By about any measure, even for the misguided who dismiss or underestimate him as a robotic “game manager,” quarterback Alex Smith had a dynamite debut season with the Chiefs in 2013.
For starters, he passed for 3,313 yards and rushed for 431 more to shepherd them from a 2-14 2012 season to a 9-0 start and into the playoffs.
Then he shrugged off the conservatively mechanical label by throwing for a career-best 378 yards and four touchdowns in, uh, that game that shall not be named.
But Smith right now seems on a tear to another tier.
He’s engineering the Chiefs offense so seamlessly that you wouldn’t know whether the scheme was designed to be contoured to him or if he’s simply morphed into mastery of it.
What you do know is that Smith is the consummate man for this team at this time … that he’s affirmed many times over that acquiring him was the single-most-essential move the Andy Reid/John Dorsey regime has made in resuscitating the franchise.
Against the Jets on Sunday, Smith completed 21 of 31 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as the Chiefs won 24-10 for their fifth win in six games since starting 0-2.
That means Smith has completed 46 of 60 passes the last two weeks and 146 of 211 (69.2 percent) with 10 touchdown passes and one interception since their baffling opener, a 26-10 loss to a bad Tennessee team in which Smith threw three interceptions.
Since then, Smith has done nothing but demonstrate the mortar he is to this team.
In typical style on Sunday, he connected with an array of receivers (nine) at a range of moderate levels, exploited defensive lapses and steered the Chiefs away from costly miscues.
In a game Smith entered with some concern about a balky right throwing shoulder, the numbers were by no means gaudy or even the most eye-catching of his season.
Instead, it was another tribute to efficiency and precision with little concession to the dramatic … unless you count the wacky, tipped 2-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano.
But it turns out you can win a lot of games this way.
Which is amply spectacular in itself from the guy who serves as the rudder and anchor of this team.
“That guy knows the offense in and out,” said tight end Travis Kelce, who caught a feathered 12-yard touchdown pass from Smith. “On top of that he can make every single throw there is.
“And even more so on top of that, he’s a leader.”
None of that is new, of course.
Smith, after all, was the overall No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft after a terrific college career at Utah. He enjoyed some fine times with the 49ers, and his traits remain the same.
“He’s just real chill,” said wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who also played with Smith in San Francisco. “Real chill.”
But amid coaching changes and injuries, Smith had more downs than ups in an ultimately unfulfilling time there.
It’s been almost completely different for Smith in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are 15-8 in regular-season games he’s started as part of a fresh start for the franchise and himself.
What is new for Smith is the sense of continuity and flow with an offense that now looks almost like it’s an extension of him.
“Decision-making is the most important thing,” Chiefs quarterback legend and broadcaster Len Dawson said. “He makes the right decisions, and his teammates know it.”
Some of this is subtle.
The Chiefs have scored 200 points this season, only eight more than they had scored to this point last year.
Last year’s numbers are a little skewed, though, because through eight games a year ago the Chiefs had five touchdowns furnished by defense and special teams and had played a powder-puff schedule.
They’ve enjoyed just two of those non-offensive touchdowns this season against a much harder early schedule, notwithstanding the 1-8 Jets.
Meanwhile, Smith also is completing nearly 7 percent more of his passes (67.1) than last season’s 60.6.
But it’s not like he suddenly became a lot more accurate.
What’s evident is that Smith and his whole ensemble are more in concert, including a vastly improving offensive line.
“Not only does he have (more of) a grasp, but the guys around him understand him and the offense,” said Reid, smiling and adding, “He can get things done with just a wink” to teammates.
Or as Smith put it: “It’s literally all of us seeing the same thing at the same time, and thinking the same thing and then going out and doing it.”
So never mind that the Chiefs have no superstar receiving presence, that Kelce leads them with 32 catches and that he had the season’s longest passing gain on a 34-yard pickup Sunday.
Never mind that the marquee offensive player indisputably is running back Jamaal Charles.
The Chiefs have themselves an equally indispensable quarterback.
Even if efficiency is more his hallmark than the dynamic.
“I don’t care what you call it as long as it results in a win,” Smith said, smiling and adding, “You always want to be efficient in the passing game. I don’t think that’s a negative thing.”