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Bob Lutz: Is Alex Smith the Chiefs' answer?

  • Lutz
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 6:25 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 3:38 p.m.

I love almost everything about the Chiefs’ apparent acquisition of quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.

The only thing I don’t love is that Kansas City reportedly has to relinquish its second-round pick – the first pick of the second round – to make the deal work. So apparently part of my master plan, which had the Chiefs getting Smith in a trade and then drafting West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the second round, isn’t going to happen. Alex Smith appears to be headed to Kansas City as the Chiefs’ new quarterback. Oh well. I would still strongly advise the Chiefs to work on getting another quarterback to throw into competition with Smith, even though it’s clear he’s being brought to Kansas City to be the starting quarterback from Day 1.

There is considerable consternation among Chiefs fans, which is understandable. The last QB brought to Kansas City to save the franchise was Matt Cassel. He had one good season, one playoff season, then went bust. Or, more likely, the continuous changes in head coaches and offensive coordinators was impossible for Cassel to overcome.

I still think that had the Chiefs been a stable franchise the past several seasons, Cassel would have been fine. But they weren’t and he wasn’t.

Cassel impressed the Chiefs with his 2008 season in New England, when he became the starter in the second game of the season after an injury sent Tom Brady to the sideline.

In 2008, Cassel was 10-5 as New England’s starter. He passed for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 63.4 percent of his passes with 11 interceptions.

Good stuff. No wonder why Scott Pioli, who had been in New England’s front office before coming to Kansas City as general manager, thought Cassel was the right guy in the right place. Now Pioli is out of a job and Cassel is probably on the cusp of being released.

Will Smith be better than Cassel? I think so, but there are no guarantees. The Chiefs are desperate for a quarterback and that’s something an NFL teams never wants to be.

Smith, the No. 1 overall pick out of Utah in 2005, was a bonafide bust during his first five seasons in San Francisco. 49ers fans would have built a railway just to help him out of town. Smith was 19-31 as a starter and was never able to find traction.

Then Jim Harbaugh arrived as San Francisco’s coach. The transformation of Smith was immediate.

In 2011, San Francisco was 13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC championship game. He passed for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions. His completion percentage was 61.3 percent.

Then, last season, Smith was even better. Under Harbaugh’s tutelage, he was 6-2-1 as a starter while passing for 1,737 yards and 13 touchdowns. His completion percentage was a remarkable 70.2 percent. In a Monday night game against Arizona on Oct. 29, Smith completed 18 of 19 pass attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns.

The next week, against St. Louis, he completed seven of his eight passes before suffering a concussion that knocked him out of the game. And, as it turns out, knocked him out of the season.

Harbaugh turned to exciting second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and never turned back to Smith. Kaepernick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl and looks like a keeper. So much so that Smith was expendable.

He’s not Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson. He’s not one of the new breed of quarterbacks who have created so much excitement around the NFL.

But he’s a quarterback who has a resume. His numbers in 2011 and 2012 were good, bordering on outstanding. It’s incumbent on the Chiefs, of course, to build an offense around him. Smith will have Jamaal Charles in the backfield, and that’s a good start. What he’ll have in the receiving is anybody’s guess. Will Dwayne Bowe be a Chief in 2013? Smith would probably like that.

Another thing I like about Smith is what some of his former teammates in San Francisco had to say about him today upon hearing about the reported trade. It was all good stuff, and not just about him being a good teammate. His teammates, it sounds like, believed in his ability.

And that’s how Smith will ultimately be judged. It’s going to be about wins and losses. For the short term, at least, Smith’s presence will stabilize what had been an ugly situation in Kansas City. He’ll get to work with Andy Reid, who has a good track record with quarterbacks. Both Smith and Reid were fired from their previous job, so they’ll have something to prove.

Overall, this is a good move for the Chiefs. They have their quarterback. For now.

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