Alex Smith is wealthy enough to never work another day in his life, but he is also (literally) a model philanthropist helping kids transition from foster care to adulthood.
So no matter how the rest of his career goes, the Chiefs quarterback will have options after football, but you might be interested to know that many close to him think he should (and might) go into politics.
It’s worth mentioning now, too, because on Wednesday he was asked (OK, it was me) about his old friend and teammate Colin Kaepernick being unemployed.
“A lot’s changed in those few years obviously since I’ve been gone and came here,” Smith said. “Everything that’s gone on since, it’s not something I saw coming, knowing Kaep.”
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Smith is, unofficially, the 3,482,832nd person to talk about Kaepernick. But he is more qualified than all but a few to talk about a former star now out of work, one season after throwing 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, and kneeling during the national anthem to protest inequality and oppression among minorities in America.
Smith and Kaepernick were teammates for two years with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick as the backup until Smith sustained a concussion in the ninth game of 2012. The 49ers were 6-2 when Smith was injured, and he was leading the league in passer rating and completion percentage.
But Kaepernick played well, too, and then-coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with him for a run that ended five yards short in the Super Bowl. Smith still believes the 49ers would’ve won the Super Bowl if he had been playing, but maintained a positive relationship with Kaepernick.
The two haven’t talked recently, but the other reason Smith is qualified to talk about this is his perspective. Smith has always thought about more than football. He keeps up with news, listens to NPR regularly, and last year wore a safety pin after the Carolina game, joining a movement meant to show support for minorities, immigrants, women, and members of the LGBT community.
He said he meant nothing political with the safety pin, presumably because he’s still in the NFL, where anything that’s not football is a dreaded Distraction. But, still. This is a guy who reads more than a playbook.
Kaepernick does not have a job. He had a 4-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio last year with one of the league’s worst set of receivers. For his career, he’s thrown 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. His teammates voted him a leadership award last year.
The Baltimore Ravens front office reportedly wanted to sign him, but met resistance from owner Steve Bisciotti. Many have wondered if he’s been blackballed by owners, but the truth is probably simpler — most owners are terrified of even small controversies, and while Kaepernick is undoubtedly better than many backup quarterbacks, he’s not so good that he demands a roster spot.
“It’s hard for me to comment on it,” Smith said. “I don’t know. Lot going on in that landscape right now. Certainly when I was there, he was playing at a really, really high level, right? Had a lot in front of him as far as a career goes. He was playing really good football.
“Crazy to think he’s not playing. Yeah, that’s a crazy thing. As good as he was playing. Young, strong, I felt like he had a long career ahead of him. Crazy that at this point he’s out of a job.”
Smith said there was “no question” he’d welcome Kaepernick onto a team, citing his respect, work, and passion, and there is enough in here to have an idea about how Smith feels.
He is conscious of his words and smart enough to avoid subjects he doesn’t want to discuss, and to stop short of saying anything too controversial. But he’s also secure enough in himself to make his beliefs known.
He went out of his way to compliment Kaepernick as a teammate, and a talent. He used the word “crazy” three times in describing Kaepernick’s unemployment. Clark Hunt has said he would have no problem signing Kaepernick.
There is no risk in either man taking that stance, because the Chiefs already have a starting quarterback in Smith, their future quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, and an emergency plan in Tyler Bray.
But this is Smith leaning into the wind, a bit. He is supporting a former teammate, and in doing so a cause he likely agrees with. That’s all there if you listen, and pay attention, but still subtle enough that he can’t be accused of grandstanding.
In other words, yeah. Smith may have a career in politics someday.