Chiefs head toward July with stable coaching staff and QB
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With minicamp over, the Chiefs are set to experience two major firsts when the team reports for training camp in late July.
The upcoming season marks the first time in 12 years the Chiefs have the same coaching staff for a third straight year.
"Continuity is a big thing," coach Andy Reid said. "Dorse (general manager John Dorsey) has done a good job keeping players around here, too, so that helps.
"But we all kind of know as a coaching staff where we're going, what direction we're going in, and I think that's important."
Continuity also applies to quarterback Alex Smith, who for the first time in his 11-year career has the same head coach, offensive coordinator (Doug Pederson) and quarterbacks coach (Matt Nagy) in three straight seasons.
That stability has made a difference for Smith, who hasn't been in a consistent environment in consecutive years since his college career at Utah.
"You're just so comfortable, you know what to expect coming into work," Smith said. "But then on the field, it's hard to quantify. I think all the little details add up over those couple of years that you've kind of memory banked, and then you're out on the field and it's not just you that's further along, I think the reality is you have a bunch of guys around you that it's the same case. All of sudden, they're in their third year of the system and that's a rarity in the NFL."
Smith understands the scarcity after experiencing a head-spinning carousel of four head coaches, seven offensive coordinators and six quarterback coaches in eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before being traded to Kansas City in 2013.
The former first overall pick of the 2005 draft had his career stall in San Francisco, a period that didn't go unnoticed to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who coached Smith at Utah.
"I think especially for a player like Alex, he's a very cerebral guy that once he figures it out, in my opinion, there's no stopping him," Meyer said during a telephone interview.
"The problem is -- the obvious -- if you change coordinators and systems, and then all of sudden they were also going through a little bit of a talent issue there where they just weren't very good on either side of the ball, and the first guy to take a hit is the quarterback."
The hits certainly came with the 49ers plodding through a 37-59 record from 2005-10.
While Smith re-energized his career in 2011 under then-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, concerns lingered.
"I was getting asked a lot of questions about that, 'Why is Alex struggling?'" Meyer said. "And I kept thinking to myself, 'If Alex Smith can't play quarterback in the NFL, then I will never have one.' He's a prototypical quarterback, great intelligence, arm delivery and the way he manages and leads a team. I was kind of really disappointed the way it all went down."
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Those years appear to be over for Smith, who has a 38-16-1 record since 2011 to rank fifth in winning percentage behind Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson (minimum of 30 starts).
Smith totaled 19 wins in his first two seasons with the Chiefs, surpassing Hall of Famer Joe Montana for most regular-season wins by a Chiefs quarterback in the first two years with the organization.
Left guard Ben Grubbs, whom the Chiefs acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints, knows confident signal-callers from playing with Super Bowl winning-quarterbacks Drew Brees and Joe Flacco.
And Grubbs drew on experiences with Brees and Flacco to identify a common trait associated with winning.
"Definitely, stability plays a large role," Grubbs said. "When you're able to be in the same system for more than two years, there's some comfort you bring to the table. If your quarterback is comfortable with what plays are being called, then that is probably a good indicator for success."
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed as a free agent in March, played four seasons in Reid's offense with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Maclin and Smith have worked on chemistry throughout the offseason, and Maclin complimented Smith's intelligence, ability to read coverage and to throw "a very receiver-friendly ball."
"He's proven it out here in the minicamp," Maclin said. "I'm really looking forward to it. He's a guy you want leading this type of offense."
Familiarity with the scheme is important, but Meyer points out the relationship between Smith and the coaching staff, especially Reid, shouldn't be overlooked.
"Andy Reid and I go way back, and I can't think of a better situation for Alex," Meyer said. "I think they're two people very much alike."
Smith agreed with Meyer's last point, adding the Chiefs head coach "thinks like a quarterback" and often spends time in the meeting room with the quarterbacks to explain scenarios.
Those interactions reinforce a stable environment.
"I think the greatest thing is every single day you know what you're getting," Smith said. "He loves football; he brings that passion every single day. From an Xs and Os perspective, I don't think it gets any better."
NOTES: Chiefs safety Sanders Commings lost his cousin, Clementa Pinckney, who was shot and killed Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. "We are grieving for he and his family members," Reid said ... Reid said there is no medical update on strong safety Eric Berry, who recently finished lymphoma treatments. ... Reid said the Chiefs and outside linebacker Justin Houston's representative continue to talk. "We'll continue to move on and hope that he is here at the beginning of camp," Reid said of Houston. ... Cornerback Sean Smith was excused for the final day of minicamp for personal reasons.