It just wasn’t fair.
It wasn’t fair that Alex Smith had suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams. It wasn’t fair that he couldn’t start the next week on Monday Night Football. It wasn’t fair that Colin Kaepernick shined when Smith was hurt. It wasn’t fair that Smith was benched. It wasn’t fair that Smith’s last play as a 49er was against the Cardinals in garbage time, when he filled in for the resting Kaepernick.
And it just wasn’t fair that instead of having incredible talent on defense, a Pro Bowl running back and one of the league’s best (if not the league’s best) offensive lines in San Francisco, he will take over for a squad that went 2-14 in 2012.
Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for draft picks, and Smith will take the reins with Andy Reid in Kansas City (if the trade is finalized, which it definitely should be). While the Chiefs had more Pro Bowlers (six) than 23 other teams, and while they have a great running back (Jamaal Charles), Kansas City will definitely not get mistaken for San Francisco.
With the 49ers, Smith’s completion percentage was an insane 70.2 percent, and his passer rating was over 104. If Smith had qualified, he would have been third in passer rating and first in completion percentage. However, Jim Harbaugh, who helped make Smith a lot better, saw something in Kaepernick that everyone else sees now.
So Smith was done in San Francisco, and Kaepernick took over.
If Smith can play at the level he played at in his last year-and-a-half with the 49ers, the Chiefs will be a lot better. While Smith didn’t throw that many times (26.25 times in every one of his full games), he posted some great stats. However, he still needs to shred his “conservative level,” something that he will have a lot more trouble with in Kansas City.
The Chiefs have a great running back, so they will run the ball a lot. The Chiefs barely threw last year, and while they will have a new coach, if the Chiefs can’t re-sign Dwyane Bowe or bring in a good receiver, Smith will have lots of trouble.
A lot of people say Smith needs a great team to operate well, and he won’t have that in Kansas City. While the Chiefs have talent and will likely bring in star left tackle Luke Joeckel with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers are easily a better team.
Also, Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to Kansas City. Andy Reid, who had a terrible 2012 campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles, is going to be coaching Smith in Kansas City. He is best known for his offensive success, and Donovan McNabb was a product of Reid. McNabb was terrible with the Redskins and Vikings, but he was a great quarterback for the Eagles. That was largely because of his coach, who got the Eagles to the Super Bowl once and the NFC Championship Game twice.
Reid can relate to Smith, because Kevin Kolb was also benched due to injury after Michael Vick, the current Eagles starter, shined. Reid and Smith should fit well together, and it’s safe to say Smith won’t be a disaster just because Harbaugh won’t be with him. However, Harbaugh was the perfect coach for Smith, and it’s worth noting that Vick and Nick Foles struggled under Reid in 2012. Smith won’t improve much because of Reid, but he can improve because of his teammates.
Chiefs fans will tell you that the coaching staff “babied” Charles in 2012, because of an ACL tear in 2011. However, to make Smith effective, Charles, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry (YPC) in 2012 and has an incredible mark of 5.8 YPC over his career, will have to step up once again.
Frank Gore is an amazing running back, and he was a huge factor in the success of Smith. So was Vernon Davis, who developed great chemistry with Smith before Smith went down. Smith will need to find at least one receiver to throw to often, which is something he can do. It’s hard to adjust to a new team, especially when that team is 2-14.
If Dwyane Bowe doesn’t return, Smith’s first year will be rocky. The Chiefs have no one else to catch passes for Smith, and even if they sign a receiver, the chemistry won’t be great at first. When Smith first came to San Francisco, he struggled mightily. While he was just a rookie then and while it may not be fair to make comparisons to Smith’s first year, it took him six years to succeed.
And if he doesn’t get lots of help, Smith’s career in Kansas City will be a failure.
Smith needs significant help to be a good quarterback, and the 49ers provided that. He was a great fit in San Francisco, and that’s why the 49ers went places with Smith. However, Smith isn’t Peyton Manning or Tom Brady: he can’t take any team and make them great. The Chiefs are a better fit then most teams, but Smith will not be a star there.
And if everything doesn’t go right, Smith won’t even be good there.