One of the reasons Alex Smith held onto the quarterback job with the 49ers as long as he did was by being careful with the ball.
But while 10 interceptions over his final 25 starts is about as clean as it gets, he had just 30 touchdown passes over that same span, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid wants to make sure Smith’s not too quick to give up on potential big plays, especially in practice.
“You want to get a feel for the offense now, particularly when you’re new at it [and] if there are close throws, challenge it, see what you can get away with,” Reid said, via Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star. “If it ends up being an interception, OK, it’s an interception. You learn from it. These are smart guys so they learn from it and once they get into the season, they’re not experimenting with it on game day and they know what they can get away with and know what they can’t.
“It’s a new offense. I would tell any quarterback that comes in new that that’s what you need to do. I’ve told them all that. Go ahead and take your shots and see what you can get away with, within reason. But if it’s a close throw, there are going to be a few of those in the National Football League on game day so you need to know what you can get away with on each route.”
There have been some deep balls thrown in recent Chiefs OTAs, and while Smith’s not going to turn into Daryle Lamonica in one offseason, he’s willing to see where this goes.
“You want to stay aggressive,” Smith said. “But in the end I’m always trying to make the right read and throw where the defense is telling me to throw. You don’t come out here and predetermine anything, like ‘Oh, I’m going to chuck it deep on this play.’ I’m constantly trying to just trust my eyes and what I’m seeing out there, trust my reads and what I’ve prepared for and then come out here and throw good balls.”
Reid’s smart enough to know what he has to work with here. He just has to be careful he doesn’t push too hard to turn Smith into something he’s not.
Chiefs quarterbacks turned the ball over 27 times last year, so merely competent play will make a huge difference. And they have sufficient help on offense that Smith’s smart, spread-it-around style can help them win more games just by being efficient.
But if he starts doing things he’s not comfortable with or able to do, they run the risk of not being that much better.