Quarterback Alex Smith has repeatedly stated the same goal for the 2013 season ever since he stepped onto the Chiefs practice field last spring.
Smith knows the value of playing well and winning the season opener, especially when a team hires a new coach and brings in a new system as the Chiefs did.
A win in Sunday’s season opener at Jacksonville will be the first step in validating the changes that were made, starting with the trade with San Francisco for Smith.
“You love to get off to a great start, 1-0,” Smith said. “It’s 100 percent different than a 0-1 and the feeling … especially with this team and a lot of new faces and coaching staff coming together, would reinforce everything you’ve been doing.”
Smith speaks from experience.
In 2011, when Smith was with the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach and brought a new scheme and staff.
Smith was efficient if not flashy in the season opener against Seattle. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 124 yards in a 33-17 victory that triggered a 9-1 start. The 49ers would go 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game.
In last season’s season opener, Smith performed brilliantly at Green Bay. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-26 win over the Packers. Smith would lead San Francisco to a 6-2 start before he missed a game with a concussion and lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick for the Super Bowl runner-up 49ers.
“It’s tough to compare different situations,” said Smith. “For me, it’s going to be about getting a win. Obviously playing good football, playing smart football at the quarterback position. That helps put your team in position to win games. Anything it takes to win.
“Hopefully we put up a lot of points. The great thing is I think we can do it in a lot of different ways. I’d say that might be our biggest strength. We aren’t limited to anything we can or can’t do. … We’re ready for this next step of real games”
In three preseason games, Smith completed 31 of 48 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. His long pass play was a 30-yard catch and run to Dwayne Bowe, but the Chiefs are just itching to see him throw it downfield when the games count for real.
“That's big right there, because earlier in my career, I haven't really been a part of a big over-the-top passing game,” said running back Jamaal Charles. “It's always throw the ball to Jamaal or hand the ball off to Jamaal. We got Donnie Avery, he's a speed guy and that's big, that these guys can run and help Dwayne Bowe and just run straight go (routes).
“It's not like he's coming in and he doesn't have anybody to throw it to. Where he had (Michael) Crabtree last year … he had Frank Gore in the backfield … he has weapons around him that make him look good. That's probably what made him come here because he has great weapons like he had in San Francisco. … You've got to put good players around a good quarterback.”
Smith has also brought a leadership quality at quarterback that hasn’t been seen in Kansas City since Trent Green last played for the Chiefs in 2006.
“He gets us going,” said guard Jeff Allen. “Early on in preseason, in that game against the Steelers, when we were down 10-0, he kept his composure, he came to the sideline, he didn't panic. First thing he said to us was 'It's alright, man. It's a long game, we're going to get things going.'
“Two straight drives, we got two scores, a field goal and we got a touchdown to go in at half and that changes the momentum.”
Smith’s track record at San Francisco carries a lot of weight in the Chiefs locker room.
“When you see a guy who is accomplished and has won a lot of football games, he's been to the conference championship, he's won his division, so he's a proven winner,” Allen said. “You can't do anything but respect a proven winner and follow a guy like that.”
Smith also has won over the Chiefs defensive players, who went against him every day in training camp. In fact, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said it wasn’t much fun playing against Smith because he rarely made mistakes.
“When we’re going against him in practice, he doesn’t throw a lot of picks,” Johnson said. “You want him to throw the ball at you at times. When you know the routes, what’s coming to us on defense, you jump certain things … but he’ll hold it a little longer, or he’ll take off running … he’s a guy who poses some problems for the defensive side.”