The book on Alex Smith has been written and it has been sent off to the publisher but, until it’s approved, the final chapter could still be reworked.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback will probably go down as the best “game manager” of this generation, a quarterback who doesn’t wow you with his statistics until you look at the bottom of the ledger and see that he has won 70 of his 136 career starts, a .580 winning percentage.
Since he got to the Midwest after relocating from San Francisco, that number spikes to 41 wins in 61 starts, a gaudy .672 winning percentage.
If some kind of football wizard could guarantee Patrick Mahomes, the 10th overall pick in April’s draft and the heir apparent to Smith, those same numbers, Chiefs coach Andy Reid would happily sign off on it right now.
Despite the regular-season success, however, Smith has been pigeonholed as a guy who can win you a lot of games but isn’t the kind of difference maker to get you over the top and win a Super Bowl. That kinf of ridiculous critique will only be extinguished with a Lombardi Trophy.
And with Mahomes’ arrival Smith, who turned 33 this month and already went through this once with Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, understands his window is about to slam shut.
“I think they’re committed to me this year — that’s just the nature of it, right?” Smith said this week at the Chiefs’ OTAs. “If you don’t go out there and perform, Coach Reid and (offensive coordinator Matt Nagy), they’re very honest. You’ve got to go out there and do your deal. We all have to, and those guys will tell you they’re included in that. … Whether or not we drafted Patrick doesn’t change that.”
Smith’s professionalism is one of the reasons Reid and general manager John Dorsey felt comfortable in bringing Mahomes; they understand that the veteran will handle the awkwardness of mentoring his presumed successor as well as possible.
Smith even contacted Mahomes after the former Texas Tech star was selected.
“Yeah, we talked … it really was just touching base,” Smith said. “It was quick. It’s a whirlwind. I remember being there. There’s a lot going on, you’ve got a thousand people (reaching out). It can kind of being an overload. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell him to go enjoy it.”
Smith, though, isn’t about to hand anything to Mahomes and believes the best path forward is competition.
“I don’t think you want to shy away from anything,” Smith said. “I just think you want to be real. You want to be honest, almost even embrace (the competition). Sometimes it can be awkward, and it is. But you just embrace that and be real, and I think everybody kind of appreciates that. I just kind of emphasized that to him, that any of that extracurricular stuff that goes on elsewhere just doesn’t take place here. That’s just kind of the environment we have.”
Lesson No. 1 delivered: Do your job and let the chips fall where they may but don’t create unneeded controversy by whispering outside the building.
Smith has been through these landmines before when a concussion forced him out of the Niners’ lineup and then-coach Jim Harbaugh shifted toward Kaepernick, whowas perceived as having the higher ceiling though Smith was winning games.
“I’m at a different place than the last time I dealt with something like this,” Smith said. “I get it. If any of us were the GMs, this is, maybe the most important position in all of sports, and it would be crazy not to be stockpiling talent. You’d be nuts not to. So I get it, right? I’m going into Year 13.”
Reid is known for his steady hand as a coach and the book on Mahomes is that he needs seasoning anyway so this will remain Smith’s job for the short term.
Though the term “game manager” is often a backhanded compliment, Smith is proud of his resume but also wants to add a postscript that reads champion.
“If you weren’t good enough and didn’t get it done, you’re not going to be around long.” Smith surmised. That’s just our culture, and I know it. That’s the nature of the position. … There are no free rides.”
That’s something Smith already understands and Mahomes is about to learn.
–John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen Also catch John each week during the NFL season on ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, CBS Baltimore, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.