The Kansas City Chiefs are happy with Alex Smith, but they want him to be more than just a quarterback who is efficient while playing it safe. They need him to become someone who hits home runs; who makes big plays consistently.
Smith throws an interception only 1.3% of the time, second best in the NFL last season and is often in the top 5 of that category, at least over the last few years. But the Chiefs, who missed the playoffs last season, need more offense from everyone, including him, and it begins by putting the ball in the air and being some sort of long range threat.
They had just four passing plays of 35 yards or longer last season; three fewer than the next lowest team and 20 fewer than the league leader. Their offense choked late in the season, kicking eight field goals and scored one touchdown in the final two games in failing to make the playoffs. Smith didn’t exactly have the most talented bunch of receivers to throw a deep ball to, but Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback with the best INT percentage in the league, is a big-time deep threat. You can avoid interceptions and make big plays. The question is whether Smith can. His offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, thinks he can.
If he misses a down-the-field throw, it’s my job and it’s our job to show him on tape exactly what he’s looking at in order to see that throw. That’s the development of a quarterback. You do want to be aggressive. You’ve got to stay on the edge of aggression. When the throw is there, you make it. That’s part of what we teach. I like where Alex is. But now in the spring, we want to see any quarterback shoot the ball down the field and at least test it. That gives him the comfort level the next time he’s in that situation.
And what about Smith? He knows that the fact that it’s going well for his in the offseason means nothing once the real game begins. The pressure is on him to translate his adjustments in training to the regular season.
As far as the decision-making, it’s constantly getting fine-tuned. We just had a five-week window when we were practicing without defense. Then you’re really kind of talking textbook and you’re looking at all of our stuff from last year and all these different defenses. Now we’re in the second week and it flips a little bit and we’re going against our defense. When we get into these team drills and 7-on-7, you want to practice playing football. Sometimes the defense does dictate where the ball goes depending on the play. There’s a balance there.
In two seasons with the Chiefs, Smith has completed 62.9% of his passes, thrown 41 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions and has a passer rating of 91.2.