, which was solid in its own right. He led the Chiefs to two AFC West championships and two other playoff berths as wild-card entrants. He had a 50-26 record as a starter, and his .658 winning percentage is third-best in team history among players who started at least five games.

Smith couldn’t get the Chiefs past the divisional round of the playoffs, one reason the Chiefs moved to acquire Mahomes.

Even without much playoff success, Smith had plenty of achievements with the Chiefs. Still, his lasting legacy might eventually be that he didn’t scorch the ground around the quarterback who took his place.