Through three Chiefs pre-season games, there has been one resounding message made by TV analysts and NFL pundits alike: JUST PAY THE MAN! The man, of course, is polarizing Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith who is coming off his best statistical season as a pro. Without a moment’s hesitation, we keep hearing that the Chiefs have no choice but to extend Smith’s contract, locking up their “franchise” quarterback for at least four more seasons.
If we dig a little deeper on this issue, it is clear that, against all odds, Alex Smith has become a middle-of-the-road NFL quarterback despite nearly busting out of the league following his first several seasons in San Francisco. Under the guidance of quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh, Smith became a viable signal caller for a 49ers team that had a tremendous offensive line, one of the best defenses in football and an upper-tier running game. But when push came to shove during the 2012 season, Smith lost his job due to injury, and because Colin Kaepernick is simply a more dynamic play-maker.
The Kansas City Chiefs (who have not drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1983) were more than happy to come to the rescue after Smith’s demotion and threw two second round picks at the 49ers for his services. The Chiefs rode an opportunistic defense and Jamaal Charles to a 9-0 start while ESPN personalities like Bomani Jones called Smith “hot garbage,” and a “mascot for the mediocre.” It was clear the Chiefs were winning despite Smith, who was the very definition of a n0-mistake, game manager. Of course, the Chiefs finished 11-5 dropping six of their final eight games including an embarrassing loss to the Colts in the playoffs, a game in which the Chiefs blew a 28 point third quarter lead. Smith had his best game as a pro in that loss, throwing for 373 yards which led to the mantra that just won’t go away this off season: JUST PAY THE MAN.
Look, the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs are not likely to be a very good football team. Key losses and horrible play along the offensive line, injuries, and schedule lead logical fans to prepare for a 7-9 type of season for the Chiefs team. The KC starting offense has scored zero touchdowns out of 16 possessions so far this pre-season. Why would the Chiefs extend Smith’s contract and give him upwards of $18 million dollars when he still has a year left on his current deal and can be franchised following the 2014 season? Regardless of what mis-informed fans and media will tell you, Smith is not worth that kind of money, and the Chiefs would have to put the 2000 Ravens defense, and the 2003 Chiefs offensive line around him for this team to reach the Superbowl. Let this stat sink in for a moment: Alex Smith’s best season as a professional quarterback was not as good as Matt Cassel’s best year (Cassel threw for 27 TD’s against 7 INT’s in 2010).
The main fear with regards to this situation is that Smith and the offense will struggle mightily this season (Smith was recently out-dueled in a playoff game by Matt Cassel…) and that the blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of a patchwork offensive line. The Chiefs will feel they have no choice but to draft another left tackle with the 14th pick of next May’s draft and the mediocrity will continue in KC for years to come.