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Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Quarterbacks

Posted Jul 30, 2014

In this series we’ll take an in-depth look at each positional group of the Kansas City Chiefs; today is quarterbacks

Successful teams have successful leaders.

This spans across every sport at every level. Without leadership, the team doesn’t have a consistent voice or face to look to in times of struggle. It’s easy to lead when things are going well; that hasn’t changed since your high school coach uttered those same words to you during conditioning drills.

The Kansas City Chiefs have an unquestioned leader at quarterback, one who has gone through his ups and downs and came to the Chiefs last year and helped orchestrate the biggest turnaround in franchise history.

Alex Smith had the best year of his career last season, setting personal bests in completions (308), attempts (508), yards (3,313) and touchdowns (23) in the regular season.

Throughout his career, Smith has been his best in the playoffs as well, another sign of a leader.

In three postseason games, Smith has gone 66-of-114 for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, with zero interceptions. That’s an average of 291 yards per game through the air, including a four-touchdown, 378-yard performance last season in the Chiefs playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Another area where leaders show their true colors is on the road, where Smith threw 11 touchdowns to just one interception last season.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was happy with the offense’s development throughout the course of last season.

“I think everybody saw how explosive we became towards the end of the year—in those last eight or nine ball games,” Pederson said. “It just comes down to the players, number one, buying into and understanding what we’re teaching, Alex (Smith) being comfortable with what we’re asking him to do as a quarterback and then you take what you were good at the end of the year and you work on those things in the offseason.”

Smith believes the Chiefs are in a good position to replicate what they were doing at the end of last season.

“I think so,” Smith said. “That’s certainly the plan. I think you take a look and a lot of those pieces are back into place and even getting some help. Certainly that’s the goal and that’s what we work towards all offseason. Felt like we did that during OTAs and minicamp and now to bring it back out here with the pads on.”

The No. 2 quarterback last season, former Missouri Tiger Chase Daniel, has learned a lot from Smith, both on and off the field.

“Alex (Smith) is awesome,” Daniel said. “He’s a little bit more laid back than I’d say other quarterbacks I’ve been around, which is a good thing. He knows what he has to do on a day-to-day basis [and] he takes football very seriously. He’s prepared as well as any quarterback I’ve ever known and he’s been through a lot.

“He’s been through a lot at his old team—how to handle being a first-round pick [and] being benched when you’re having one of the best seasons of any NFL quarterback in his career. So he has a lot of those experiences that I think that the quarterbacks I’ve been with previously don’t, so it’s really good to pull these things in how to handle it and how he handled it.”

One moment that Daniel was figuring out how to handle for the first time in his career came late last season, when he was given the opportunity to start against the San Diego Chargers.

“I’ve been waiting for that moment for five years to actually get to start a game,” Daniel said. “To have an entire week of practice under my belt, running the plays we’re going to run and really to go out there and execute the way we did, not only myself, but all the twos. I think it said a lot about our depth as a team.”

Daniel finished the game 21-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown.

When asked about the quarterback battle, Daniel and that specific game after practice on Monday, Reid praised the six-year NFL veteran.

“He needs to keep being Chase Daniel,” Reid said. “Keep being himself and playing the way he plays. He’s a competitive guy, and he makes plays. He did play well in the San Diego game, he’s a good football player.”

Meanwhile, this season, Smith and Daniel are joined at training camp by second-year player Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray.

Having been in a couple of different places now, Daniel enjoys the group he’s with in St. Joseph for training camp.

“It’s one of the better groups I’ve been around and its fun,” Daniel said. “Alex is going I think into year ten, I’m going into year six and we have a second-year guy and a rookie, so we're really the ones bringing them along, trying to get them acclimated to camp life.”

As far as what he’s helped the two young guys with specifically, Daniel makes it pretty simple.

“I think for any rookie or second-year guy who’s new to camp, just to take care of your body first and foremost,” Daniel said. “Don’t say a lot in the meetings, just try to take it all in and listen. Be a sponge and soak in all the knowledge that the coaches or Alex or even myself are giving you.

“That’s really the same for me and Alex as well, the vets, you try to soak it all in, try to re-think everything that you’re possibly doing, learn the fundamentals all over again, paying attention to the little things. And I think that’s one of Coach Reid’s big things is just pay attention to the little things.”

As Daniel and Smith show the two young quarterbacks through their actions how to adapt and be a professional quarterback, coach Reid knows a lot is being thrown at the young signal callers.

“Well they’re going back and forth,” Reid said. “Everything is faster right now so they’re trying to get their timing down. We’re overloading it with plays. We’re trying to get all our stuff in and so some of this they get one shot at. But overall I like what I see.

“They’re smart kids. Like I said, they’re challenging each other and they want to make it right. There are not a lot of mistakes with them getting in and out of the huddle. All the game management stuff was pretty good.”

Coming into his second year with coach Reid, Bray not only feels more comfortable with the offense in general, but specifically in moving around the pocket.

“A lot more comfortable,” Bray said. “You’ve just got to feel it. You’ve got to get used to looking downfield and making your reads while knowing where everyone’s coming [from].”

In his last season at Tennessee in 2012, Bray threw for over 3,600 yards with 34 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

Meanwhile, one player who has felt comfortable thanks to the other three quarterbacks is Murray, who praised the three veterans for helping bring him along.

“They’ve been awesome, especially the quarterback group has just been tremendous and helping me,” Murray said. “We’re at dinner, if I have a question, I share it to them and they answer right back. ‘This is what you need to do. This is what the coach is looking for.’ So they’re always willing to help me out which has been really nice for me.”

All of that help is a good thing considering how much time these guys spend together during training camp.

“As a quarterback group we’re always together,” Murray said. “We go to dinner together [and] lunch together usually. We’re in meetings together all day long and obviously [at] practice we’re together, so it’s a great group. It’s a lot of fun. And [that] makes being in meetings all day and coming out to practice easy when you enjoy the guys you’re around.”

These four will only spend more time together as training camp continues on the campus of Missouri Western State University until August 15.

Because of the position it’s obviously going to get a lot of attention as we get into preseason games, but with the leadership of both Smith and Daniel, Bray and Murray are in good hands.

The competition is real but so are their words, and these four players are doing whatever they can to help one another out—all while competing against one another for a roster spot.

It’s just another example of successful teams having successful leaders.

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Chiefs in Focus: Spotlight on the Specialists

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