The Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs managed to somehow both become worse in the recent deal involving quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith’s clock was ticking in Kansas City. After compiling just one playoff victory in five tries, it was time for both parties to move in separate directions. KC’s decision to select Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes in last year’s draft marked the beginning of a new chapter. Smith’s excellent play throughout the 2017 season delayed the inevitable, and it only made sense for the team to cash in while the 33-year old still held some trade value.
Kansas City wasted no time getting a deal done. Less than a month after their playoff loss to the Titans, the Chiefs jettisoned Smith to Washington — ending one quarterback battle and starting another.
Longtime Washington signal caller Kirk Cousins remains a part of the team. However, his days appear numbered. Accelerating his departure is Smith’s recently inked 4-year extension. There are no doubts over who will be Washington’s starter in Week 1.
Well, there you have it. Kansas City gets to start their highly-touted young stud. Washington gets Smith on a long-term deal while avoiding messy contract talks with Cousins.
All is well…until both teams eventually take the field this fall.
Let’s start with Washington. They include known commodities with plenty of on-field film to assess. Smith is coming off the best season of his career. He finished second in yards per attempt (8.00), and set career-highs in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and quarterback rating. Smith’s been mostly good in the playoffs (despite the 2-5 record as a starter).
The Utah product has been the poster boy for “game managers” ever since his time with the 49ers. Game managers are quarterbacks that won’t make the fatal mistakes to lose their team the game, but won’t make the crucial plays to help their squad become victorious.
Smith has put his team in the position to win on a number of occasions in the postseason. It’s not exactly his fault when Kansas City’s defense gives up 45 points to Andrew Luck like they did in 2013, or when Travis Kelce is knocked out of the game in the first half like he was against the Titans this year. Elite level talents can weather these types of situations. Smith isn’t elite, but he’s not just a game manager. He settles somewhere in between.
With all of that being said, Smith is not on the level of Cousins as a passer. There were moments in 2017 when the Chiefs appeared to be the most talented roster in the league. Washington lost their two top receivers from last year (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon) and replaced them with a dud free agent signing (Terrelle Pryor). Jamison Crowder was inconsistent all year long. Jordan Reed, to the surprise of nobody, couldn’t stay healthy. Chris Thompson was cool for about four weeks before fracturing his fibula. Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt are all significantly better players than anybody Cousins had for the entirety of the season. Despite all of that — in a down year for Cousins and a career year for Smith — the pair of QB’s managed to finish in the same ballpark on the statistical front.
Granted, Smith offers a different dynamic than Cousins previously presented. He’s a more accomplished scrambler, and takes care of the ball more effectively. However, Smith now joins a team with a minimal run game, worse pass catching options, and an inconsistent defense (one that just traded away the league’s best nickel corner). This isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
Over in Kansas City, the Chiefs dabble with the unknown. It was understood that Mahomes probably wouldn’t be ready to take over in Year 1. He’s a raw prospect equipped with a cannon for an arm. However, the brilliance of Deshaun Watson likely put some pressure on KC’s front office to integrate him into the fold — especially considering Mahomes was selected just two spots earlier in the 2017 NFL Draft.
There isn’t much to be said about Mahomes’ lone start in Week 17 last season. He didn’t do anything magical — though avoided detrimental mistakes at the same time. All we have to go off of is his college tape, and one thing that stands out from watching Mahomes is his propensity for turning the ball over. In fact, the Texas Tech QB totaled 25 interceptions in his last 25 games as a Red Raider. In the last four seasons, Smith compiled 26 interceptions in 61 games played.
It’s admittedly a small sample size, but Mahomes is a gunslinger through and through. Kansas City will have to live through the growing pains. With that said, will that make them a worse team this year? Only time will tell.
With the Raiders pumped after the Jon Gruden signing, the Chargers coming off a hot end to last season, and the Broncos looking to bounce back, winning the AFC West looks to be too tall of a task for a 22-year old quarterback.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the move from both sides. Kansas City knew that Mahomes was the future building block, and figured it’s best to get him involved as quickly as possible — even if it means some growing pains to start 2018. Washington saved some money by extending Smith over Cousins, and could use the money to bolster up the rest of the roster. However, on paper, it appears both teams will take a step back in 2018.
Sources: NBCSports.com, Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports