The last couple of seasons the Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t shake the disease.
The “three-and-out” disease.
That should be different this season. However, predicting third down success is a bit like predicting the horses. Sometimes the best pedigree in the world doesn’t even place. Think Brian Daboll: great pedigree, not so great offensive coordinator.
Arrowhead Addict’s own Jason Seibel recently wrote a post called “Football for Dummies – The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs Edition” in which he outlines, step-by-step, how the Chiefs should be better in 2013. If you want to get excited about the new season pick a copy at your local newsstand.
Jason adeptly spells out how Andy Reid’s West Coast passing oriented approach, with Alex Smith at the helm, won’t need to lead the league in passing to make the Chiefs into winners and playoff contenders. While some fans attest that some of the math doesn’t add up… it’s the improvement in third down conversions and the turnover/takeaways that fans should jump for joy about, especially when it comes to Alex Smith steadily steering the ship.
In 2012, the Chiefs were last in the league in plus/minus turnovers at -24, tied with Philadelphia (which at first glance is not encouraging considering our new coach was in Philly last year). The next worst team was Detroit at -16. This indicates that the Chiefs offense was not only turning the ball over faster than pancakes at an IHOP on a Saturday morning but, the defense wasn’t creating many turnovers either.
In 2012, QB Matt Cassel threw 12 INTs while throwing 6 TDs and fumbled the football 8 times in 8 games. That’s a lot of counter-production to account for on your own.
While it’s been suggested that the Chiefs offensive line — or lack thereof — is in part responsible for these fumbles you need look no further than Cassel’s 41 total fumbles in his career to understand that he has a bad case of fumblitis. Matt Cassel has averaged 8.0 fumbles each season, during his years as a starter.
Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN recently wrote that, “Kansas City could’ve won seven or eight games last season if Cassel hadn’t handled the football as if it were a live grenade. He turned it over a mind-boggling 14 times in the first five games of 2012.”
Then, Cassel’s 2012 “super-sub” Brady Quinn pitched in another fumble of his own and added 8 more INTs.
Consequently, it may not be accurate to blame the Chiefs offensive woes on the OL alone.
You may be wondering how Alex Smith fares in these departments. He had 3 fumbles in 2012 while appearing in 10 games.
Smith has averaged 6.2 fumbles per year in his career. Compare that to Tom Brady’s career numbers. Brady’s averaged 7.2 fumbles per year. Or, compare that to Aaron Rodgers over his years as a starter and he comes in at 6.8 fumbles per year.
So, Alex Smith takes good care of the ball. Not as good as Peyton Manning, who’s only fumbled the ball 4.2 per year during his years as as starter but, Smith is obviously going to be a big upgrade in the giveaway/takeaway department.
Consequently, Chiefs fans should see fewer “three-and-outs.”
Another barometer of success for a QB is good decision making, which can, to an extent, be measured by looking at a QB’s interception percentage (INT%). Meaning: the percentage of times a QB is intercepted when attempting to throw a pass. Once again Smith ranks with the best in the league. Alex Smith’s INT% for his career is 2.9. Peyton Manning’s is 2.7.
In 2011, Smith was best in the league in this department with a 1.1%. Last year he had a 2.3 INT%.
Tom Brady is currently at 2.1 INT% for his career and Aaron Rodgers is 1.7, which is what separates Rodgers from the pack and makes him what I would consider to be the best QB in the league right now: because he makes excellent decisions with the organization’s fate resting in his hands.
In the past 6 years Alex Smith’s INT% has been: 3.6, 2.1, 3.2, 2.9, 1.1, and 2.3. If you toss out Smith’s rookie year (6.7) and average his past 6 years, his INT% in that time has been 2.5… placing him right there between Manning and Brady.
Matt Cassel’s INT% the past two years was 3.3 in 2011 and 4.3 in 2012, averaging out at 3.8.
When you consider that the San Francisco 49ers were 14th in the league in total first downs and the Chiefs were 28th you can see that Alex Smith will help significantly. Plus, the 49ers were tied for the 4th fewest penalties on first down while the Chiefs were tied at number 8. Smith will help in that department too, although the improvement may not be as dramatic or noticeable.
One mathematical improvement you can count on this year is the Chiefs offensive line. Add the franchise tagged LT Branden Albert… then add the number one overall pick in the 2013 draft Eric Fisher… then add the return of injured 2011 second round pick Center Rodney Hudson… then add huge and talented free agent Guard Geoff Schwartz… plus RG Jon Asamoah continues to progress…. and the line will be better in 2013.
Remember the Barry Olé Richardson Era… or the year of the cat named Eric “The Crowd Pleaser” Winston? I thought you might.
Clearly, the line will be better.
Alex Smith and the OL are creating a synergy: they’re making each other better. With Branden Albert and Eric Fisher serving as the line’s Genesis and Revelations, the good book we call “The Chiefs Offensive Line” just got good-er-er. The Chiefs offensive line will be as good as it’s been since Moses came down from the mountain… well… at least since Willie Roaf and Will Shields were writing a chapter or two of their own. And that will make Alex Smith better… and versa vice-uh.
Some of you may recall I was not initially in favor of the trade that brought Alex Smith to Kansas City. At first, I thought it was more of KC accepting San Francisco’s cast offs. I thought Smith was on par with Cassel… until I did a little more research.
While the addition of Smith alone should give Chiefs fans reasons to be excited, the improvement of an attacking style defense authored by new DC Bob Sutton should also help to produce more turnovers thereby changing the dynamics and circumstances of each possession.
Which leads us to this point: the past does not equal the future.
In Jeffri Chadiha post called “Alex Smith Bounces Back, Again” he states,
The people who write off Smith as an overrated retread should pay close attention to those last two years in San Francisco, when he threw 35 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and helped the 49ers go 20-6-1 in his last 27 regular-season and postseason starts. He had a found an undeniable comfort level along with a clearer understanding of how best to succeed in this league…. The Kansas City Chiefs will be the most improved team in the NFL this season, primarily because Alex Smith will be their starting quarterback.
When you think of successful teams and their quarterbacks… Brady and the Pats, Rodgers and the Packers, Brees and the Saints… you realize that for a quarterback to “get his due” it means the team is also, getting their due.
Like Jamaal Charles said recently, “It’s a whole new team.”
That’s going to change the way everyone else in the league perceives the Kansas City Chiefs… and it should also get Alex Smith his due.
What do you think Addicts? Will Alex Smith get his due this season?