Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith airing it out during 2-0 start
By DAVE SKRETTA
Sep. 21, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alex Smith saw the Chiefs move up in the first round of April's draft to select Patrick Mahomes II, and he was keenly aware the organization viewed the young gunslinger out of Texas Tech as the man who'd eventually take his job.
So far, the veteran quarterback is forcing the Chiefs to reconsider their plans.
Smith has had one of the best back-to-back performances of his 13-year career in a 42-27 victory over New England and last week's 27-20 win over Philadelphia.
He's thrown five touchdown passes without an interception, his rating of 134.1 is better than any other quarterback that's started two games, and just about every statistical number you could imagine is at a career-best level.
His yards-per-attempt of 9.8 is nearly 2 better than his best. His yards-per-game of 309.5 is about 110 more than his career average.
He's on pace for 40 touchdown passes, nearly double the career-high 23 TD throws during his first season in Kansas City.
Evidently, having an heir apparent in the same room appeals to him.
"Oh, for sure," Smith said this week. "I've said before, the reality is whether or not we drafted Pat, I still had to make that decision for them anyway. You either hold up your end or you don't. If you don't, you're not going to be around. Each club is going to go find somebody.
"It's easy to get caught up in that," Smith continued, "but really the situation hasn't changed. That's the reality of it when you are this far along in your career. You have to prove yourself."
Especially when you're a 33-year-old quarterback who has never reached a Super Bowl, who lost his job once in San Francisco and has a contract that carries a large salary cap hit next season.
Ultimately, it is finances that might force the Chiefs' hand. Smith would count $20.6 million against the cap in 2018, while he would cost a mere $3.6 million in dead money to let go.
"Alex knows, he's not getting any younger in this business. So you always want to stay up on that position, whether he plays today or he plays five years from now, 10 years from now," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "You want to make sure that position is solid at this level."
So when the chance to draft a potential franchise quarterback presents itself, you take the gamble with the hopes that it also lights a fire under your incumbent quarterback.
It's not just a go-for-broke change in mentality that has led to more prolific numbers, though. It is also a supporting cast that may be the best in Smith's five years in Kansas City.
Sure, the Chiefs had to cut Jeremy Maclin in a cost-saving move, and he would have only helped a relatively inexperienced group of wide receivers.
But second-year star Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Chris Conley and rookie running back Kareem Hunt have all flashed in the passing game.
Hunt had a 78-yard TD reception against the Patriots. Hill had a 75-yarder. Kelce caught a 44-yard pass against the Eagles, while Conley had a 35-yard reception against them.
Throw in a 25-yard pass to Conley against New England and already Smith has completed five passes of that distance or longer.
That would put him on pace for 40 this season, far eclipsing the 24 that he had all of last season, and allow him to easily surpass a career high for yardage.
"I just want Alex to be Alex, that's all," Reid said. "We've added stuff, which we do every year. The more he's been in it, the more input he's had. We feel comfortable with his suggestions on things. It's not a problem. I think that's all part of having a relationship and trust in each other.
"There are certain things that he likes and we know he likes and we make sure that they are in there for him," Reid said.
"But no, I just want him to be him, that's the main thing. I don't want him to look anywhere other than getting ready for the game, whatever game it is."
Notes: OLB Justin Houston missed practice with an illness Thursday. ... Special teams coach Dave Toub said the Chiefs' inability to recover an onside kick last week that gave Philadelphia a chance to throw a potential tying pass to the end zone was on him. "The guys were lined up like I wanted," Toub said. "We learned from it. I've been in this 17 years and every year I learn something."