Though their stories will be forever connected by the fateful first round of the 2005 NFL draft, Rodgers and Smith now also share (perhaps ironically) the experience of seeing their teams draft their eventual first-round replacements — Jordan Love and Patrick Mahomes — in their later years.
In an interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on Wednesday, May 26, just over one month since announcing his NFL retirement, Smith came to Rodgers’ defense with a direct comparison to the Chiefs decision to move up and select Mahomes in 2017.
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Smith Was Warned ‘Multiple Times’ Before Mahomes Pick
Rodgers clarified his stance against Green Bay Packers brass during a Monday night send-off interview with ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, telling the departing broadcaster that, “It’s just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go.”
While Smith, like Rodgers, doesn’t directly attribute the selection of Love to causing the present-day tipping point, the former No. 1 overall pick did describe Green Bay’s overall handling of the situation as “inexcusable,” including the decision to not consult or inform Rodgers of its intentions to trade up and choose Love 26th overall last April.
When asked whether the Chiefs’ front office gave him a heads up prior to drafting another first-round quarterback in 2017, Smith acknowledged that he had multiple warnings before the franchise-changing decision was made to trade up 17 spots to secure Mahomes.
“Yes, without a doubt, 100%,” Smith told Cowherd. “That’s something that was talked about throughout the draft process. Not just by coach [Andy] Reid, everybody involved in the personnel department — and I’m talking multiple times. ‘Hey, this might really be something we’re doing. Are you okay with it? This is going to be the situation.’
“There were no surprises. It was absolutely laid out for me. I think that all helps when that stuff is communicated. It does make a difference how you treat people.”
Smith Reflects on First Time He Knew Mahomes Had ‘It’
With only one regular season game under Mahomes’ belt — a 2017 Week 17 win in Denver — Kansas City opted to usher in the new era by trading Smith away to Washington for a third-round draft pick in March 2018. While the rest is history, the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year revealed on Wednesday that it was during that 2017 finale that he knew Mahomes had the “it” factor the Chiefs were looking for.
“To see it live in action it was like, ‘Yeah, this kid’s got it.’ Because I don’t care what your physical tools are at the next level — and obviously his are special — but you’ve got to have it up here,” Smith told Cowherd, pointing to his head.
“You’ve got to be able to process fast. You’ve got to be able to play fast. Really it’s a mental game at the NFL level and Patrick had it. That was clear I think throughout the season. His work habits, he could process information, and then you obviously pair that with like a crazy skillset and this is what we’ve gotten. A guy that I really think [is] one of the unique players in NFL history, especially today, winning the MVP that early on and a Super Bowl.
“It’s fun to watch. For me just to have a little sliver to have been there with him in his rookie year, it’s fun. I’m such a big fan of Patrick. And also just because of the person he is. He’s such a great dude, especially in the face of this kind of limelight.”
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!