Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alex Smith Trade Shows the Direction of Two Franchises

Swapping Alex Smith for a 2nd round pick was a coup for the 49ers.

By Joe Parello

The 49ers have just shipped quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft, and a conditional mid-round pick in 2014.

The fact that the Niners were able to get a 2nd round pick for a backup that has exactly one year of decent football to his name speaks volumes about the direction they are heading. But, the fact that the Chiefs are investing in a backup-quality player with one decent year of football to his name (Uh, Matt Cassel deja vu?) says even more about how this organization has taken a 10 win team from 2010 and made it one of the league's worst.

First, to the 49ers, who, led by coach Jim Harbaugh, did what they had to do with Alex Smith: They used him until somebody better came along. That was always the plan. Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick, had been an unequivocal bust through six years in the league.

To Harbaugh's credit, he rode Smith to within a few muffed punts of the Super Bowl. But, he also selected Smith's successor, Colin Kaepernick, in the second round of that year's draft. This season, when Smith suffered a concussion, it gave Harbaugh the perfect opportunity to go with his guy, and dramatically increase the ceiling of his team.

Now, with the young, dynamic Kapernick, the league's best defense, an innovative offense and 11 picks in the 2013 draft, it's hard to see the 49ers not returning to the Super Bowl soon.

On the other side of the coin is the Kansas City situation.

The Chiefs were one of the worst teams in football last year, despite having some excellent talent on defense in the form of Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and an offense with playmakers Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster.

Now, with Bowe looking like a free agency loss, new coach Andy Reid (who was a bad hire consider his recent coaching jobs, but that's another column) has decided that the missing piece is a game manager?

Isn't that what they were supposed to have in Cassel?

This is the classic case of Reid hoping to make the team slightly more competitive immediately, rather than building for the future. Which, to be fair, does make sense for an older coach. Now, if there was an Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or some other consensus top QB in this draft, the Chiefs may not have gone this route.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things are going to get much better in KC, as Smith brings with him many of the same limitations as Cassel, and may have to work without Bowe, Steve Breaston, Peyton Hillis.

So, great trade for the Niners, not so great for the Chiefs.