Chargers Editorial: La Mesa’s Smith Controls Game, Chiefs’ Chances

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Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

The roar of the home crowd. The defense setting the tone. An early pick-six can stun an visiting offense and put a ball-control style unit in a serious hole – both on the scoreboard and in its collective heads.

Don’t expect former Helix High School star Alex Smith to let that happen to his Kansas City Chiefs here on Sunday afternoon against the Chargers.

Smith, 31, has gone 228 straight passes without an interception, the longest such streak in the NFL this season. He’s five passes away from the Chiefs’ record, set by Steve DeBerg in 1990. The last time he threw an interception was in a Sept. 28 game against the Green Bay Packers.

Smith’s pedestrian guidance of the Chiefs’ attack is as overlooked as it is mocked by fans and media around the league. Smith is more likely to keep his team in the game throughout with his anointed “game manager” approach than he is to lead a fourth-quarter comeback.

In fact, Smith has led the Chiefs to just one final period rally in three seasons since joining Kansas City. A game that San Diego Chargers‘ fans will remember well when the visitors got a 48-yard field goal field goal with 21 seconds left from Cairo Santos to snap San Diego’s five-game winning streak back on Oct. 19 of last season.

Even that rally was hardly monumental, as the Chiefs trailed 14-13 entering the fourth and took the lead just 10 seconds into the fourth on a TD pass from Smith. The Chargers rallied with a pair of Nick Novak field goals, but Smith guided a drive inside two minutes to get K.C. into winning field goal range.

Smith was born in Washington, but moved with his family to La Mesa as a child. His father, Doug, was a principal at Helix during the time Alex attended the charter school. A well-educated student that played quarterback at the University of Utah following his graduation from Helix Charter in 2001, Smith has undoubtedly relied on his cerebral approach to survive and thrive as an NFL quarterback.

Smith almost never puts his teams in jeopardy with turnovers. And in fact, the Chiefs haven’t committed a turnover in their current three-game winning streak, which has propelled them to second in the league in turnover differential.

As a starter at Helix, Smith led his team to a record of 25-1, including two San Diego CIF section championships. He was named to the All-East County first team in both his junior and senior seasons and twice won the team MVP for Helix.

At Helix, Smith set a school record by throwing for six touchdowns in one game, and recorded the second-highest completion percentage in San Diego CIF history.

Yet, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound signal caller is often also referred to as the high school quarterback who played with former 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, although both were finalists for the 2004 Heisman, making it the first time a high school had two finalists at Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. Bush was a year behind Smith at Helix and while he was at USC.

Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Smith finished fourth in voting for the Heisman and was the 2004 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. He posted a 21–1 record as a starter in college under head coach Urban Meyer, leading the Utes to wins in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and the 2003 Liberty Bowl.

Smith was drafted by No. 1 overall by the 49ers in 2005 and played in 80 games over eight years with San Francisco, however he didn’t make the Pro Bowl until his first year with the Chiefs in 2013 following an off-season deal that sent him to join coach Andy Reid in Kansas City.

He played on the Niners’ 2012 NFC championship team that made the Super Bowl, but suffered a concussion in week 9 and was eventually replaced in the game by Colin Kapernick, but not before throwing a touchdown with blurred vision in the pre-CTE evaluation days.

Kaepernick, ironically on the verge of losing his starting job in San Francisco today, never relinquished the position to Smith all the way to the season-ending loss to Baltimore in New Orleans. The QB controversy led San Francisco to stick with young Kaepernick, who was mentored by Smith, and deal the veteran before the 2013 season.

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Utah in just two years with a 3.74 GPA. He also was the recipient of the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in 2013, voted by his teammates as a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

In 2007, he started a foundation and also the Alex Smith Guardian Scholars Program, which helps send foster teens to college. He started the program with $500,000 and continues to personally fund the majority of the charity with his own money.

Smith has a seemingly unflappable demeanor, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get rattled. His quick-hitter timing is almost always susceptible to a successful blitzing scheme on any given day and his passes are designed to be some of the shortest in the league.

If successful, however, his management of his team’s offense, as unspectacular as it seems, can give a coordinator headaches, as he has at every level for most of his career.

Follow Ramon Scott on Twitter @RamonScottPoker 

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