Alex Smith is about to enter his 13th NFL season, and given all the highs and lows the former No. 1 overall pick has experienced in his career — especially during his first NFL stop in San Francisco — there isn’t much that will surprise him anymore.
So allow the Chiefs’ QB1, the man with a .671 winning percentage as a Chief who has nevertheless caught heat for the team’s disappointing divisional-round home loss to Pittsburgh in January, to explain to you why his team will be adding another quarterback soon, likely in this year’s NFL Draft.
“This is the NFL, I’ve been playing long enough,” Smith explained. “You pretty quickly realize we have three guys right now in the quarterback room, right? We’re a guy short. Someone’s coming in.”
That’s right. The previous four seasons under Andy Reid, the Chiefs have had four quarterbacks for offseason practices, which start in May. Including Smith and young backups Tyler Bray and Joel Stave, the Chiefs only have three.
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“We have three on the roster now and we’ll see how the fourth one goes or where he comes from,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
Add that to the fact the Chiefs have done exhaustive research on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, via formal interviews at the NFL Combine and precious predraft visit over the last month, and all signs point to the Chiefs investing one of their 10 picks — and possibly a high one — in the game’s most important position.
But if you think Smith is concerned, or rattled by that possibility, think again. He says he’s actually involved, to a small extent, in the vetting of said quarterbacks.
“This time of year, QBs are coming in just like every other position,” Smith said. “To be honest, it’s a pretty free, open conversation. We talk to the QBs. ‘Hey, who do you like? How’s this guy? How’s that guy?’ You know? And kind of have open conversation.”
Might as well be that way. Smith understands that he can’t control who the front office brings in to compete at his position.
“It’s out of our hands, so in a sense, any anxiety you might have over it is pointless, to be honest,” Smith said.
Besides, if he takes care of business — and he plans to — there’s little chance a rookie will be able to outperform him anyway.
“Well, we’ve drafted quarterbacks just about every year that we’ve been here, so I don’t think quarterbacks coming through the door is a big deal to him,” Reid said.
Indeed. In 2014, the Chiefs drafted Aaron Murray in the fifth round. A year ago, they drafted Kevin Hogan. Neither made the club to open the 2016 season.
“He’s long enough into his career to know how this whole thing works,” Reid said of Smith. “I think he has a lot of confidence in his ability, as we do.”
Now Smith has his mind on bigger and better things. Reid said he has some things he’s already prepared to challenge Smith with — though he didn’t want to say exactly what.
“There’s always small things you can work on,” Reid said. “There are things we challenge him with. It’s not what I would tell you a second or third-year player is working on. These are a little bit smaller things.”
Smith, for his part, is serious about working on these things, too. He recently finished a six-week training program in Hawaii, and on Monday Reid said the quarterback looked to be in “phenomenal shape” right now.
Smith, who began the six-week program in March, was coy about the details, but did say he started throwing — via the long toss — earlier than he has in recent years, in an effort to build up arm strength and condition his arm to make the tougher throws he wants to this year.
Smith will have an opportunity to show the fruits of that training when offseason workouts — which are essentially glorified 7-on-7 sessions — start in May.
“I feel really good about this offseason,” Smith said. “I feel like I got a ton of really good work in. It was a good mix of family time, and for me, trying to get better.”
Considering the stakes — for the Chiefs, it’s AFC Championship or bust — and the potential competition that could be on the way, that’s a great sign for the quarterback, though he maintains that the only one he’s truly competing with going forward is himself.
“My focus, and what I should be focused on and what I’m working toward — I control that – you know?” Smith said. “Worrying about (a new quarterback) or dwelling on anything else is unproductive.”