Sean Smith’s DUI plea has created a gigantic headache for the Chiefs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Along one boundary, Fred Astaire. Along the other, Fred Flintstone.
Sean Smith: A +17 grade from the bean counters at ProFootballFocus.com in 1,062 snaps in 2014, fifth-highest in 2014 among starting NFL cornerbacks.
The rest of the Kansas City Chiefs corners? A cumulative minus-20 grade over 1,719 snaps combined.
If that seems like an awfully large gap — in terms of quality, comfort, whatever — that’s because it is. For comparative purposes, Denver’s starting corner combo of Chris Harris Jr. (+28.4) and Aqib Talib (+8) was a 20.4-point drop, but both still ranked among the top 20 at the position.
San Diego? Old pal Brandon Flowers scored a +8.2, Shareece Wright a minus 16.8, a drop of 25 points. Oakland? "Meh" was "meh" all over, with D.J. Hayden registering a minus 2.6 and running mate Tarell Brown a minus 4.6.
After Smith, the corner with the next highest snap count for the Andy Gang last fall was Chris Owens, with 500 and a minus-7 grade, followed by then-rookie Philip Gaines with a minus-1.8 over 376 snaps.
We bring this up because Big No. 21 could be going away for a little while, at least in the football sense. Smith reportedly pleaded guilty last month to driving under the influence, a deal stemming from an incident in June 2014 in which the veteran cornerback allegedly drove into a downtown light pole. At the time, the 27-year-old defensive back was cited for DUI, careless driving and failure to present insurance. He received two years of probation as part of the plea and had the careless driving charge dropped.
Yabba dabba dumb.
Now there’s stupid and dangerous, and there’s drunkenly-running-your-car-into-a-light-pole stupid and dangerous. Replace "light pole" with "pram," and Smith’s life — and the lives of those he might have unnecessarily affected, recklessly — could be a lot different.
Long term, the dude is a lucky man.
Short term, not so much.
The NFL Morality Police are trying to step up their game, and under the league’s new personal conduct policy, a conviction or guilty DUI plea is an automatic two-game suspension — at the minimum. The policy applies retroactively to the start of the 2014-15 league year, so any charges filed over the last 13 months fall under the umbrella.
So that includes Smith’s situation. And because the new policy gives the league the right to extend the punishment if there are further damages — such as, say, drunkenly crashing into a light pole with your car — welcome to the Chiefs’ football pickle.
When Smith isn’t playing at the opening of the regular season, your starting cornerbacks, at the moment, are shaping up to be Gaines and Jamell Fleming (+2.0 PFF grade last fall in 259 snaps). Fleming was actually fairly salty along one boundary (+1.7 grade in pass coverage), and one of general manager John Dorsey’s savvier street signings. But the four most likely corner options after Smith are Fleming, Gaines, Marcus Cooper — who saw his snap counts cut by more than half over the 722 he had logged in 2013 — and safety/all-purpose cover man Ron Parker as a swing candidate.
Yabba dabba d’oh.
Of course, if Justin Houston is sitting at home, watching the game with a Hot Pocket in one hand and remote in the other, it might not matter who you throw out there in the secondary. But that’s a kerfuffle for another day.
Thanks to Smith and his light pole, add cornerback to the list of interesting positional possibilities/needs early on for the 2015 draft. Conventional wisdom had pegged the offensive line and/or wide receiver (with a long shot at inside linebacker) as the most likely spot that Dorsey could address with pick No. 18 — and that’s assuming they stay at 18. But now, a starting corner such as LSU’s Jalen Collins, Washington’s Marcus Peters or Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson could be there for the late-first-round plucking. Or, if you want to leverage the 10 picks into a sure-fire starter, another gambit is to leverage those 10 draft selections and move up to grab, say, Michigan State’s Trae Waynes, a quick, strong, long bump-and-run specialist who could hold his own on the island Bob Sutton’s defensive scheme so often asks its corners to live on.
Plus, Smith is in a contract year, and his agent has indicated he wouldn’t mind testing the feel of the open-market waters.
Even the rosiest hypothetical demands some sort of remedy. Because of the Chiefs’ 13 opponents, seven ranked among the NFL’s top 15 passing-yardage clubs last fall: Denver, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Baltimore, Green Bay and Detroit. At least the Lions date — and a matchup with chuck-and-ducker Matt Stafford — is a known, later quantity: Nov. 1 in London.
We’ll learn the full dance card next week, but imagine drawing Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler or Joe Flacco without Smith patrolling one of the boundaries.
Or don’t. It’s your migraine.