Twenty years later, Smith has a lot more to prove, now that he's the teams starting quarterback and the ghost formerly know as, Matt Cassel, has finally left the building, when the Chiefs cut him on Thursday.
While not exactly Montana, Smith isn't exactly Elvis Grbac either. After eight years in the NFL, there are still questions about how good Smith can be. Drafted in 2005, Smith spent the first part of his career playing for one the league's most inconsistent offenses. In his first 6 seasons, Smith saw six different offensive coordinators before finally seeing stability in the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The last two seasons, Smith has posted passer ratings of 90.7 and 104.1, even posting a 70.1 completion percentage before suffering a concussion in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams. Although Smith was already improving before the arrival of Harbaugh, his emergence has been attributed to the quarterback turned head coach.
The question now becomes, "Can Smith thrive under Andy Reid's tutelage?"
That's a question for both quarterback and coach. While Reid is generally considered to be be an offensive guru, his track record with developing quarterbacks is spotty.
With quarterback Donovan McNabb, Reid won a lot a games and even reached a Super Bowl in 2004. After McNabb left however, the Eagles were never able to replicate McNabb's sustained success at the quarterback position. Quarterback Michael Vick was able to have some success under Reid, but that could be attributed more to Vick's talent than Reid's coaching.
It appears that Smith has the leadership aspect of quarterbacking down pat. Two seasons ago, in the midst of the NFL lockout, and without a contract, Smith organized offseason practices for the 49ers. When Smith was demoted after his concussion last season, reports indicate that he was the consummate teammate, and was instrumental in helping quarterback, Colin Kaepernick's, transition into the starting position.
Chiefs fans are rightfully suspicious given the history of the franchise at the quarterback position. The Chiefs have a spotty record with quarterbacks, to say the least.
Last season's team was historically bad, and the play of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn was one of the reasons for the team's lack of success. The Chiefs threw the most interceptions (20) and posting a meager 60.3 passer rating.
Now it's up to Smith to show that he can be the man under center for the Chiefs. Likewise, it's up to Reid and his offensive staff to show that he can help Smith sustain the high level of play he's enjoyed over the last few seasons.
If Smith can be the same quarterback he was in 2011 and the first half of 2012, the Chiefs will likely be in the hunt for the AFC West title in 2013.
After last season, that would be proof enough.
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