November 25, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) paces the sidelines during first quarter of their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) started the game instead of Smith. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Will Alex Smith Really Help The Kansas City Chiefs?

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The Kansas City Chiefs have wrapped up their OTAs and Mini Camp and we have now begun the long slow wait that takes us up to the start of training camp. At this point all fans (and bloggers) can do is speculate as to wether or not the moves that their favorite team made this offseason made their team better. The Chiefs, as we all know, have had a massive overhaul from GM, to head coach, to quarterback, in addition to the regular influx of free agents and draft picks. This week I want to look at just how much we should expect Alex Smith to improve the Kansas City Chiefs.

The past couple of seasons the play at the quarterback position for the Kansas City Chiefs has been about as bad as any team in the NFL. Words that come to mind are awful, putrid, embarrassing, and incompetent. It’s been so bad that Chiefs fans got a glimpse of NFL journeyman Kyle Orton for a couple of games and were like “WOW, he’s SO much better than what we’re used to!” The quarterback play has been the biggest reason for this team losing games, at least when it comes to the players on the field (we can save the GM/coach/QB blame game for another day). I for one, thought to myself many times over the past few years that with the solid skill players we have on both sides of the ball all we need is a QB that was good, not all world, just good enough to not hold KC back and the Chiefs might be a team to recon with.

When the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith most KC fans were upset. Not necessarily because they didn’t like Smith, but because most fans were ready for KC to draft and develop their own franchise QB (this blogger included). That having been said, when you look at the past few seasons it is clear that Smith’s play has been light years better than what KC was trying to pass off as NFL quarterbacking. So the question is, how much should we expect Smith to improve the team.

Here’s what I did.

For the sake of this post I used a quarterback rating dividing line of 80 to determine poor QB play versus average or better QB play. I then looked back over the past three seasons (2010, 2011, and 2012) at how other areas of the Chiefs team were affected by the QB play. The areas I looked at:

Defensive Yards Allowed
Defensive Points Allowed
Defensive Sacks
Turnovers Created
Rushing Yards
Rushing Yards Per Carry
Rushing TDs
Wins

Basically, I wanted to know if the Chiefs defense and run game benefited from getting better production from the QB position. I can’t be the only KC fan that has thought to himself “The Chiefs defense would be so much better if they just had a QB that could sustain drives and not turn the ball over!” or “I can’t believe Jamaal Charles is this good with no passing game. Imagine how much better the run game would be if KC had a passing attack!” So I thought I’d see if the numbers back those theories up.

Here’s what I found.

From 2010-2012 the Chiefs had 18 games where their primary QB that game had a QB rating above 80 and 30 games where it was below 80. Here’s how the numbers for the areas I mentioned above compare.

Defensive Yards Allowed
QB Rating Over 80: 329.7
QB Rating Under 80: 346.2

Defensive Points Allowed
QB Rating Over 80: 20.2
QB Rating Under 80: 24.2

Sacks Per Game
QB Rating Over 80: 2.4
QB Rating Under 80: 1.7

Turnovers Created Per Game
QB Rating Over 80: 1.2
QB Rating Under 80: 1.4

KC Rushing Yards Per Game
QB Rating Over 80: 161.4
QB Rating Under 80: 133.6

Average KC Yards Per Carry
QB Rating Over 80: 4.5
QB Rating Under 80: 4.3

Rushing TDs Per Game
QB Rating Over 80: 0.61
QB Rating Under 80: 0.53

Now, these numbers aren’t staggering, but two things stand out to me. When KC gets better QB play they give up 4 less points per game and rush for about 28 yards more per game. These are the same defenders, same running backs, same offensive line, but when the QB position performs better they are put in better positions and see some benefit.

That’s not the best news for KC fans though. That comes when we look at what really matters most. Wins.

Here are the win/loss records broken down.

QB Rating Over 80: 12-6 (66.67%)
QB Rating Under 80: 7-23 (23.33%)

That’s a HUGE difference. I don’t think anyone will be blown away be those percentages. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that it’s a QB driven league. These numbers just prove that this is true for the Chiefs as well.

So the question then becomes wether or not Alex Smith can consistently put the Chiefs in that first category. His recent history indicates that he can. At very least he will be a MASSIVE improvement over KC’s recent QBs. In the past 48 games KC QBs have had 18 games with a QB rating over 80. Alex Smith has had 17 games over 80 in just his past 24 games. So in half the games he put up almost the same number of quality performances as KC QBs did in twice that time.

If you’ll bear with me for a little more “stat nerdiness” I’ll make my final case for Smith improving KC.

Alex Smith had a QB Rating of 80 or better in 17 of his past 24 starts over the past two seasons, that’s 70.8% of his starts. 70.8% of 16 games is about 11.3 games. So if Smith can repeat his production from San Francisco then KC fans should expect Smith to give them 11 games with a QB rating over 80 and 5 games with a QB rating under 80.

If the numbers above hold true and KC wins 66.67% of their games with a QB rating over 80 then they should expect to win 7 of the 11 games where Smith has a QB rating over 80. If they win 23.33% of the games with a QB rating under 80 then they should expect to win 1 of the 5 games where Smith has a QB rating under 80. That would give the Chiefs a record of 8-8.

Now, I know 8-8 isn’t playoff caliber, but keep in mind this is just factoring in the improved QB play. It doesn’t take into account the improved roster that John Dorsey has assembled or the improved coaching staff lead by Andy Reid. What these numbers are saying is that if you took Alex Smith’s QB play from SF the past two seasons and put it on the Chiefs team that went 2-14 last year it should make them an 8 win team. These numbers suggest that if Andy Reid can get Alex Smith to perform like he did in SF that should be good for 6 more wins this season by itself.

That is pretty encouraging news for Chiefs fans.

I know that these numbers can’t tell the whole story, they never do. I know that QB Rating in and of itself isn’t a perfect way to define good and bad QB play. However, I do think they paint a general picture and that we can take some things away from that.

The key for the Chiefs this season is Andy Reid getting Alex Smith to play as well (or better) as he did in SF with Jim Harbaugh. If that happens then the defense should give up less points, the running game should run for more yards, and the Chiefs should be (at worst) a .500 team. If the improved roster and coaching can produce a couple more wins on top of that then there is hope that KC could make a run at the playoffs.

I’m curious to hear what you think in the comments below. Are you encouraged by these numbers? Do you think there is some real validity to them? I tried to be completely objective, but do you think these numbers are bogus? Did the stats make your eyes glaze over and so you just skipped to the end? I’d love to hear your thoughts regardless.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!

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