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Alex Smith Trade Revisited Six Years Later

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On this day, six years ago, Chairman Clark Hunt, Head Coach Andy Reid, and General Manager Brett Veach took the training wheels off Patrick Mahomes by agreeing to trade incumbent starter Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. What happened next nobody could have predicted.

Being a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs right now is fantastic. We are returning to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in six years. It took us fifty years to return from 1970 to 2020, and now look at us. It’s an unprecedented time in NFL history and in Kansas City. The Chiefs are the team everyone aspires to become. They defy the odds by sustaining greatness and define success with Super Bowl wins.

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With that, it’s hard to fathom this is the sixth anniversary of the Alex Smith trade. The Tennessee Titans eliminated the Chiefs in the playoffs despite being the better team on the field. Patrick Mahomes was on the bench that season, his first in the NFL, and though he had one professional start to his resume, a 27-24 victory in week seventeen at Denver, nobody knew he’d be on the verge of his third Super Bowl win today.

Let me correct that; Andy Reid had seen enough in practice to know the future is now for Mahomes. It was risky, but Reid put his career on the line and went outside his comfort zone because he saw every day Mahomes wasn’t like anyone else he’d seen.

Mahomes was a sponge; he absorbed every detail that made Alex Smith a fantastic teammate, leader, and professional on and off the field. The work Smith did with his replacement, shadowing his every move for the 2017 season and teaching him the way of the quarterback in the NFL, might go down as the most selfless thing I’ve seen from a Chiefs player in my lifetime.

On draft day, Smith knew the end was near for his tenure in Kansas City. Yet, he put the team first and ego second. Without that time with Smith, Mahomes would not be the quarterback he is today. That’s not my opinion; Mahomes will tell you the same thing.

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To me, Alex Smith will go down as one of my favorite Chiefs players of all time. His struggle to get to Kansas City after a litany of coaches at San Francisco almost derailed his career, and the fantastic comeback he made in Washington after shattering his leg says everything about overcoming insurmountable odds in life.   

For Mahomes, he took the ball in 2018 and never looked back. He guided the Chiefs to the playoffs and nearly upset the New England Patriots in his first AFC Championship game in Kansas City, winning the first of two NFL MVP Awards.

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A year later, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the Lombardi Trophy rested in the halls of Arrowhead. The fifty-year drought had ended, and for most fans, that was enough. However, it wasn’t enough for Mahomes, who won it again two years later and will attempt to get his third a week from Sunday in Las Vegas at the ripe old age 28.

Mahomes is a generational talent, but not even this old die-hard could imagine this young man could take any version of the team around him and make them champions repeatedly. What Mahomes is doing this season is beyond remarkable; it’s unbelievable. It took until week 17 to fix the offense and find their identity for the playoff stretch.

To put the Chiefs decision regarding the Smith trade in perspective, the Green Bay Packers put Aaron Rodgers on the bench for three NFL seasons behind Brett Favre. Mahomes sat for one year, and the rest is history.

Yet, the most poignant part of this story was the man who broke the news in Kansas City, Terez Paylor. It would be one of the most notable stories of his career for the impact it made on the Chiefs and their fans, but personally, to be that connected, he was first to deliver the details about the trade.

Sadly, Paylor passed in 2021, but his memory and contributions to Kansas City sports remain as beloved as ever in our community.

Now, all we can do is honor him and imagine the eloquence of words he’d be writing about the Mahomes era that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Carpe Diem!

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