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Old 02-27-2013, 02:36 PM  
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Chiefs better with Smith, but ghosts of past QB failures linger


John Dorsey met his wife here. They had barbecue on the Country Club Plaza, a poetically Kansas City way to fall in love. When he became the Chiefs’ new general manager last month, he famously called it his dream job. He doesn’t need to ask anyone for directions here. He knows Kansas City.

Or thought he did, at least.

Judged in a vacuum, the Chiefs just made themselves better. That’s Dorsey’s job, to make the football team better. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn tag-teamed an awful quarterback situation for the Chiefs last season, and Dorsey knew he had to fix this before anything else.

Trading for Alex Smith — who took the 49ers within a whisker of the Super Bowl two years ago and was the league’s leading passer when he got hurt last year — makes the Chiefs better. To win games in 2013, this was the Chiefs’ best available option. Dorsey is a football man, so this is all he’s concerned with.

What he couldn’t have known is that the baggage Chiefs fans come by honestly means one of the most important decisions he and new coach Andy Reid will ever make here cannot be judged in a vacuum. Impossible.

Chiefs fans have been in an emotionally abusive relationship with quarterbacks for most of the last 40 years, and that’s not stopping now. Kansas City greeted Dorsey and Reid with everything but a parade — remember the Chiefs’ “Welcome Coach” commercial? — so if you’re keeping track, the honeymoon lasted eight weeks for Reid and seven for Dorsey.

In a football sense, the trade makes sense. The Chiefs have the first pick in April’s NFL Draft, but no amount of desperation or references about Todd Blackledge being the last homegrown quarterback to win a game for the Chiefs is going to turn rookie-to-be Geno Smith into Andrew Luck. There are no great options for teams needing quarterback help this offseason.

Dorsey was in the Packers’ circle of trust when they used a first-round pick on Aaron Rodgers despite Brett Favre still being a star. Reid used his first pick with the Eagles on Donovan McNabb, but still drafted five more quarterbacks (and added Michael Vick on a free-agent contract) to fortify the position.

There is nothing in Dorsey’s and Reid’s disposition or track record to suggest they have somehow contracted a Piolian level of commitment to the franchise’s new import quarterback.

Except, that’s not how it’s taken by a large chunk of the new leadership’s constituency. This is a fiercely passionate fan base that often expects the worst, especially from quarterbacks, and they’ve seen this movie before: San Francisco Quarterback Comes to KC, Part Four.

That means there are few clean, objective opinions on this in Kansas City. Smith’s limitations will be talked about more than his potential. He is a borderline brilliant man — graduated with an economics degree in 2½ years while playing college football — who nearly set the NFL’s record for completion percentage last year. But he is also injury-prone, and now in a system that will likely have him taking more hits.

Smith is smart and especially accurate in short and intermediate routes, but the team that knows him best discarded him at the first opportunity for what was then a second-year backup who hadn’t proved anything. Smith excelled under current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, which clouds the way he was figuratively jerked around by San Francisco’s coaches his first five seasons.

In the end, Smith is an upgrade from what the Chiefs had and anything else they were likely to get for 2013. He’s still in his 20s, and two longtime NFL personnel men described him as “an ascending player” in separate conversations on Wednesday. The most clear-headed take is that Smith is an improvement in the short-term and uninspiring in the long-term and is costing too much for the risk.

But the bigger problem for Dorsey and Reid is they are effectively rerunning the same script in Kansas City that’s about to celebrate a 20-year anniversary since the Chiefs’ last playoff win. They are taking fans on the same date that’s ended up in tears so many times before.

That’s not Dorsey’s or Reid’s fault, and probably not even something they should be concerned with. But it is something they’ll have to deal with in their new hometown.
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