The NFL is a cyclical system. One day you are a star and the next you are absolutely forgotten. Brutal and unforgiving, it takes an honest man to turn himself into a legend. And in recent comments, Alex Smith showed he has the potential to lift himself to be a legend, maybe not in the terms of his play, but in the terms of his leadership. Alex Smith showed to rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes – and tangentially himself – the brittleness of the NFL, but also revealed he is committed to the right way, every play, all the way. He is committed to the Chiefs way.
The Right Way, Every Play, All the Way is Alex Smith’s Way
Alex Smith’s Comments to Media
Thanks to Adam Teicher of ESPN for providing the source of these comments.
“I think [the Chiefs are] committed to me [only] through this year,” Smith told Teicher. “That’s just the nature of it. If you don’t go out there and perform, I mean, coach [Andy] Reid and [quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy] are very honest. You’ve got to go out there and do your deal. We all have to.”
“Whether or not we drafted Patrick, it doesn’t change that, right? If you’re not good enough and didn’t get it done, you’re not going to be around long. That’s just our culture. I know it. That’s the nature of the position.”
“I’ve been through it. I’m in a different place than the last time I kind of dealt with something like this, [but] I get it, right? If any of us were the GM, this in my opinion might be the most important position in all of sports. You’d be crazy not to be stockpiling talent.”
The Brittleness of the NFL
In the painful moment that was the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff round, the Chiefs, and in particular Alex Smith, had a moment of brutal honesty. Does Alex Smith truly have the tool box to take the Chiefs to a Super Bowl? Time will answer this question – but Smith saw the door starting to close when the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes with the tenth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Players have two ways to react – bitterness and seclusion, or competition and honesty. In the above comments, Alex Smith chose the latter. Not only did he admit he needed to improve his game, but he showed the vulnerability Mahomes will be facing throughout his career. No NFL player is truly safe, and Mahomes may end up facing this harsh reality at some point in his career.
Alex Smith simultaneously revealed that it will be a family atmosphere at camp, as well as competition. Smith is going to help Mahomes along, but at the same time he is going to work his tail off to ensure he is the quarterback beyond one year. If you go back in time, this is the atmosphere that Vince Lombardi championed at his Green Bay Packer training camps. It was competitive, fierce, and players went hard at each other trying to take over others jobs. But, at the end of the day it was always about family. Without that harsh reality of the brittleness, how will players be motivated to work harder through the slug every year?
Moving Into Training Camp
“Sometimes it can be awkward. You just kind of embrace that and be real. I think everybody just appreciates that, being honest. That’s what I kind of emphasized to him, that any of that extracurricular stuff that maybe goes on elsewhere just doesn’t take place here. It’s kind of the environment we have.” – Smith’s comments on meeting and talking to Patrick Mahomes.
Smith is the Chiefs leader, and he will set the tone going into training camp. If Patrick Mahomes does not have any physical impact on games this year, he already has had a mental impact on the entire team. This should have sent a shock wave to the entire team that no position is safe, a reminder of their own vulnerability. If Smith is honest with himself about the fragility of his career, then so will Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, and other veterans who need time to grow their game.
Honesty is at the core of the Chiefs, and they are focused on football and each other. These comments will get lost in the span of time. However, this is the tone going into the 2017 training camp. This may be the fiercest, hardest training camp the Chiefs have seen since Andy Reid took over.
Alex Smith received a shock of honesty, and Patrick Mahomes will be introduced into a competitive, loving football family the way Lombardi welcomed his rookies. Reid sent a message and cultivated a culture of sincere competition. The Chiefs got knocked down last year, now it’s time for them to get up in a fiercer way than ever before.