Alex Smith Jim Harbaugh 49ersThere are two schools of thought on how Alex Smith will do once he joins the Kansas City Chiefs.

1. Smith will prove to be nothing better than a journeyman backup without Jim Harbaugh around to smack his shoulder pads and devise plays/gameplans tailored to Smith’s strengths.

2. As SB Nation’s James Brady said, “The stats don’t lie.” Alex Smith has proven over the last two years that he can play an efficient, effective style of football. More importantly, 20-6-1 over his last 27 starts (including the playoffs) shows he can lead a team to victory more often than not if surrounded by good talent and coaches who know what they’re doing. All told, the Chiefs should the Smith we saw from the last two seasons, not the embattled quarterback who struggled through his first five seasons in San Francisco.

That’s a lot to play with, so let’s go through all the variables.

Coaching

Provided the trade goes down as reported, Smith will go from playing under Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman and Geep Chryst to playing for Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy. Like Harbaugh (and unlike Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary), Reid is an offensive-minded coach who doesn’t view quarterbacking with the same confused reluctance as a third grade boy whenever lady parts are discussed.

In a coaching sense, Smith is in good hands. Every part of his game will be parsed, analyzed and appreciated by Reid and his staff this offseason, and if Reid is smart he’ll ONLY study Smith’s last two seasons. Anything before that — besides his days at Utah, perhaps — would be a waste of time. In actuality, the only person who should really be worried about Reid’s arrival is Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

Just how good is Smith?

Smith’s demotion was more about Harbaugh’s expectations for Colin Kaepernick than anything Smith did wrong. In the process of the quarterback switch, Smith was unfairly cast as a conservative signal caller whose greatest fear was throwing an interception. Yes, the biggest change in Smith’s game during Harbaugh’s first season was INT-avoidance. In 2009 his INT% was 3.2, and in 2010 it was 2.9. In 2011 it dropped to a ridiculous 1.1%, tops in the league.

However, in 2012 Smith started taking risks and mostly good things started to happen. His INT% rose to 2.3, but his TD% soared from 3.8 to 6.0. His yards per attempt jumped from a respectable 7.1 in 2011 to 8.0 in 2012. Because he completed a remarkable 70.2% of his passes, many thought Smith was still a checkdown specialist. Not true. He simply doesn’t have Colin Kaepernick’s tools, something that can be said about pretty much everybody.

Smith had his two best seasons when he was 27 and 28 years old, and quarterbacks can often play effectively well into their 30s. While he isn’t exactly a highlight machine, the idea that he’ll forget everything he learned under Harbaugh and become the guy who completes less than 60% of his passes, throws just as many INTs and TDs, and always takes the easy way out is unrealistic.

For Chiefs fans who aren’t blown away by the addition of Smith, just remember 2012. Last season, Chiefs quarterbacks combined for 8 TDs and 20 INTs and a measly 5.3 YPA. Without a quarterback out there worth drafting and handing the starting job, Reid had to find someone. Smith was clearly the best available option.

How about the talent around him?

This is where things get dicey. The Chiefs’ best pass blocker, Branden Albert, is an unrestricted free agent. Same with Dwayne Bowe, who you’ve all heard of. Many have the Chiefs taking Luke Joeckel No. 1 overall in April’s NFL Draft, and he would presumably replace Albert. Some think the Chiefs might sign Jake Long in free agency, which would be a mistake since Long is injury prone and overrated.

By all accounts Smith is happy to come to Kansas City, which I would imagine means the Chiefs have assured him that they’ll add some receivers, since Jonathan Baldwin (325 yards and 1 TD in 2012) isn’t nearly enough. Otherwise, Smith will be facing the same predicament personnel-wise that he faced early in his career (average/mediocre line play, anonymous receiving corps), with Charles (over 1,500 yards rushing last year) playing the part of Frank Gore. As long as Reid utilizes Charles, that is.

Kansas City’s defense is in the bottom third in the league in all respects. Smith will need to lead the Chiefs offense into the end zone, and can’t get away with playing a ball-control style of offense. That will either unleash a new and improved Smith or play into opponents’ hands, only time will tell.

CONTEST TIME

Here’s where you can win a Large Pizza from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria (Wednesday’s contest was won by lbintheoc, who told me he makes it up to San Jose often enough to take advantage of the prize).

All you have to do is predict Alex Smith’s future with the Chiefs, including:

1. How many wins for the Chiefs next year?

2. Over/Under in 2013: 65% completion rate

3. Over/Under in 2013 7.0 YPA

4. Over/Under in 2013: 20 TD

5. Over/Under in 2013: 3,000 yards (here are his career stats; 2011 is the only year Smith has broken the 3,000 yard barrier)

My answers:

  1. 9 wins (the Chiefs will benefit from a new coach and QB, plus they’re in a pretty lousy division … sorry Raiders and Chargers fans)
  2. Under (too few receivers and Smith’s highest comp% before 2012 was 61.3 in 2011)
  3. Over (even though I’m not sure who’ll he’ll throw to, I think Smith is going to let it fly now that he has a fresh start)
  4. Under (Smith has never thrown 20 TD passes in a season, a stat you shouldn’t tell Chiefs fans or they’ll start crying BBQ sauce tears)
  5. Over (same reasoning as No. 3)

And if you want to break the rules and just give a general prediction on Smith’s year, that’s fine. As long as your response has something to do with how you think Smith will do on the Chiefs, you’re eligible for the prize. Good luck!