On Friday, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey confirmed to reporters that the team's newest veteran free agent signing, Brad Smith, would be listed as a quarterback - and that he had very interesting plans for the highly versatile athlete.
"We love his versatility and what he is going to bring to our football team," said Gailey. "I see him being used in a similar role as I used Kordell (Stewart) in Pittsburgh. He can play some receiver and quarterback. He gives you a lot of versatility. He can play special teams, cover kicks and return kicks. He can do a lot to help a football team win games."
Gailey was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1996 and 1997. In those two seasons, Kordell Stewart had very different roles for the team. Let's take a look back at those two years when Gailey and Stewart were together to see if we can't get an idea of what we can expect out of Smith.
In '96, Stewart was not the Steelers' starting quarterback; that was Mike Tomczak, who took the Steelers to the divisional round of the playoffs that season. By then, Stewart had one year of very limited experience in his "Slash" role, and in Gailey's first year as the offensive coordinator, that didn't change much. Stewart threw 30 passes in 1996, completing 11 for 100 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He did, however, run the ball 39 times for 170 yards and five touchdowns, and also caught 17 passes for 293 yards and three scores.
Even while he wasn't putting up earth-shattering numbers in his second pro season, Gailey was able to milk eight touchdowns out of Kordell Stewart in his limited Slash role. That was before Stewart became his starting quarterback, so insofar as relating this to Smith, don't expect numbers as gaudy as what Stewart and Gailey did together in 1997.
As the Steelers' starting quarterback under Gailey, Stewart threw for 3,020 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He ran 88 times for 476 yards and 11 touchdowns, but due to his playing quarterback, he didn't catch any passes. That's 32 scores in one season, 40 overall, and of the 40, 19 of them were not accomplished through the air.
There's little question that Ryan Fitzpatrick is Gailey's quarterback, but imagine, just for a moment, that Gailey's vision for Smith yields similar touchdown production for his offense as Stewart did on just 56 touches in 1996. That, folks, is the type of impact Brad Smith can have for Chan Gailey, even as he's asked to do more than Stewart did - such as return kicks and play kickoff coverage.