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The Kansas City Quarterback Debate: A Tale of Two Smiths

 

The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t drafted Geno Smith, nor have they given any realistic indication they intend to and yet there still seems to be a quarterback controversy in the BBQ City. Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid, made it clear that Alex Smith is the starting quarterback. He further backed that up saying Smith is the guy he has wanted since the day he was hired to coach the team. Most of the Chiefs’ fan base has accepted this as fact. However, there is still a portion of “Chiefs Kingdom” who will “boo” any selection made with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft that doesn’t rhyme with “Dino Fifth.”

I’m okay with that. I like a little disparity in my fandom. I think having a bunch of “homers” who blindly follow the establishment doesn’t make for a very passionate bunch of fans. The problem is “Team Geno” is using flawed logic and half-truths as facts to back up the argument that the younger Smith is a better quarterback than the elder.

If I may, I’d like to address a few of those “facts” right now.

Fact #1: Statistically speaking, Geno Smith is a superior quarterback to Alex Smith.

To compare the younger Smith’s excellent collegiate statistics with the older Smith’s sub-par NFL stats makes as much as sense as comparing Chiefs fans to Raider fans. They are so different they shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. If one truly wants to compare stats, then the numbers should come from the same body of work — namely each Smith’s senior year in college.

In 2012, Geno Smith led the West Virginia Mountaineers through 12 regular season games and the Pin Stripe Bowl. During those 12 regular season games, his record was 7-5. He attempted 490 passes and completed 350 of them for an impressive 71.4% completion rate. His total passing yardage in the regular season was 4004 yards. He threw for an amazing 40 touchdowns on the season and was only picked off six times. In addition to that, he rushed for 155 yards and two more TDs. All in all, a pretty impressive stat line for a young man getting ready to leave college behind and enter the NFL.

Turning to Alex Smith, he was the starting signal caller for the Utah Utes in 2004. During that year, he started all 11 regular season games, and then led his team to a victory in the Fiesta Bowl. The Utes were undefeated in the 2004 season, winning every game by at least 17 points. Alex attempted 317 passes and completed 214 of them for a well above average 67.5% completion rate. His total distance through the air was 2952 yards. He threw 32 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions on the season. In addition to his arm, he used his legs to add 631 yards on the ground, reaching pay dirt 10 times. All in all, Alex Smith was a much better college quarterback than he’s shown in the pros.

However, there’s a bit more to Geno’s stats than meets the eye.

Geno Smith is the king of “throw short and hope for YAC” (yards after catch.) I’m not saying the short game with YAC is bad. In fact, Alex is in this category as well, especially in a “West Coast Offense,” but since “Team Geno” is claiming Geno is so much more superior to Alex, it’s worth mentioning this.

The younger Smith had the benefit of throwing to two of the most prolific wide receivers in college football this past year. Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey combined for 2760 of Geno’s 4004 yards through the air, and an incredible 35 of his 40 touchdowns. Of the 2760 yards combined from his two primary receivers, over half of those (1462 yards) were YAC yards. Why is that significant? It shows that Geno Smith is not necessarily the high flying, long-ball, deep-threat quarterback the “Team Geno” homers would have you think he is.

Looking at Alex Smith’s paltry 2952 yards through the air lends one to ask the question, who was he throwing to? Honestly, I had no idea and had to look it up. Where Geno’s favorite targets, Austin and Bailey, are slated to go within the first three rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft, Alex Smith’s primary receivers had no NFL careers to speak of.

Paris Warren caught 80 of Alex Smith’s passes during the 2004 season with the Utes. He racked up just over 1000 yards receiving and 12 TDs. However, that is pretty much where Warren’s glory ended. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and never really caught on.

Steve Savoy was Alex Smith’s second favorite target during the 2004 season. He caught 67 of Smith’s passes for 11 TDs. Unless you are a Utah Ute fan, (or an avid Wikipedia reader) you’ve probably never heard of Steve Savoy. He left college as a sophomore, received special eligibility to enter the 2005 NFL Draft, and expected to get selected in the third round. He never got the call and ended up signing as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Lions. He was cut after the third preseason game and never saw the inside of an NFL locker room again.

Who is catching the ball is nearly just as important as who is throwing it. The quality of receivers on the other end of Geno Smith’s passes definitely increased – some would say inflated – his stats during the 2012 season. If you add all the YAC that his two primary receivers added up, the younger Smith isn’t all that much more impressive than the older one.

Fact #2: Alex Smith is nothing more than another San Fransisco 49er backup cast off to Kansas City.

I don’t know why so many people seem to think Alex Smith is a 49er backup. Is everyone’s memory so short that they don’t remember two seasons ago when the 49ers were a Kyle Williams fumble away from beating the Giants and going to the Superbowl? In no way, shape, or form did Alex Smith have anything to do with Williams’ fumble that cost the 49ers the NFC championship. Further, people seem to forget the fact that Alex Smith began this past season as the 49ers’ starter and had better than a 70% completion percentage before going out with a concussion. Enter Colin Kaepernick, and the rest is history.

I’m not taking anything away from the 49ers and their Superbowl run. Obviously 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, made the right choice as Kaepernick is an outstanding and talented quarterback. I wish the Chiefs would have had the foresight to draft him. I am saying that the same thing happened to Alex Smith that happened to Joe Montana that happened to Drew Bledsoe that happened to Drew Brees that happened to countless other quarterbacks over the history of the NFL. They were playing well and then they got hurt. Their backup stepped up, played at a high level and the coaching staff decided to stay with the “hot hand.” This makes Alex Smith the victim of a bad situation, not “another SF back up.”

Fact #3:  Geno Smith will be a more successful NFL quarterback than Alex Smith.

Who knows? There may be truth to this one. I’m a blogger, not a fortune teller so I can’t say for sure. Alex Smith’s professional numbers have not been what most consider worthy of a No. 1 overall pick; that is for certain. However, is there more to being a successful quarterback than just 4500 yards passing and 40 TDs a season?

There is no argument that the quarterback position is probably one of the most unique positions in sports today. No other popular, organized sport has a position that stands up to the QB. They are the team leader, on-field coach, coordinator and the captain all rolled into one. It takes a special intellect and attitude to play the position. Some are good at it. Some are great at it. Some…well not so much. The qualities of a great quarterback are intangible. A lot of what separates a good QB from a great QB and allows a substandard QB to settle at the bottom is the leadership of a good, offensive minded coach and good work ethic by the player. The quarterback needs to be the first one in the building in the morning and they should be turning out the lights when they leave. They need to work harder and be smarter than everyone on the team. That’s where the two Smiths seem to separate.

“(Geno Smith is) not a student of the game. Nonchalant field presence — does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire. Mild practice demeanor — no urgency. Not committed or focused — marginal work ethic. Interviewed poorly at the combine and did not show an understanding of concepts on the white board. Opted not to compete at the Senior Bowl and has approached offseason training as if he has already arrived, and it shows in his body with minimal muscle definition or strength. …

– Nolan Nawrocki

Those are harsh words coming from a respected draft scout. Watch him, though. Don’t settle for a 17 minute “Geno Smith’s Greatest Hits” video. Watch some real tape on him. He’s not a fighter. He’s not a leader. Do you think his stats would have been so inflated if his team wasn’t playing from behind half the season?

There is a power vacuum in the Chiefs’ locker room this year. Alex Smith has already stepped up and filled the void. It’s as simple as that. It takes more than a big arm and inflated stats to be a quarterback in this league. Look at JaMarcus Russel. Look at Ryan Leaf. These two were great, huge-stat, quarterbacks in college who tanked in the NFL because they had no leadership or poise.

The key to all of this is, Dorsey and Reid wanted to find a winning quarterback. Not only that, but Reid wanted a quarterback who can lead his team to victory, especially in the face of adversity. In 2011, Alex Smith led his team to a 13-3 record. In the post season, he proved it wasn’t a fluke by winning the divisional round game against the New Orleans Saints in true clutch fashion. He didn’t hand the ball off to running back, Frank Gore and hope for the best. He didn’t rely on someone else to win the game. He went out, took charge of his team and won it.

In case you don’t remember, it went like this:

The 49ers received the ball with 1:37 on the clock and down by three points. Alex Smith snapped his chinstrap, bit down on his mouth-guard and led his team on an 85 yard drive that was capped off with Smith hitting tight end Vernon Davis in the end-zone for a touchdown with :09 seconds left on the clock. On that drive, Smith threw seven passes (one attempt was a spike to stop the clock) and completed five of them, including the 14 yard strike to Davis to win the game.

During that game – hell, during that season — Alex Smith never said quit and never said die. He led his team. He was clutch when he needed to be clutch. That’s the kind of quarterback I want on this team. It’s a trait that’s been missing from around here for a long time. It’s a trait Geno Smith has never shown.

Reid and Dorsey are on the clock, and I’m not talking about the one at the draft. The drought since a playoff win has now hit 20 seasons. The Chiefs’ fans want to win, the Hunt family wants to win, the players who are here want to win and Alex Smith absolutely gives them the best chance to do that. I’m convinced of it. The only question is, are you? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, Addicts!

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