The Alex Smith Conundrum

As we pointed out in the Chiefs chapter of Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 (available now!), Kansas City had one of just 16 seasons since 1991 with a turnover differential of minus-20 or worse. Partially in an attempt to rectify that problem, and partially in an attempt to plug in a quarterback of some actual skill on to the roster, Kansas City's new coach and general manager combination of John Dorsey and Andy Reid opted to trade for Alex Smith. The price was a second-round pick in 2013 and a third-round pick in 2014 that could escalate to a second-rounder if the Chiefs win eight or more games.

The move was, if not lauded, generally accepted. CBS' Mike Freeman called it a win-win, saying you can poke holes ... but you'd be pushing it." Dan Pompei said "it also is fair to wonder why Smith cannot continue to perform under Andy Reid as he did under Jim Harbaugh." Chris Brown, while admitting he has some misgivings about the match, offered that "on the surface, at least ... it has the potential for sustained success."

My initial thoughts on the value of the trade were that Andy Reid just sold Kevin Kolb for two high picks and found Michael Vick on the scrapheap – why give up the picks for someone who hasn't been considered a franchise quarterback since his rookie season? But Mike Tanier wrote that piece and wrote it good. He does that a lot.

But, expanding on this a bit more, the main reason I disliked this trade when it happened was that the Chiefs were giving up on the easiest way a franchise has of finding a real difference-making quarterback: having a high draft pick. It used to be that the Winner's Curse, which I explored a bit in the Lions chapter of FOA 2013, made tanking for a draft pick a bad idea in the NFL. Teams were forced to lock themselves in to contracts that paid rookies like established stars before they even knew how good they were. Like, say, Alex Smith's six-year, $49 million contract that he signed prior to the 2005 season.

The owners were able to get a rookie wage scale in place following the lockout, meaning that the value of the young star quarterback increased exponentially. Instead of Andrew Luck getting an untenable Matthew Stafford-esque contract right away, the Colts walked in to this offseason flush with salary cap space. Okay, so theoretically that has a lot more value in a thought experiment than it does when you use it to bring in Gosder Cherilus, still, that doesn't take away from the fact that Seattle and San Francisco were able to finance offseason acquisitions like Anquan Boldin, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett with the salary cap figures their similarly talented young quarterbacks are currently playing for.

One of the bigger takeaways I had from the old Baseball Prospectus series was the idea of a team having a window to contend in. To pick on my favorite squadron, it didn't really make a lot of sense when the Mets forked over four years and $42.5 million to get an aging Tom Glavine to join a 75-win team following the 2002 season. Glavine would eventually pitch in the playoffs with New York in 2006 -– after the Mets developed David Wright and Jose Reyes and spent oodles of dollars on Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and Carlos Delgado –- but at the time the move didn't really seem to fit the window.

I don't think football windows are quite the same, because in football everything is a year-to-year proposition. But I do believe a quarterback actually can control the size of that window all by himself. Employ a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and your window in any given season is pretty big –- you can overcome some injuries, misfortune, or other team weaknesses. Employ Joe Flacco and your window is still open, but you need some breaks. Like Jacoby Jones suddenly deciding that this was the year to not forget how to catch a football in the playoffs.

For the sake of keeping things simple, let's assume that Alex Smith can be roughly the same quarterback in Kansas City that he was in San Francisco. I don't actually believe that's true, because Reid is no Jim Harbaugh, but let's run with it. Just how big of a window does Alex Smith give your franchise? I think even if we don't agree on exactly how good he is, we can agree that he's hardly top-of-the-line and that he needs to be managed, right?

So while the NFL isn't a sport where you can completely bank on the future, or where you're likely to see tanking contests like you would in the NBA, I think that the CBA change has incentivized teams to shy away from players like Alex Smith. In a very NBA way, being "in the middle" at the quarterback position is no longer enviable. Once you reach the border of Flacco and, if he didn't crater at the end of the season, maybe Matt Schaub, teams are facing some very unenviable decisions over guys that haven't taken the next leap, have stagnated, or have started to watch their play decline. Guys like Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, Andy Dalton, and Sam Bradford. How small does the window have to get before you try to get a new quarterback? At what point does surrounding the quarterback with the best of all possible options you can find become less enviable than just trying to find a new driver?

And with the new CBA, you really aren't in much of a hole if you miss on a quarterback. The Jaguars could have easily moved on from Blaine Gabbert with little financial loss this offseason, but once they decided the quarterbacks in the draft weren't up to their standards, they decided to sit on their hands. They didn't deal from their assets to bring in, say, Matt Flynn for a slight run at the AFC South crown. They embraced the fact that the possibility of being bad might offer an opportunity now that the humongous rookie contracts are gone.

That's why I was so against this trade for the Chiefs. Even setting the cost in draft picks aside –- and they gave up a lot -– it gives them more of a porthole than a window. I'm not saying that it was necessarily a bad move, because I think it depends on just how important the fact that the window is open at all is worth to you. Reasonable people can look at the fact that less-than-stellar regular season teams have gotten hot in the playoffs recently and conclude that all you have to do is get there. I don't subscribe to that premise. I think it's more important to maximize your chance at winning a Super Bowl. And, in that hypothetical, I will take the not-easily-quantifiable chance of plucking a new quarterback in the next few drafts over the steady contributions of an Alex Smith.


86 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2014, 12:13am

#1 by Zach (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 11:44am

While I agree with the vast majority of what you said, I think using Kaepernick and Wilson as examples is a bit misleading: San Francisco and Seattle could afford to splurge on other positions because they landed apparent franchise QBs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Given that you seem to advocate that the Chiefs should have been content to be bad again this year and hope to find a QB at the top of the first, I'm not sure how Kaepernick and Wilson are all that relevant to the discussion.

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#12 by Bobman // Jul 17, 2013 - 3:43pm

You are right about their rounds, and what GM honestly pencils into his day-planner for the draft, "find franchise QB in 3rd round!"???

But I think the point was just that their cap hits were a LOT more like Luck's with the new CBA, than Smith's under the old CBA, regardless of the round. Those two guys look, perform, smell, bark, and quack like first rounders, and their cap hit is not so different, either, whereas in years gone by, the pay differential would be substantial.

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#2 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 12:11pm

"I don't actually believe that's true, because Reid is no Jim Harbaugh"

I'm lost. For my money, there's not another coach in the whole NFL with a more proven track record then Andy Reid when it comes to getting solid production out of QBs from the scrap heap. He won't turn Alex Smith into Peyton Manning, but Harbaugh didn't do that either.

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#3 by sundown (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 12:25pm

Totally agree. It might not work out, but I don't see where one would question Reid's ability to get a QB to perform.

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#4 by RoninX (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 12:54pm

Along those same lines: does Harbaugh get a little too much credit for walking into a coaching situation with a team with a huge amount of talent in place and simply not being a train wreck of a coach?

Harbaugh has certainly demonstrated that he is capable of coaching up a good team (SF underachieved for at least 3 years before he took the reigns), and getting them to a championship game. But he didn't participate in the acquisition of most of his team's talent, and by any measure has accomplished less as an NFL coach than Andy Reid. Why exactly is he the new NFL gold standard?

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#70 by Richie // Jul 19, 2013 - 2:11pm

"does Harbaugh get a little too much credit for walking into a coaching situation with a team with a huge amount of talent in place and simply not being a train wreck of a coach?"

I think this might also be a reason why the Chiefs, Reid and Smith will all look good this year. Reid is a huge upgrade at coach. Smith is a decent upgrade at QB, and the Chiefs had a bunch of Pro Bowlers last year. It's possible that their QBs and Coach were holding them back the past couple years.

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#5 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 1:07pm

Jim Harbaugh has a two year resume as a NFL coach; Andy Reid has over a decade. I would argue that Harbaugh isn't Andy Reid. Everyone assumes that Harbaugh will just keeping winning, but never count out entropy.

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#9 by dmstorm22 // Jul 17, 2013 - 2:20pm

This. Andy Reid is the guy who coached a team that lost McNabb for six games and went 5-1 starting Koy Detmer and AJ Feeley. They made the NFC Divisional round after unearthing Jeff Garcia and turning that into a pretty darn good offense. Obviously, the Mike Vick scenario in 2010.

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#21 by alan frankel // Jul 17, 2013 - 4:23pm

a shot at a wild card birth is not worth 2 picks russel wilson was a 3rd rounder kaepernick a 2nd if u have good scouting u can find these guys without risking 2 much so theres no reason 2 trade unless ur a super bowl team. the chiefs probobly arent even the best team in their division let alone the conference

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#23 by Anonymous Jones // Jul 17, 2013 - 5:11pm

As long as "good scouting" in your version of English is basically synonymous with "luck" in mine, then I totally and completely agree with you!

Teams with "good scouting" never, ever whiff on 2d round draft picks; so maybe I'm being too harsh here? I mean, there's a true Mount Everest of Evidence that teams with "good scouting" are easy to identify and that "good scouting" is basically the key to a run of five or six Super Bowls. I mean, if you look at average draft value for second round picks for front offices (with consistent managerial personnel), the conclusion is obvious.

Actually, my main insight into the NFL is that I really think the key to success is to have good "compensatory 6th round" scouting and identify a new Tom Brady every year. That's been my pitch to all 30 teams each year when I submit my resume for the position of GM. I can't understand how they don't see the value in my proposition.

As for Smith, the trade might turn out poorly. And it might turn out well. Smith might be good but the move may have bad timing. Smith might turn out to be bad but the move might have good timing.

And the market will fluctuate. That too. I predict that too.

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#29 by Will Allen // Jul 17, 2013 - 7:34pm

You, sir, have a future in network sports broadcasting. Unless "Anonymous Jones" is an alias for Colin Cowherd, in which case, stop showing off!

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#46 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:28am

For years, there was a subset of commenters who insisted that you didn't need to spend a high draft pick to get a franchise QB. The universally cited example was Tom Brady. I suspect Russell Wilson will be taking over that niche soon, if he hasn't already.

Just for some context as to how valuable a 3rd round pick is when looking for a franchise QB, prior to Russell Wilson...
- The last good* QB taken in the 3rd round was Matt Schaub (2004)
- The last QB taken in the 3rd round to provide any significant value to the team that drafted him was Brian Griese (1998)
- The last real "franchise"* QB taken in the 3rd round was Joe Montana (1979)

* definitions of "good" and "franchise" will obviously vary, but I feel pretty confident that Colt McCoy and Trent Edwards do not qualify. If you want to call Schaub a franchise QB, I wouldn't argue.

Point being, the 3rd round is not the place to go digging for QBs. In reality, you'd be very lucky to get someone as good as Alex Smith in the 3rd round. The odds really don't improve that much when you move up to the 2nd round either. The last superstar QB to come out of the 2nd round was Brees, and that was with the 32nd pick, which would be a 1st rounder these days. Bottom line, if you're serious about drafting a QB, you do it in the 1st round. Everything after that is a flyer.

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#52 by Will Allen // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:01pm


One of the most underappreciated aspects of NFL analysis these days is how much pure, random, dumb luck affects drafting, and how hardly anyone has ever produced a large enough sample size of draft picks to have any confidence that the results we see were produced by skill, instead of random chance. This is the roulette wheel upon which so many reputations are built.

Now, this is somewhat counterbalanced by another underappreciated aspect, which is what a difference a coach can make by being a good teacher, and hiring a staff of good teachers. This is really where the likes of Parcells and Belichik have excelled.

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#78 by Noahrk // Jul 21, 2013 - 11:45am

If it can be proven that 1st round picks are more successful than 2nd rounders, and 2nd rounders than 3rds, then there's proof that there is such a thing as good scouting. And when there's "good" and "bad" scouting, there's "better", too.

Where I agree is that I don't think there's sure-fire 100% certainty scouting. All players carry a risk of a certain kind.

The man with no sig

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#80 by Kevin from Philly // Jul 22, 2013 - 6:39pm

By that logic, wouldn't it have been better for Andy to try to coach up Cassel and keep the two picks? Not to downplay his ability to coach QB's, but who has Reid made into a special player since McNabb? I'd be more afraid of his history of picking QB's as a GM than confident in his ability to make the QB better as a coach if I were a KC fan.

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#6 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 1:11pm

I can understand why the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith; they didn't think much of the quarterbacks in this past draft. But nothing precludes them from drafting somebody next year, and now that they have a starting caliber quarterback, they can sit the guy a year and not rush him in. I think the two main arguments against the trade are: Geno Smith will be good (nobody knows, and the entire NFL passed on him in the first round), and you lose cap room.

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#7 by bravehoptoad // Jul 17, 2013 - 1:25pm

Maybe there's an amount of realism involved. You can work with a QB who's solidly in the middle of the pack, and giving up 2 draft picks isn't going to prevent you from trying to hit on the next great thing at QB, particularly considering "late" round successes like Kaepernick and Wilson.

Otherwise you're increasing the randomness of your results. You'll be the next Washington or Indianapolis and be happy with your QB, or you'll be the next Jacksonville or Tennessee.

I'm thinking Smith raises your floor without terribly affecting your ceiling.

I'm guessing this was exactly what Jim Harbaugh was thinking when he surprised everybody, Smith included, and worked hard to keep Smith around. Meanwhile he swung for the fences with a high-upside QB in round 2.

Why can't Reid immitate that formula?

P.S. -- I greatly enjoyed this post.

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#14 by dryheat // Jul 17, 2013 - 3:47pm

You can work with a QB who's solidly in the middle of the pack....

This pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter. If we all agree that Smith is a middle of the pack QB -- let's say somewhere in the range of the 16-24th best QB in the league, then it's a no-brainer. There are 15-23 men in the world that can do the job better than he can. Absent a way to get one of those guys -- which is hard to do -- make the trade. I think it's been fairly well established that it's so rare to win a championship without good quarterbacking that everybody uses the exact same historical example to prove that you can. The other approach is to keep on drafting quarterbacks until you find someone who is better, which could take years.

I think a team is much better off trading for an established average guy and use those draft picks to maximize the talent around him instead of hoping to find an improvement exclusively via the draft.

Would anybody care to name a college quarterback in the past draft or the next two who they feel very confident will be a better NFL QB than Smith? If a team were to draft them all, then they have a good chance, but to hang your hat on one or two guys that you then have to compete with everybody else to acquire? It doesn't seem too promising.

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#24 by sundown (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 6:11pm

Well said. Rivers rant falls into the trap of assuming that those draft picks would net a quality QB who'd be as good as, if not better than, Alex Smith. That's not at all a certainty.

It's all "bird in the hand" stuff. Yes, they might be able to find their QB of the future in the second or third round...but they also might fail on that, which would cost them several years to confirm with certainty that their efforts had failed. No franchise relishes being in that position, particularly not with a newer GM in place and a newly hired, big-name coach. They traded the uncertainty of those picks for a guy who has proven he can play well in the NFL. And they'll be able to tell with certainty if Smith is going to work out substantially quicker than if he was a rookie being developed, so if he fails they still save a fair chunk of time on the experiment.

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#41 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 2:45am

College quarterbacks I would feel very confident will be better than Alex Smith: Teddy Bridgewater and Taj Boyd. You'll need a top five pick next year to get one of them.

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#45 by dryheat // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:14am

Well, that is the common wisdom, Bridgewater especially, but I'm not confident that either one is going to be better than Tyler Thigpen in the NFL. I've watched a half dozen Bridgewater games and I don't see anything other that what I'd call "uneven", although talking heads love to marvel at his athletic abilities. Is their any reason to believe that he'll be better than the Atlanta Mike Vick, who remains the most athletic QB prospect we'll see for a while?

Whatever, that's all opinion at this juncture. To the point, you'd probably need a top 3 pick to get one, and if you don't suck enough to warrant a top 3 pick, the cost to move up will likely be much greater than the cost to acquire an Alex Smith, so you end up settling for a consolation prize, which might be Russell Wilson, or might be Blaine Gabbard, or might be Jimmy Clausen.

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#54 by RoninX (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:35pm

...and is almost surely one of the latter two.

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#57 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 4:14pm

David Fales, Aaron Murray and Johnny Manziel are also probably going in the first round next year. I have my doubts about Johnny Football, but Fales and Murray are probably likelier to be Russell Wilson than Gabbert.

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#68 by Kyle D. (not verified) // Jul 19, 2013 - 11:15am

Well, as long as teams have your word on that, I guess they're good to go!

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#8 by MatMan // Jul 17, 2013 - 1:36pm

It's also about selling tickets and maintaining the interest of the fan base. I don't think the Smith move was calculated to widen the window for a Super Bowl run, but to let the fans know that the franchise is working hard to get a few extra wins this coming season.

How many more wins -- in the eyes of KC fans -- does the team get by upgrading from godawful Matt Cassel to NFL-average game manager Alex Smith?

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#10 by Yaguar // Jul 17, 2013 - 2:31pm

It also matters because players don't want to be on a total basket case team, and they start to discriminate against you in free agency if you are awful.

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#27 by Kyle D. (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 7:13pm

Also, getting an established QB may have been part of the Andy Reid negotiations. Reid wasn't going to be unemployed for long and he wouldn't likely go someplace where'd he have to wait a couple years to see if a 2nd or 3rd rounder developed.

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#49 by jds // Jul 18, 2013 - 9:58am

This is it exactly. There was no one in the draft to take. Available QB's that Reid might have considered started and ended with Matt Flynn. If they didn't get Smith, what would they have done? And the fans would see it and Arrowhead would be a ghost town. This is front office and coach saying to fans - we are going to try to compete this year.

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#11 by Will Allen // Jul 17, 2013 - 3:41pm

As others have already pointed out, if the plan is to be Bradyesque, Russellesque, Kaeperneckian, or , hell, even Rodgersesque, in picking qbs, then sucking to get a qb with a high pick makes no sense. If they think Smith's productivity will be good, then the trade is fine, but the biggest reason it likely won't be has nothing to do with any advantage that Harbaugh offers over Reid. It has to with the other 52 roster spots on the two different teams.

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#13 by Bobman // Jul 17, 2013 - 3:47pm

Will Allen will be writing the quarterback section for FO's first annual football dictionary. I knew an Armenian guy named Kaeperneckian once....

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#18 by Will Allen // Jul 17, 2013 - 4:15pm

Sadly, it looks as if the last thing you want to be is Ponderous......

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#31 by justanothersteve // Jul 17, 2013 - 8:56pm

But for a short time, the Minnesota QB was Favrelous.

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#35 by Serenity Now! (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 11:29pm

With improved receiver play, Pittsburgh's passing game should be Roethlisburgeoning this year.

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#39 by jamie_k74 // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:51am

OK, this thread wins the internets for today.

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#42 by BaronFoobarstein // Jul 18, 2013 - 2:48am

If Locker wins the starting job in camp, his backup may get Fitzpatruculent on the sidelines.

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#17 by BaronFoobarstein // Jul 17, 2013 - 4:08pm

I don't see that a presently bad team is optimizing for championships or even playoff appearances. There's value in just going out and winning some games.

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#25 by herewegobrowni… (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 6:48pm

"There's value in just going out and winning some games."

I tend to agree, but if you talk to many Browns fans, they'll say we should've lost just that one more game in 2010 so we could have AJ Green.

Or just those two more games (which would've been enough as we would've won the easier SOS tiebreaker over St.L/Indy) in 2011 so we could have Luck/RG3.

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#28 by Theo // Jul 17, 2013 - 7:29pm

No, because winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

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#26 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jul 17, 2013 - 7:11pm

There is value in winning some games, but how much value, really if you only win 7 or 8 games. I'd rather have my team swing for the fences and accept the consequences either way. This seems to set the Chiefs up for a few seasons of .500.

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#19 by Theo // Jul 17, 2013 - 4:17pm

"But Mike Tanier wrote that piece and wrote it good."

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#58 by Theo // Jul 18, 2013 - 6:07pm

are you saying that 'good' is american English?
(not a rhetorical question; I'm from the Old World)

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#60 by Mr Shush // Jul 18, 2013 - 6:27pm

Informal US English, yes. It's not exactly . . . correct, but it's far more common and less frowned-upon there than in the UK, where that usage is pretty much the exclusive preserve of Harry Redknapp.

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#62 by BaronFoobarstein // Jul 18, 2013 - 7:13pm

No, "Foo it good" is an intentional misuse that lends a folksy definiteness to the statement. When spoken aloud it would be receive emphasis by being said slightly more slowly.

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#22 by Anonymousness (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 4:31pm

Love the subtle simpsons ref

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#32 by Raiderjoe // Jul 17, 2013 - 8:57pm

Chiefs will stink bechabd are thw chiefs.nothing more needed to know. Coudk have Aaron Rodgers and Adrian peterosn on tema abdwoukd go 5-1@. Defibiflw t not going to compete withRaiders and Brobcos for division crown. Early summer predicitons
Raiders 12-4
Brobcos 11-5
Chargeta 6-10
Chiefs 4-12

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#37 by AnonymousAnonymous (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:13am

Over the next 24 hours, at least 50 readers will mutter to themselves, "No, YOU stop posting."

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#48 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:32am

It like you're inside my head!

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#44 by Raiderjoe // Jul 18, 2013 - 6:01am

Thank you fot your contirbution to thios tgread

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#56 by Dean // Jul 18, 2013 - 2:24pm

This guy and Honest Abe are the same person just yanking everyone's chain.

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#65 by Raiderjoe // Jul 18, 2013 - 10:59pm

Is Honest Abe poster here or weer you writing about Abe Lunvoln? If syes then it appriroariate. Becauaseue did wear stove pot hat in public sometimes
Last Sunday one example. Most recent one. Wore to supermarket and also in woods

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#71 by Dean // Jul 19, 2013 - 2:57pm

I meant the Honest Abe persona who appears every Monday to remind us all that Peter King is a wonderful human being and an even better writer and how dare any of us mock him!

It's different sides of the same coin (one blows undeserved sunshine, the other undeserved venom), but they're both one trick ponies.

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#73 by Raiderjoe // Jul 19, 2013 - 4:48pm

Oh, come to think of it now can recall posts bt Honest Ane. Did not realize guy was one tirkc pony.

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#51 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jul 18, 2013 - 10:38am

I actually enjoy RaiderJoe's posts. He's like the Tommy Wiseau of grammar and spelling.

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#69 by Kyle D. (not verified) // Jul 19, 2013 - 11:20am

When he first showed up I was like "what the heck?" But he's funny and knows football. He's basically an encyclopedia for 70s-80s stuff.

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#79 by Anonymous111 (not verified) // Jul 22, 2013 - 11:51am

I always look forward to his post. I'm flabbergasted he spelled Aaron Rodgers right. My guess is still on the Brobcos to take the division with ease.

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#36 by BigWoody (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:10am

RJ, you could be right. Raiders got the best QB of the offseason in Matt Flynn!

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#34 by Anonymous49 (not verified) // Jul 17, 2013 - 11:24pm

Reid decided to pass on both EJ Manuel and Geno Smith. An all the other QBs available. Yet he managed to get the QB from this QB class who might have the highest upside.

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#47 by justanothersteve // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:31am

Smith will get injured. Chase Daniel will come in and look brilliant for two games while Smith recovers. Smith finishes out the season and Reid trades Daniel to Jax for two second round picks. Daniel starts for one season where he leads the league in blocked passes. Reid uses one of the picks to draft another QB and the cycle continues.

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#53 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 12:21pm

I think this Anonymous was referring to Tyler Bray, who the Chiefs picked up as a free agent. Your scenario may very well happen though.

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#61 by Mr Shush // Jul 18, 2013 - 6:32pm

I actually really like Chase Daniel, in the right context. He'd better have a good interior line in front of him, and a short passing, spread-type offense, but he could be moderately effective given that. Better than Fitzpatrick, for example, I suspect.

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#63 by justanothersteve // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:35pm

For the record, I do too. I've lived in St Louis for most of the last 26 years and Mizzou is the local college team. I thought he was practically a Drew Brees @ Purdue clone, so going to NO was perfect for his development. I don't know if he'll be any better than AJ Feeley or Kolb, but I think Reid is probably the best fit to continue his career. Completely agree with you that in the right situation he could be pretty good, like Warner was perfect for St Louis and Arizona.

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#43 by Anonymous guy (not verified) // Jul 18, 2013 - 3:16am

This goes along with the "Winning is a habit" thing, but I think a solid quarterback is also important for the talent evaluation and development of the rest of the team.
How good is Holmes? Cecil Shorts II? Steve Johnson?
What about running backs? How much is CJ2Ks decline a result of the state of their passing game? How would MJD fare on a good team?
How do you convince a young WR of the importance of proper route running if the QB never throws on time?

Someone like Alex Smith gives you a workable base line to build a team around until you find your QB of the future. Imagine being the Panthers GM if 2010 had been Steve Smith's contract year and tell me you wouldn't let him walk.

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#55 by bravehoptoad // Jul 18, 2013 - 1:06pm

...a solid quarterback is also important for the talent evaluation and development of the rest of the team.

Great point.

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#59 by Theo // Jul 18, 2013 - 6:21pm

I don't think you should take the Jacksonville route of sitting the year out in sucktitude; sucking it out if you will.
It demoralizes the team, the fans, the whole idea of what the team is for. To chase a championship and make money.
To win, you need to take it step by step and if you obviously suck at QB, this will hurt your whole team. Maybe you will motivate the defense, because they have to pick up the slack, but defenses rather stand on the sidelines watching touchdowns.
Seriously, as a defensive player you want to go out, kick ass for 3 plays and then watch the special teams and offense score the points for you or put you in nice field position.

As for the rest of the offense; no blocker wants to block for an incompletion machine. No one wants to run routes and know that the QB will throw it somewhere impossible to catch, hospital passes (passes late over the middle) or misses you completely when you're open.
Running backs hate it too, because defenses will stack the box.
Having a bad QB is bad for the whole team and getting away from it ASAP is always the good thing to do for above reasons.
Demotivation is the worst thing a new head coach can do. Bringing in a better QB will make everyone give a reason to do their job just a little bit better - it motivates. And that's a big part of what a head coach in the NFL is for.
To stick with someone that obviously sucks at QB, you will keep your window shut. Better yet; not only will the window be shut, but you will suffocate the people inside the house.

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#64 by bobrulz // Jul 18, 2013 - 8:57pm

I think it's better to have a known quantity - in this case, high-floor, low-ceiling game manager Alex Smith - for 1 or 2 years than it is to bank on the possibility that you could get a franchise quarterback in the 1st round. There's so many variables come draft day that even with the new, much more favorable rookie wage scale, it's still just not practical to bank on a high draft pick to save your franchise. It's true that the majority of quarterback talent is concentrated in the first half of the first round, but there are so many high QB draft picks that turn out to be busts, not to mention several examples of franchise quarterbacks drafted after, say, pick #15. This isn't like the NBA where you're pretty much guaranteed to not be picking a superstar after the same pick (with very few exceptions). I just think it's better that the Chiefs get the possibility of an 8-8 season or a wild card berth than it is suffering through another miserable 2 or 3 win season just for the possibility of a high draft pick and a franchise quarterback. Not to mention that draft day trading is such a strategic never know when the possibility to trade up could present itself.

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#66 by Will Allen // Jul 18, 2013 - 11:05pm

Now that you don't have to mortgage the team to sign an upper level first rounder, I think it makes even more sense to simply be drafting qbs, in any round, and signing free agent rookie qbs, just about every year. The game is jut too qb-centric to not be always fishing for the lucky break.

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#67 by Theo // Jul 19, 2013 - 7:19am

This the reason I didn't like the Steelers to have both Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich as backups last season.
Since acquiring Roethlisberger they've only rolled the dice on 2 mid round QBs (Omar Jacobs 2006 and Dennis Dixon 2008).
They drafted Landry Jones this season and I don't think it's one seasons too early.

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#76 by herewegobrowni… (not verified) // Jul 20, 2013 - 1:30pm

They did well enough at the start of the '10 season with merely ok backups when, you know. They were also able to beat Baltimore on the road during this past midseason without Ben. (I can't complain about the Browns game during that stretch, though.)

Going back to a few posts up about Chase Daniel being a "Drew Brees clone" (who happened to also be from Texas originally,) weren't a lot of draft boards projecting Zac Dysert to be the project QB for the Steelers? Of course like Big Ben he was also a Miami Redhawk (and from the same area of northwest Ohio,) and while he didn't have close to the same size he had similar college stats.

When Landry was projected higher it was speculated he'd be the "in case Weeden completely flops" QB.

To respond to this topic, it's rare for 1st round or high 2nd round QBs to not get second years unless they are of Jimmy Clausen caliber.

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#75 by bobrulz // Jul 20, 2013 - 1:28am

So if a quarterback doesn't work out after a year, you just discard them and move on? Sorry, but no. There's a difference between managing your team's financial situation, and over-managing it to the point that it hurts your team. Very few QB's will be instant gems. Most QBs are more Eli Manning than Russell Wilson. Your strategy sounds like a good way to ruin the confidence and handicap the development of all of your QB's, every year.

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#77 by herewegobrowni… (not verified) // Jul 20, 2013 - 2:47pm

At the same time, both Mannings', Elway's, etc. early-career statistics may well be over-used as an excuse to not get rid of a QB because "he might be good eventually." A lot of it is GMs will not admit to a mistake after just a year, especially if team presidents see them as "their guys" and also want to save their own jobs.

Phil Taylor is a good young defensive cornerstone, but if the Browns had given up on Colt McCoy a year earlier they could've drafted Kaepernick or Dalton in that slot.

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#72 by Dean // Jul 19, 2013 - 2:59pm

What nobody's talking about here - although it was discussed a bit when Smith first signed - is the idea that this might fail, not because Smith is a bad QB, but because he's a square peg in a round hole.

If you were to design an artificial construct to be the perfect Andy Reid System QB, you would get a guy whose skillset is VERY different than Alex Smith's.

I expect Smith to fail in KC, but not because he's a bad player - just that it's the wrong situation for him.

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#74 by RoninX (not verified) // Jul 19, 2013 - 5:08pm

Smith is relatively mobile (still) and at his best in the short passing game. Those seem to match up reasonably well with what Reid has been successful with in terms of QBs in the past. Of course the argument could be made that Reid has never had QB that was a great fit for his system (McNabb's success not withstanding) - but then again maybe I'm not as well versed in his version of the WCO as I should be.

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#81 by Jah (not verified) // Jul 25, 2013 - 11:24am

Manning needed some luck to keep that window open. I don't know how else you can describe playing against a Rex Grossman QB'd team.

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#82 by Art (not verified) // Sep 25, 2013 - 1:13pm

After three games Harbaugh doesn't look like a genius and Reid doesn't look like a clown. That seemed to be your biggest consternation. If Harbaugh actually played the game I would agree he helped Alex improve, reality is Alex finally got it together after going through way too many OC. Gannon clicked like that too. Two 2nd rounders for a QB that can play the SuperBowl Trent Dilfer position is fine when you have a defense as good as the Chiefs have. Want to revisit your column in another month?

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#84 by Mr Shush // Sep 26, 2013 - 4:57am

I'm not Alex Smith's biggest fan, but he is much, much better than Trent Dilfer ever was.

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#85 by Anonymous1233211 (not verified) // Dec 17, 2013 - 9:06pm

So uh, how'd that line of thought work out for you?

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