Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is 2017 last chance for Alex Smith to win with Chiefs?


Some of Andy Reid’s finest coaching occurred during his first four Kansas City seasons.

The Chiefs are back at or near their 1990s level of consistency. That lengthy stretch served as the franchise’s second peak, with the Chiefs an annual playoff qualifier and perennial AFC threat. Reid’s mid-2010s work rocketed the Chiefs to their third high point.
They’re once again one of the AFC’s best teams, having advanced to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger. But like it did in the mid-1990s, the organization has reached a point where mere postseason advancement isn’t good enough anymore.
This coming season figures to be the defining moment for the current nucleus because the Chiefs are going to look incredibly similar to the teams of the past two years. Kansas City’s front office kept this group together and intends to maintain that commitment for at least one more season. The result of this will bring back a similar refrain — and basically, the question that defines this era: Is all of this enough to help the team to a Super Bowl with Alex Smith as the quarterback?
The 2017 season will bring this to the forefront despite Smith having led the Chiefs to their first playoff win in 22 years and their first second-round home game in 13. Reid, John Dorsey, and Clark Hunt are set to continue with a Smith-fronted operation, and it’s a risk in a time when quarterback play matters more than ever. Kansas City continuing to trust the limited passer is interesting because of how little turnover this roster has seen since its playoff return in 2015.
Even with Bennie Logan replacing Dontari Poe, there could be as many as 16 offensive and defensive starters from the ’15 season back for ’17. That kind of continuity is not exactly common.
K.C.’s offensive line will bring back at least three players who will have started for three or more seasons in western Missouri. This will be Year 3 for the top of Smith’s pass-catching hierarchy, Travis Kelce, and Jeremy Maclin, working together. It’s the third year of an Eric Berry/Ron Parker safety tandem, with Marcus Peters now entering his third season as Kansas City’s left cornerback. The Chiefs’ linebacking corps will still house stalwarts Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, with Justin Houston and Dee Ford joining them. Logan will join an experienced defensive front.
A quality story has emerged in Kansas City because many aren’t familiar with the Chiefs’ valleys in the late 2000s or the 2012 freefall. But the revival chapters continue to end in traditional fashion, with the Chiefs not quite good enough to beat the AFC’s elites. Each of their Reid-led playoff journeys ended with narrow losses to superior quarterbacks.
It always comes back to Smith, who does not measure up to AFC roadblocks Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. When the past 16 years have been dominated by three quarterbacks, Peyton Manning doing his part to hold back challengers as well, teams like the Chiefs face a near-unprecedented degree of difficulty. But Derek Carr has surpassed Smith as well and given the Raiders a chance to leapfrog the Chiefs. Despite the Chiefs beating the Raiders twice last season to book that No. 2 seed, the Silver, and Black are viewed as the better 2017 bet. Their MVP challenger has the most to do with that.
Bovada places the Raiders at plus-1600 to win Super Bowl LII (seventh-best); the Chiefs are presently plus-2500 (No. 11). MGM slots the Raiders at 20-to-1 (No. 8) and the Chiefs 25-to-1 (No. 10). Oddly, the Broncos are ahead of the Chiefs in both sportsbooks as well.
This skepticism points to Smith, who will almost certainly be the Chiefs’ quarterback for a fifth season. The team’s decision-making trio unequivocally said the 33-year-old conductor will be the guy, leaving a seemingly logical Tony Romo path closed.
It could turn into another season in which one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the game will be scrutinized for an inability to lift a team to a higher level rather than vice versa. The AFC has several quarterbacks who are capable of this, but Smith won’t escape the game-manager tag. However, they’ve done well to surround Smith with steady receivers, impact defenders, and an improved offensive line.
The Broncos’ placement here is interesting, too. Because it shows faith in Denver’s defense to potentially catapult the team back to the playoffs. The Chiefs have authorized numerous extensions for their homegrown talent, but they have yet to produce a defense on par with the Broncos or Seahawks. Reid’s built a consistent chain-moving offense around Smith, but Kansas City’s offense won’t be a top-tier unit with this setup.
Kansas City also may have over-invested in a good, just not great, cast. But this season likely represents its best chance to prove it was all worth it. There are still some holes going into the draft, but this team remains the AFC West’s safest bet.
This season could determine whether these Reid years will go down as a kind of high-floor/low-ceiling tease or a process that needed sufficient time to produce the right team.
The Chiefs need to start thinking about their future at quarterback, but beyond Romo and his now-diverse medical history, there wasn’t any quarterback available in free agency or the draft better than Smith for this coming iteration. Passing on Romo is the risk because Smith has proven he’s better than the rest of the unattached lot of passers. Like he would do for the Broncos, a healthy Romo gives the Chiefs a chance to become the top challenger to the Patriots. With Smith, the usual hurdles remain.
Trapped to some degree, the Chiefs are hoping they will have done enough to equip Smith with Super Bowl weaponry — along the lines of the 2011 49ers. They haven’t shown that gear yet, but 2017 may be their best chance. If not, Smith will have been given enough time. His contract can easily be shed come 2018.
But if the Smith run concludes without a Super Bowl berth, there will be a wasted opportunity label attached to this period. And the Chiefs know that zone all too well 

My Thoughts:

I personally think that Alex Smith is underrated. He doesn't have the high numbers like Brady and Rodgers but he doesn't turn the ball over much. He did lead the Chiefs to their first playoff win in 22 years and their first second-round home game in 13. I didn't like the decision that Harbaugh made is San Francisco When he replaced Alex with Colin Kaepernick and traded him. Alex is 32 years old so he also has a few years left if you compare him to Brady who is 39 years old. Why draft a QB as high as everyone is saying. I'm not a Chiefs fan but I feel Alex Smith gets a raw deal.

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