Now that we’re over a year away from having Alex Smith as the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s easier for fans from both sides of the Alex Smith wars to view his legacy with a more objective eye.
Of course I would argue that the best path would have been to sign a cheap backup-level guy and use the extra money to surround him with talent, but considering no NFL team takes that strategy you can’t fault the Chiefs for doing it either.
Excluding that strategy, trading for Alex Smith was the next best thing. Also it was wise to keep him for the time we did, only getting a new QB when we had the opportunity to draft Mahomes.
To see why, let’s examine what other options the Chiefs had at the position from 2013 (when they traded for Smith) to 2016 (the last year before they drafted Mahomes).
This is the big one. Chiefs fans have been desperate for the team to draft a quarterback we could call our own. Until drafting Mahomes in 2017 the Chiefs hadn’t selected a quarterback in the first round since selecting Todd Blackledge over Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in 1983.
But was there really a missed opportunity during the Smith years? Only 11 quarterbacks drafted during that time (2013-2016) have 5,000 career passing yards.
|Quarterback||Year||Pick (Overall)||Passing Yards (through 2018)|
This a very uninspiring list. The only one who would be much of an upgrade over Smith would have been Wentz, who not only has been plagued by injuries, but would have been out of the reach of the Chiefs anyway since he was chosen as the 2nd overall pick.
Until Mahomes came along in 2017, there was no quarterback prospect that was both an upgrade over Smith and reasonably within reach of the Chiefs to trade up for.
Free Agency and Trades
It is much harder to find quality quarterbacks outside of the draft. Even guys like Alex Smith are rarely available since teams are so desperate for competent quarterback play and fear being stuck on the quarterback carousel.
In 2016 there were only 4 quarterbacks (including Smith) who were acquired by free agency or trade between 2013 and 2016 that had more than 3,000 passing yards.
|Quarterback||Year Acquired||2016 Passing Yards||Method Acquired|
|Carson Palmer||2013||4233||Trade (6th and 7th round pick swap)|
|Sam Bradford||2016||3877||Trade (1st round pick)|
|Alex Smith||2013||3502||Trade ( 2 2nd round picks)|
|Tyrod Taylor||2015||3023||Free Agent|
The biggest debate here would be Carson Palmer, who was coming off some down years with the Oakland Raiders and got a second wind with the Cardinals, and was acquired the same year as Alex Smith.
Of course without the benefit of hindsight the Smith trade was a much safer move. If teams had any idea how well Palmer would perform in Arizona the Raiders would have been able to get more than just a late round pick swap for him.
But even with hindsight getting Smith may have been the better move. Smith is significantly younger than Palmer, which helped him avoid injury (Smith missed a single game due to injury as a Chief, while Palmer missed 20 games with the Cardinals) and allowed the Chiefs to get something for him in a trade when they were ready to move on to Mahomes (Palmer retired after the 2017 season).
Smith was also much more consistent. While Palmer’s 2015 season was better than any season Smith had as a Chief, Palmer only had 2 seasons that were above average by Pro Football Reference’s ANY/A stat (essentially their version of passer rating), while Smith only had a single season that was below average (and even that was only slightly off).
While many fans were frustrated with having yet another mediocre quarterback under center, the reality is that there were no better options. Unless the Chiefs continually tanked until they could draft Wentz, there were simply no elite quarterbacks available for the Chiefs to acquire until they drafted Mahomes.