The Kansas City Chiefs have reportedly finalized a trade with the San Francisco 49ers that sends the Chiefs’ 2013 second round pick (No. 34 overall) and a conditional pick in 2014 to San Francisco in exchange for quarterback Alex Smith.
The Chiefs hope that they’ve answered their need for a franchise quarterback for years to come, but may have just brought another Matt Cassel to Arrowhead Stadium.
Cassell, of course, was brought to KC from the New England Patriots following a pretty successful season filling in for an injured Tom Brady. Cassel parlayed that pretty good year into a starting job with the Chiefs, complete with a rich new deal.
Since coming to the AFC West, however, Cassell has become a monumental bust, failing to deliver on the expectations he brought with him from New England.
Now, Kansas City and new head coach Andy Reid have traded for another backup quarterback that they will give the starting quarterback job to in Smith, though this time he comes with a larger body of work.
Since being drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers in 2005, Smith has started 79 games, including nine last season before getting injured. After five disastrously disappointing seasons, Smith seemed to turn things around under Jim Harbuagh, who developed a game plan to cater to Smith’s skill set.
And it was working to near perfection.
After leading the team to the NFC Championship game in 2011, Smith had San Francisco out to a 7-2 start in 2012 and had completed 26-of-28 passes over a two-game period before leaving a game against the St. Louis Rams with a concussion.
In his absence, Colin Kaepernick made an immediate impact and pushed Smith out of the picture by adding a dynamic element to the 49ers offense that was missing before.
So now, Smith will get a chance to start in Kansas City, and the question becomes which Smith will the Chiefs get? Will they get the disappointing Alex Smith, who struggled for the first five years in the NFL (under four different offensive coordinators) or will they get the Alex Smith who seemed like he had figured it out over the last two years?
Unfortunately for the Chiefs and Smith, the situation in Kansas City may lead to more disappointment than celebration. The 49ers had a stacked team in place around Smith with an elite defense and a physical running game that took a lot of pressure off the quarterback. Smith accomplished the most under Harbaugh when he was asked to shoulder the least responsibility.
In Kansas City with a pass-happy Andy Reid, the onus will be on Smith to make the offense successful. Is he ready to shoulder that responsibility?
Even if he thinks he is, one of the biggest struggles for Smith in his career has been change. He had to learn a new offense pretty much every year over his first six seasons, and he struggled in each of them to begin with. The continuity with Harbaugh over the last two seasons has been a huge boost for him personally and professionally, but now he’ll have to overcome the adversity of change once again.
The Chiefs gave up a hefty price for Alex Smith, and the pressure will be on him, much like it was on Matt Cassel, to carry the offensive load.
Will he revert to his old form and crumble becoming a Cassel 2.0 or rise to the challenge and prove his growth over the last two seasons can stick?
His legacy, and Andy Reid’s job, likely depend on the answer.