Chiefs fans should enjoy the offensive fireworks the club fires off down the season’s backstretch. The team put itself back on track with a late-season push, and much of the credit on the offensive side of the ball belongs to a duo that may not stay together much longer.
Quarterback Alex Smith and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy appear heading in different directions in the offseason after finding their groove together.
To describe Smith’s 2017 season as a banner year stands as a drastic understatement. Most media outlets only skim the top of the most successful season in Smith’s career. Yes, he leads the league in passer rating at 105.4 after 14 weeks. Performing better than Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger is one thing, but besting Tom Brady is a level of play no one saw coming in 2017.
Interestingly, that’s not the end of the list for Smith in 2017. The 32-year-old quarterback already set career-high in passing yards and should top the 4,000-yard mark this weekend against the Miami Dolphins. That puts him in the rare company of Trent Green, who holds five of the Chiefs top-10 passing seasons in history. Smith also surpassed career highs in both completion percentage (currently at 67.8 percent) and touchdown passes (now at 25). But the most telling stat of Smith’s season is his career-high 8.0 yards per attempt average.
The 2017 season marks the peak of Alex Smith’s performance and potential, despite a five-game stretch where Smith arguably played his worst in his five seasons in Kansas City. An offensive change got Smith back on track and may save Smith, the team and the Chiefs’ front office options.
If Smith continues this level of performance to close out the season, it restores his trade value if the Chiefs choose to part ways in the offseason. It should not be any surprise to hear Smith’s name mentioned with executives around the league who have ties to the Chiefs organization. Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard could have short-term interest due to the unknown long-term effects of Andrew Luck’s injury. John Dorsey, the new general manager in Cleveland, could have interest in Smith as a bridge to a quarterback of the future.
The future of Matt Nagy
Nagy took over play calling during Week 13 against the New York Jets, and the change put the team back on track offensively. The team scored an average of 29 points per game since Nagy took over play calling. That’s a jump of more than four points per game over the games with Reid calling the plays.
Nagy has also brought balance to the offense in a marked difference over the previous 11 games. His play calling produced an uptick in rushing attempts. He called back-to-back games with over a 40 percent rushing play call. Changes along the offensive line in both scheme and player performance have contributed to the ability to lean on the run game. It still takes the play caller, however, to put it together an offense that can gain yardage both in the air and on the ground.
The Chiefs success in these three games only enhances the credibility of Nagy becoming the next branch of the Reid coaching tree to enter the head coaching ranks. Nagy found himself on a short list this week of potential future head coaches put together by the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel.
It may be a reach, however to consider Nagy for a head coaching position after just a single season as sole offensive coordinator. He shared the role last year with current assistant head coach Brad Childress. But Nagy seem likely to earn his shot eventually
In the end, it’s more likely that Nagy returns in 2018 for what could be a final season in Kansas City. That said, if the Chiefs can get hot in the postseason, Nagy’s stock could skyrocket. If he takes this offense to the Super Bowl, he could be atop the head coaching candidates of the offseason.
Ryan Tracy is an analyst/contributor for ChiefsDigest.com and the owner of Rogue Analytics. Follow on Twitter: @RyanTracyNFL.