The best part of looking back at the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs season is remembering the flashes. The blowout win on Monday night against New England. The five-game win streak out of the bye that garnered national attention. The knocking off of both eventual No. 1 seeds.
At times, especially after the win against Seattle, Kansas City looked dangerous. The Chiefs weren't a team you wanted to play.
But then you had the costly slip-ups: the ugly loss to Oakland and the two more that followed. Sure, accolades are accolades, but they don't get you into the playoffs.
Through it all, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith never dazzled (he only had one game all season when he reached more than 300 yards), but he always gave the Chiefs a chance to win. In the 15 games he started, the Chiefs were 8-7, and they never lost by more than two scores.
"I think Alex really had a good year," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on breakup day. "I think he made more progress than what he had made throughout last year. I think, like any player, it really doesn't matter how good they are … you can always work to be better. He'll continue to do that."
For the fourth season in a row, Smith won more games than he lost, and during that stretch (2011-2014), he's 38-16-1, 22 games over .500.
When you talk to Reid, general manager John Dorsey or other members of the football staff, it becomes clear that they love Smith, and the reason has much to do with his astounding reliability.
He's diligent in his preparation, he doesn't make silly mistakes, and in two years, he has mastered all the intricate components of Reid's complex offense, one of the toughest to grasp league-wide.
Smith's 65.3 completion percentage in 2014 was the second best of his career despite being sacked a career-high 45 times. Only three other quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill, Colin Kaepernick and Blake Bortles were sacked more times than Smith this season.
Another impressive part of Smith's year was his touchdown to interception ratio. He had 18 touchdowns and six interceptions on the year, and of all the quarterbacks with at least 500 snaps, only one had fewer interceptions, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers with five.
It can be objectively stated that Smith takes a conservative approach with the football, and that approach has both positives and negatives. The positive is that the Chiefs will rarely lose a game via a careless turnover, but it's unlikely they will win on a big play through the air.
The Kansas City Chiefs' 2014 quarterbacks.
Smith's season came to an abrupt end during Week 17 preparation, when he found out on Christmas Day that he had a lacerated spleen.
For the second season in a row, backup Chase Daniel took the reins in the final week of the season and showed once again how important having a good backup quarterback can be.
Daniel started the game a perfect 7 for 7, and while he technically wasn't credited with the Chiefs' lone touchdown, he orchestrated a second-quarter drive capped off by wide receiver Dwayne Bowe fumbling the ball in the end zone and tight end Travis Kelce's recovery to give the Chiefs the early 10-0 lead.
Daniel and the Chiefs would go on to win the game, 19-7.
"Nobody is more professional than Chase," Reid said after the win. "Nobody loves to play more than Chase."
From a standpoint of the future, Daniel and Smith played major roles behind the scenes this season as well.
Aaron Murray took third-string reps all year, and though Tyler Bray could not practice, he was always around the two veterans, who were constantly doing things to help the young quarterbacks grow.
"That room, for a young player, to be in that room and see how you're supposed to do it, I'm saying the quarterback room, is a blessing for those two young guys that are in there," Reid said.
What the quarterback group will look like when training camp rolls around later this year is not guaranteed. Nothing is in this day and age's NFL offseason.
But with these four quarterbacks, what the Chiefs have is dependability. Smith is a starter that always gives the Chiefs a chance to win, Daniel continually prepares like he will start every week and Dorsey and Reid believe that the future is bright.
The next step and hope is that those flashes the Chiefs showed in 2014 turn to consistency in 2015, and the Chiefs, led by Smith, return to the postseason after an unfortunate year's absence.