One move that has not gotten enough attention this NFL offseason is Kansas City’s decision to send quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins. The trade was constructed during Super Bowl week. Maybe that is why it seemed to fly under the radar.
The franchise is now in the hands of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The former Texas Tech gunslinger has a big arm and lots of raw talent, but here are the reasons why he and the entire Kansas City organization are perhaps under the most pressure in the entire league.
Alex Smith was effective in Kansas City
Smith is a prime example of what many fans and even those within the NFL tend to forget these days. The most important thing is winning games, and there is more than one way to go about doing that.
He was not blessed with a rocket arm, computer like mind or outstanding ability to scramble. This means he has never put up video game numbers like 30 touchdown passes or 5,000 passing yards in a season. Therefore, he has always ended up being replaced for a more eye-catching talent.
However, Kansas City never posted a losing record under the guidance of Smith in five seasons and made the playoffs four times. The former first overall pick never threw more than eight interceptions in a season with the Chiefs. Moreover, last season was his best in many ways. He posted career highs in passer rating, passing yards and touchdown passes.
It is clear that the Chiefs made the choice to replace Smith after their long stretch of playoff heartbreak continued last year. Like any other quarterback, Smith has benefited from being surrounded by some outstanding talent over the years both on the field and on the sidelines. At the end of last year though, some of that supporting cast let Smith down.
Last year’s playoff loss had almost nothing to do with Smith. Only Andy Reid and then offensive coordinator Matt Nagy know why they only ran the ball a handful of times in the second half despite having a 21-3 halftime lead. Throw in a defense that suddenly could not figure out how to stop Tennessee from running the ball down their throat and that is why the playoff heartbreak continued. After a loss like that, changes need to be made, but there is a fine line between that and taking risks that some might call unnecessary.
Smith is being replaced by a total unknown
There is no such thing as a “rebuilding mode” in the NFL. You are either winning or losing. The Chiefs have spent the majority of the last five years winning, but have yet to make a real run at a Lombardi Trophy.
Keeping Smith around would have guaranteed this team being in the mix in December in the upcoming season. Who knows what can happen from there. The rest of the AFC West is not particularly good at the moment.
Instead, the Chiefs chose to replace perhaps the biggest reason why the franchise has won 51 games over the last five years with a guy who has made one career start. When it is spelled out like that, you get a better idea of the magnitude of the gamble Kansas City is taking.
We all know what an inexact science evaluating young quarterbacks is. Anyone who tells you that they have any idea if Mahomes can succeed as a long-term starter in this league after a single start is lying.
Some might argue that the only way to see if Mahomes can play is to make him the starter, but Kansas City had a more proven commodity in their building in Smith. If you have a more proven commodity that is still playing reasonably well, it is difficult to replace him with an unproven commodity at any position. To do so at quarterback when Smith was not costing the Chiefs a fortune is almost unheard of. Even the great quarterbacks experience some growing pains early on.
The Chiefs cannot afford growing pains
Mahomes will have the advantage of being surrounded by a deep stable of running backs and two elite pass catchers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. If new acquisition Sammy Watkins can stay healthy, the Chiefs could have one of the most talented supporting casts in the NFL. The defense will look a little bit different, but should still be pretty good.
This is a team built to win now and should not be trying to develop a young quarterback. For the bold move to be deemed a success, Mahomes needs to lead the Chiefs as far for further than Smith ever did. That means getting to the playoffs and winning a game or two in his first year as a starter. Anything less than that, and some heads could roll in Kansas City.
That is a tough position for Mahomes to be in, even though he has a supporting cast that most quarterbacks around would kill for. The weight of the world is on his shoulders this upcoming season.
Featured image from sbnation.com
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