The NFL world is abuzz with the news that Andy Reid’s new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, have traded for Alex Smith. While the details of the deal have yet to be publicly confirmed, reports are indicating the price the Chiefs paid was a high one. According to ESPN, the Chiefs will relinquish their 2nd round pick (34th overall) this year and a conditional high pick in 2014. In exchange for a player that was disgruntled, owed over $8 million this upcoming year, and would likely have been released had he not been traded, the 49ers get the Chiefs' second round pick, which is essentially a late first (and arguably slightly more valuable than, say, the 32nd overall pick in my opinion; because the draft has become structured across 3 days, a premium has been placed on the first five selections of Rounds 1, 2, and 4).
On first impression this feels like a forced move by Andy Reid. Following his script of past success, he clearly made obtaining a new QB his number one priority, reportedly expressing interest to the Eagles in Nick Foles before making the move for Smith. However, the 34th overall pick (and a similar conditional pick in 2014) seems a high price to pay for a quarterback this will be 29 this season and was destined for release until his solid 2012 showing that highlighted both his strengths and weaknesses.
We now have a pretty good idea of what kind of player Alex Smith is, a reliable decision maker that can win games for you but cannot bring the explosive level of play that a truly elite quarterback can. This was the reason Harbaugh made the move to Kaepernick; he brings a dynamic element that the Smith simply cannot provide.
Alex Smith has seemingly reached his ceiling as a quarterback prospect, however it remains to be seen if Andy Reid can elevate his level of play given his success at the quarterback position during his time in Philadelphia (cue head being slammed against the wall while trying to forget the 2011 and 2012 seasons ever happened…)
I will say that Smith is perfectly suited for Reid’s west coast offense based on decision making and timing. Reid’s deviation to a more explosive, vertically based offense in Philadelphia combined with Vick’s propensity to hold on the ball had the cumulative effect of putting too much pressure on a injury depleted offensive line. If Brandon Albert is secured and/or the Chiefs spend a draft pick on the oline (Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, and Eric Fisher headline an athletic Tackle class this year and all could be in the mix with the Chiefs 1st overall pick,) the Chiefs could be in a position to compete as early as this year. With offensive weapons like RB Jamaal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki, and WRs Baldwin, Breston, and Bowe (UFA), the Chiefs now have the offensive firepower to match-up with nearly anyone.
This move is extremely risky however; by pinning his future to a 29 year-old quarterback with well known limitations, Reid must be aware that he will be on a much shorter leash than had he waited to select someone from the 2013 or (much more promising) 2014 quarterback classes. While this move gives the Chiefs a chance to compete immediately it potentially jeopardizes their future by giving away heavy draft ammunition. I still feel the price was a little steep for a limited and aging quarterback who is at the best, a four-year solution (still nothing to snicker at, if he makes it four consecutive years as the chiefs starting QB he’ll be the first to accomplish the feat since Trent Green.)
I still expect Reid to spend a later round pick on a developmental quarterback who will look to be groomed by Reid as the QB of the future, however this trade will likely not sit well with Chiefs fans this week.
What is of the most interest to me is what the move suggests about Andy Reid’s mentality:
This move indicates to me that Andy Reid may be getting entrenched in his ways. He seems to be forcing the same patterns of success he had in GB and PHI, draft a QB high (Donovan Mcnabb 2nd overall in 1999), or trade for one (Brett Favre swap to GB from ATL), even when a player of that caliber simply isn’t available.
No quarterback jujitsu is going to turn Alex Smith into Brett Favre or Donovan Mcnabb. And despite the aforementioned talent on the Chiefs roster, they are still in need of several upgrades before I see them as a viable force to compete for an NFL championship.
Andy seems to be continuing his win-now approach that he’s had since 2002 really, and I wonder if this time it will end up coming back to bite him. This move reminds me of when the Eagles were absolutely INSISTENT that they were not in rebuilding mode following trading away Donovan. Andy was thinking win-now and ignored that several key positions needed an infusion of young depth, instead bringing-in veterans through trades and free agency (DRC, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Steve Smith, Nnamdi, etc), creating a problem for the Eagles now as they look at a secondary that has to be rebuilt from the ground-up. Instead of accepting the idea that a "rebuilding year" was not the world’s worst idea since apartheid, he staunchly stayed in "win-now" mode and, well, we know how that ended…
I’m getting the feeling that Andy has the same short-term view of the Chiefs now, and it may be undermining the Chiefs’ chances in the long-term. Alex Smith, while solid in 2012 and 2011, is a career underachiever who has come close to being released at multiple points since being the #1 overall draft pick in 2005. I can’t justify spending what the Chiefs did for a player that is NOT the team’s franchise QB of the future.
Reports swirling around the NFL that Reid has had his eyes on Alex Smith since the 2005 draft just add to my thinking that Reid is now too entrenched in his way of thinking. While Reid may think that Smith was poorly used and even more poorly protected in SF, it strikes me as hubris for Reid to believe that his own pre-draft opinion of Smith supersedes the mountain of evidence that Alex Smith is a mediocre quarterback. Knowing Reid’s level of studiousness I sincerely doubt his decision was based solely (or even in large part), because of his pre-draft opinions. I do however worry that Reid’s success has made him entrenched in his own thinking, something that could prove to be the downfall of the Chiefs as it was the Eagles.
Just for giggles I’ve lined up Alex Smith’s career numbers with Mike Vick’s awful 2012 season below:
Alex Smith’s career numbers INCLUDING his last two solid years under Harbaugh:
59.3% Comp. %
85 TDs (passing and rushing): 63 INTs
TD:TO Ratio = .787
For reference, Mike Vick’s atrocious 2012 season was not too much worse than Alex Smith’s career numbers:
58.1% Comp. %
12 TDs: 10 INTs
TD: TO ratio = .619