When the Chiefs lost their opening playoff game to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 15 at Arrowhead Stadium, plenty of people lined up to criticize the offense, which was the most explosive group of Andy Reid’s tenure but also the most inconsistent.
And most of the blame, just like most of the credit, ultimately landed at the feet of the coach (Reid) and quarterback (Alex Smith), prompting plenty to wonder whether Smith has taken the Chiefs as far as he can, regardless of his 41-20 regular-season record the last four years.
That, in turn, had led to plenty of speculation from the national media on whether the Chiefs would be interested in pursuing someone like Dallas’ Tony Romo, even though Reid told The Star at the Pro Bowl that Smith will be the Chiefs’ starting quarterback in 2017, and general manager John Dorsey backed that up shortly after the Super Bowl.
At the 101 Awards on Sunday, chairman Clark Hunt also confirmed that course of action to The Star.
“I would just reiterate what Andy has said several times throughout the offseason, which is he’s very happy with Alex and Alex is going to be our starter going into 2017,” Hunt said.
One respected analyst who has long been bullish on Smith — who completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 3,502 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2016 — is NFL.com’s Mike Mayock, who provided some important perspective when he was again asked during a conference call on Monday if he still believes Smith can lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
“That’s a hard question — it’s a good question,” Mayock said. “I am bullish on Alex Smith because I read you guys a list of quarterbacks early on, and there’s only eight or 10 franchise guys in the league, and if Alex Smith isn’t one of them, he’s kind of a notch below, and that’s better than most of the other teams around the league. I could name you half the league that needs a quality starting quarterback.
“So I believe the Chiefs are ahead of most of the teams. I think you’ve got to be careful for what you wish for, because it may come true.”
But that doesn’t mean the Chiefs won’t continue to firm up the position, Mayock added. No. 2 quarterback Nick Foles is likely ticketed for free agency, and while Smith and No. 3 quarterback Tyler Bray remain in the fold, there’s some intriguing developmental talent to be had in this year’s draft. That’s even beyond Mayock’s top-four options at the position — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes II.
“The way I’d look at it if I was Kansas City, and if I was looking for a quarterback, I’d rather get a guy that I felt like had some talent,” Mayock said. “My message early on was keep swinging. Look at New England; they’ve been, for years, trying to figure out when Tom Brady is going to run out of gas. They’ve drafted, consistently, second- and third-round quarterbacks. And they did it again last year with Jacoby Brissett, starting in the third round.
“So I would see no problem with Kansas City if they took a look at (some kids).”
One guy Mayock thinks is interesting is Mississippi’s Chad Kelly, the nephew of former Bills star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,758 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign.
But Kelly has both off-the-field concerns (he was dismissed from Clemson in 2014 after issues with coaches, according to NFL.com) and an injury history (two torn ACLs in four years) and was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, though Mayock doesn’t think that will necessarily hurt him.
“If he didn’t have those, we’d be talking about him as a second-round guy and maybe higher,” Mayock said. “Teams have got to vet him medically, and they’ve got to vet him from a character perspective ... I don’t think he’s going in the first two rounds, so I don’t think it’s hurting him that he’s not at the Combine, but he’s going to need to put his best foot forward going forward with all the individual meetings of teams.”
Mayock also likes Miami’s Brad Kaaya, a true pocket-passer who completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,532 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions but needs to refine his deep-ball accuracy, and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs, an athletic dual-threat passer who completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,946 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 12 more scores on the ground.
“(They) are the two quarterbacks I would classify as having some talent, but (are) kind of long-range developmental prospects,” Mayock said. “If you took a guy like that in the third-round, for instance, and tried to develop them, I think that would be a pretty good plan.”