KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The final pass Alex Smith threw this season was an incompletion over the middle on fourth down, one that would have given the Kansas City Chiefs a chance to kick a winning field goal had he completed it.
It may ultimately be his final pass with the Chiefs, too.
Smith is under contract next season, but the cash-strapped Chiefs are expected to trade or release the veteran quarterback and turn the franchise over to first-round pick Patrick Mahomes II. And if that is the case, Smith’s career in Kansas City will be summed up by that errant throw over the middle.
He was good enough to lead the Chiefs to the playoffs.
He wasn’t good enough to lead them much farther.
“I’ll get into all that in the next couple of weeks,” said Smith, who did say that he wants to remain with Kansas City, but ultimately knows the decision is out of his hands.
“I’m under contract for another year,” he said. “Like I said, I’m not thinking about anything else. Right now, I’m obviously disappointed. Like I said, I felt like we had a good chance. It’s gone. It’s over.”
As the Chiefs head into the offseason after a 22-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, a game in which they blew a 21-3 halftime lead, the biggest question mark becomes their quarterback situation.
Smith certainly made it a tougher decision than most had expected.
He threw for more than 4,000 yards for the first time, and he had 26 touchdown passes with just five interceptions during the regular season. He led the Chiefs to back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history, made the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons and set all kinds of club records along the way, including pass attempts and postseason touchdown passes.
Reid has professed his admiration for Smith countless times over the years, and he was in favor of the trade that brought him to Kansas City from San Francisco. But the coach is also aware that the NFL is a business, and sometimes finances dictate difficult decisions.
“I can’t get into all that right now,” Reid said. “I don’t know. We’ve got to go back and go through all of that. It’s a long process and surely after that game isn’t where you go with that.”
As the Chiefs head into the offseason, Smith isn’t the only topic of conversation:
RETIREMENT QUESTIONS: Chiefs linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali could consider hanging it up after another letdown. Johnson still played at a reasonably high level, and said he’ll head home to Texas and ponder his future, while Hali was reduced to a part-time role because of his ailing knees. If he does not retire, the Chiefs will almost certainly release him.
PROMISING YOUNGSTERS: The Chiefs have reason for optimism in that most of their biggest stars are young. Tyreek Hill had a breakout second season as a wide receiver, Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie and defensive tackle Chris Jones is an emerging star on the other side of the ball.
COACHING CHANGES: Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and special teams coach Dave Toub are expected to interview for head coaching vacancies in Indianapolis and possibly Chicago. Nagy has become a hot target after taking over play-calling with great success midway through the season, while Toub had interviews last season for head coaching vacancies.
DRAFT DEARTH: The Chiefs have traded away many of their future picks to acquire talent, including their first-round selection this year as part of the deal that landed Mahomes last year. So, they have only a second, third, fourth and sixth in the upcoming draft, putting new general manager Brett Veach in quite a predicament as he tries to bolster a roster that was not quite good enough.
SNAKE-BIT FRANCHISE: Despite all the good that came of this season, the Chiefs still must feel like they’re a bit cursed. What would have happened had star safety Eric Berry not been lost for the season in their opener? Or if star tight end Travis Kelce didn’t go down in the first half against Tennessee with a concussion? “The tendency is to look back and say, “What happened?’ I don’t think that’s the way to go about it,” offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz said. “We just have to figure out how to play better.”