K.C. Chiefs: The Alex Smith Enigma

“How do I love thee…” I’ll start that list right after telling you what you’re doing wrong.

From the time Andy Reid got his man, Kansas City Chiefs fans haven’t known whether or not to laugh or cry. This is not a Matt Cassel story in which a general manager dictates to his head coach that, “this guy is our guy and he will remain behind center until I’m gone.”

No, this story is the story of an unwanted kid who never measured up to his first pick in the draft status then relinquished his starters crown to a pauper with eye popping arms and stats. So, the unwanted kid was banished to the roster of the worst team in the league but to a coach who wholly embraced him with wider than open arms.

To some, coach Andy Reid has become the Alex Smith apologist. To others, he’s simply his biggest fan and someone who’s looked forward to working with him since he was the first pick in the draft.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, if you ask any Alex Smith supporter they can tell you what the problem is not. Alex wins games. Over the past three seasons Smith’s record is 28-5-1 before last weekends game. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated spells out the nature of those wins.

In those 34 games, he’s been held without a touchdown pass 13 times, including five times this season. He’s thrown three touchdown passes in a game three times through that three-season stretch; precisely once per season.

Smith himself admits to not caring about stats that make him look good instead opting for wins. In 2012 Smith was asked about his ability to win games even though his passing numbers were “pedestrian” and he responded,

I could absolutely care less on yards per game. I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what, you’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great. You’re not winning, though.

At least Alex Smith seems to know who he is. He’s a winner who also appears comfortable with or unconcerned about, his own ranking among quarterbacks.

So, this problem… if you want to call it that… is not with Alex himself or with his relationship with his coach. The problem lies in the perception different fans have of him.

So, let’s take some recent fan perceptions and break them down.

From Sunday’s Live Thread during the games,

“Way overthrown” – Heilios

The past few games Alex Smith seems to throwing the ball low or at the feet of many of his receivers. True or false? I think there’s no question he’s struggling to make some throws that were there earlier this year. Another throw Smith is missing on is the “soft-touch lob” over the linebacker to the RB slipping into the flat. Getting the ball over the head of linemen and LBs is partly anticipation — measuring the ability of the LB — partly planning. Smith doesn’t seem to have the “soft-touch lob” in his arsenal right now but needs to add… or work on it.

Accuracy wise, Alex Smith is sitting at 58.1 and in 26th place in the league. The Chiefs should also beware that Philip Rivers leads the league in this category at 70.9 and the Chargers are the only team to break 70. Smith leaves completions on the field. Completions the Chiefs are going to need to make a big run in the second half of this season.

“Not for nothing guys, but Smith has thrown more TD passes than Manning tonight. I’m just sayin…” – Jason Seibel

Is Alex Smith throwing enough TDs? Well, the correct answer to that question always has to be no and it doesn’t matter how many TDs you’ve thrown. Peyton Manning averages 3 TDs per game. Drew Brees is not far behind. No other QB in the league right now averages more than 2 passing TDs per game. 18 teams in the league average 1 to 1 ½ TDs per game and the Chiefs are one of those teams.

Is TDs per game an important stat to consider when evaluating a QBs value? Matt Cassel had only 6 TDs in 9 games for the Chiefs last year but is that what was really the problem? Not by a long shot. Cassel also had 12 INTs in those 9 games and 66.7 rating. The answer to any comparison to Matt Cassel is that Alex Smith doers some many other things well that Cassel comes away looking buffoonish.

 

“I’m as down as anyone on Smiff, but Bowe had a shot at catching that and for all the money he gets paid he has gotta make those catches. But alas, seldom does he ever. I say trade him next off season if possible.” – 44WinMag

The question is “fit.” Does Alex Smith fit this offense? 100% yes. Does he fit with the other personnel around him. In the case of Dwayne Bowe, perhaps not.

Bowe has obviously struggled this year. Think back on his career and you realize he’s succeeded at a high enough rate that year after next he could have been considered the Chiefs all-time leading receiver… and with who, or whom… was it that was throwing him the ball? Mr. Buffoon, who was alluded to earlier, for one and you can include Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, Tyler Thigpen, Quinn Gray, Damon Huard, and Brodie Croyle. A distinguished list beyond compare. Sadly not in a good way. Yet, Bowe has produced.

Which leaves a gaping question about why hasn’t Bowe been his old self this season?

Part of the answer to that could be fit. In Andy Reid’s offense, he requires his WRs to run impeccable routes in which they sit down in the defensive backfields zone gaps, make a catch and advance the ball. The only receiver who seems to have the speed to carry that off this year is newcomer Donnie Avery.

Is that Alex Smith’s fault? Not nearly but the responsibility does lie on Andy Reid’s shoulders to make Smith look better: ie succeed at the highest rate possible.

Also, opposing teams have been merciless about doubling Bowe and daring Smith to beat them by throwing to some other receiver. In that way, Alex Smith as has had limited success.

 

“Smith needs to make a quicker decision. Difference between Elite and Good is the ability to make quick decisions.” – Dave

At this moment, 3rd string QB Tyler Bray has the quickest release on the team. A quick release doesn’t mean better decision making. Making quick decisions doesn’t always mean making better decisions. Keeping from getting sacked can be the result of making good and quick decisions. Smith is in the upper third of the league when it comes to making positive pocket decisions that take advantage of his escapability.

Defenses have to respect Smith’s ability to run out of the pocket but it’s not his running ability fans are worried about. Fans want Smith the throw the ball down field.

 

Throwing the ball downfield to stretch the field and score on explosive plays.

Andy Reid spoke this week about practicing “explosive plays” and throwing the ball downfield. He made it clear the Chiefs are “not trying to not have explosive plays.” Gee, I’m glad he cleared that one up but it doesn’t show the team is moving towards that end. Smith has the ability to connect downfield and needs to do so more.

Christopher Hansen from Bleacher Report writes about how the Chiefs Andy Reid could get more out of Alex Smith including going downfield more often,

What is maddening about this approach is that Smith has demonstrated the ability to throw vertically with accuracy.

If Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe don’t begin to connect during the last 6 games of the year, the Chiefs may indeed decide to move Bowe in a trade during the off-season but the Chiefs would likely be left holding the bag on any deal involving Bowe because of his diminished output this season.

The coaching staff needs to do a better job with Alex Smith.

Somewhere between the practice field and game day there appears to be a disconnect on the part of the coaching staff. Early in the season the play calling… as well as the types of things that Smith was being asked to do… were working. Of course, what anyone wants to see out of their team is consistency. Especially the kind that allows their teams to march downfield on a regular basis… or when they absolutely have to… and get a score whether it be a TD or FG.

For me, it’s this regular ability to score, or in this case, not score, that is disconcerting.

Hansen from Bleacher Report disagrees with me,

The offense has been consistent and the team has been winning games, so it’s hard for coaches to really see the necessity of making extreme changes. The Chiefs should implore Smith to trust Bowe and call more plays that ask him to take chances, but only if necessary.

Perhaps what needs to happen to gain the consistency that I don’t see, but Hansen does, is the very thing he is suggesting, getting “Smith to trust Bowe.”

I never actually foresaw a problem between Smith and Bowe. When Bowe announced before the year began, “once the season starts it’ll be bombs over Baghdad” I believed the Chiefs were purposely leaving the “Smith to Bowe” playbook on the shelf until the regular season would begin.

Looking back I could possibly understand Bowe’s excitement considering his comparing Smith to Cassel. However, now, I don’t know what’s wrong there unless Bowe has been experiencing a whole lot more of those off field smokey-car joyrides than we knew about prior to last week.

I don’t in any way want to make Dwayne Bowe the scapegoat for Alex Smith but I clearly was expecting more from that tandem than they have produced this year and Bowe seems like a very different person this season than in years past. His “mellow demeanor” has been something I’ve chalked up to a love affair with Andy Reid personally as well as his pass oriented system. What receiver wouldn’t like it, right? Now, Bowe’s mellow yellow demeanor has me wondering more about… other possible causes.

In the end, I was not just expecting more out of Bowe, I was envisioning so much more from Alex Smith.

During the past several years I have courted several QBs on paper to walk the hallowed halls where Lenny, Joe and Trent once paced. One of those QBs was Nick Foles. Foles was ultimately taken in the 2012 draft by the man now coaching the Chiefs. Foles can now been seen making “all the throws” in Philly and the reason I’m bringing him up is that Foles seems to be doing many of the things Reid would like to have Smith do. But he isn’t doing them for some reason.

Alex Smith doesn’t want to fail. I’m beginning to suspect his drive to “not fail” outweighs his “need to succeed.”

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ~ Michael Jordan

Brett Favre threw more than 16 or more interceptions (averaging one each game of the season) in a season 12 times in his career. Favre also has thrown more touchdowns than any other QB in the history of the NFL, 508 while throwing more INTs than anyone else, 336. Yes, Favre only went to two Super Bowls and only won one of them but he is also considered one of the best QBs ever.

If the Chiefs are to realize their potential, this season and in seasons to come, Alex Smith needs to embrace taking more chances, Favre-ishly. Will there be losses involved in taking the path far flung?

Sure, but I don’t think many Chiefs fans can see that forest through these trees, especially with deforestation being what it is. And can you blame them?

This is not just about Alex. It’s about the coaches and Bowe as well. The San Diego game is a great time to make time. I hope the changes they make are in time.

Tags: KC Chiefs

  • Deadmeat

    I keep thinking Alex is losing confidence in his receivers. Pressing to hard for the perfect pass, hoping they catch it. That has to eat away at you, receivers dropping perfect passes. Don’t we have the second most dropped passes? Charles I believe has the most dropped passes of any running backs?

    • micah stephenson

      How can we look up the dropped passes stats. Intrested in knowing Alex’s dropped passes compared to other QBs dropped passes.

      • Curtis

        Pretty high at this point. But how can Alex be blamed for hitting his receivers in the hands on a dropped pass?

    • Curtis

      Charles has the most dropped passes in the league… period. Not just among RB’s.

      Correction: He’s 2nd in the league. Davone Bess (CLE) has the most.

      • micah stephenson

        Mayby Alex shud try passing to the wrs more.

        • Curtis

          Many of the dropped passes are by WR’s. I watch the games multiple times/week. Dexter, Bowe, and Avery all have a propensity to drop passes regularly.

      • penlady

        Charles is not a WR but a RB. Chiefs need some infusion of talent to the O line. WR’s and TE’s. When that happens, Chiefs will win. That is Alex’s consistency- winning.

    • ladner morse

      Jamaal Charles is 70th in the league in dropped passes PERCENTAGE. He drops the ball a lot because he is thrown the ball A LOT!!!!!!!!!

      BTW… Bowe is 199th in the league at 2% droppage rate.

      • Deadmeat

        Call me crazy, that would mean at 2% droppage rate, Bowe would have only dropped one ball all season. What am I missing here? I can think of a several passes he dropped.

        • micah stephenson

          I think it means he drops 2 out of every 100 catchable passes. 2 is 2% of 100. Bowe is catching less than 50% of his targets. Means our QB needs to b more accurate and less scared.

          • Deadmeat

            I figured that. But he has how many catches? Less than 50 this season, I believe. I can tell you, he has dropped more than 2 of those. Several slants and other catchable balls. I could be wrong….

          • micah stephenson

            How many drops do he have? I don’t recall see n himndrop a lot of passes but when he do drop one the Smith fans yell “see I told you it was the recievers fault” and talk about it fir weeks!

      • micah stephenson

        Where you get the dropped passes stats from? It went from the oline fualts to the dropped passes being the reason.

      • micah stephenson

        Wooooow! A 2% droppage rate!!!! Lmao!!!!! Wow! Lol! He he he! Still laughing! Lol! Yea Alex Smith sucks cus our wrs drop to many passes!!!! Lol. Aw sh*t! I’m cracking up! Man I knew it was more than some dropped passes! Lol. Where the oline stats cus they gone revert back to that excuse! Lol. Aw man. I needed that laugh. :-)

      • micah stephenson

        Let me get this straight, are you saying there are 198 wrs that have a higher dropped pass percentage than Bowe?

      • micah stephenson

        Wat is Avery and Mcluster drop percentage? What is the Chiefs team as a whole drop percentage?

        • D forte

          28 drops on 360 attempts = around7.7 percent. I don’t know the individual percentages.

          • micah stephenson

            So lets say that’s 8 out of 100 passes that are dropped. Hardly enough of a reason to justify Alex’s pathetic numbers and play.

  • Horace Lee Madre Jr

    This season has been a fun surprise. I didn’t expect them to be real contenders for 3 years. After this magical season, next year is our year! I’m not saying they won’t do it this year, this just wasn’t expected. Let our staff get another draft and free agency under their belts and then we will know 100% what is to be expected

    • ladner morse

      Horace, I felt a lot like you but after winning the first 3 in a row I realized that a winning season, with championships attached, in the NFL, is a rarity. I do expect the Chiefs to be good for years to come now too, but when you have the chance to go win it all, as I believe this year’s squad could, then I think you pull out all the stops to make it happen. Nothing begets winning like winning and so I believe quality free agents will want to come to K.C. now but it’s so hard to project what may or may not happen this year alone… that doing so in a future year seems impossible.

  • KCinTX

    Part of Bow’s problem is due to a new system.. He may not be as confident in what he is doing. I think this is a big part of what has slowed our production on that side of the ball this year. West Coast is heavily dependent on timing and Bow just ant their yet. He will be back on track soon enough.

    • elly violette

      I agree with you about Bowe and I also don’t know what TomFlex is talking about. Bowe has been a very good receiver for years and has made all his QBs look better than they ever were.

      • micah stephenson

        Hmmm! Interesting comment

      • RepOurChiefs

        Agreed. You can go watch alot of his catches that definitely takes a talented focused receiver to make.

    • elly violette

      That would be great because I think Bowe can go high to get the ball as well as anyone… and were bound to win one of those battles sooner than later.

      • ladner morse

        That’s something Cassel use to do more with success… if you can call anything Cassel did a success. But throwing the ball up high along the sidelines or downfield deep always gave Bowe a shot at going up and fighting for it. That’s something I haven’t seen yet this year because Smith doesn’t take those kinds of chances with the ball.

        • toperspective

          He is so afraid of throwing an interception that he tends to either throw the deep ball out of bounds or way over the receivers head. Sometimes throwing a long 3rd down interception is ok. The result is the same as a punt.

        • D forte

          Those throwsalso lead to a lot of picks that put the D in a bad position. For better or worse this is Alex’s style of play, and I don’t see him movingaway from it considering his recent success

      • KCinTX

        Also don’t help when we give our play calling away. We were on the Denver 2 and the call is fullback up the middle. As Alex is calling the play one of the Chiefs slaps our fullback on the helmet. WTF were you thinking. Denver has a player with a radio to.

      • Chris Tarrants

        You just used the word high and the name Bowe in the same sentence… Just made me chuckle and I’m not sure why

        • micah stephenson

          Lol.

        • RepOurChiefs

          Not too soon. Lol Right oon time! Ha!

  • Bosco Cletus

    They should run Bowe on a deep post and a fly PAST 20 yards every week and put it up for him to go get. You win some you lose some, but I’d take my chances with his athletic ability.

  • toperspective

    I don’t care about touchdown passes – I care about touchdowns scored. The thing that concerns me the most with AS is his inaccuracy. I’m really surprised at the number of times he has thrown poorly on short passes and the touch passes. Those concern me more than his inability to throw long. This offense isn’t explosive so they need to have long, sustained drives. AS’s lack of accuracy makes that very hard.

  • micah stephenson

    Alex Smith, lol. Wow. 14th in completions, 17th in attempts per game, 19th n yards per game, 22nd in td passes, 34th in QB rating, longest pass 39th, 41st in completion percentage, ranked 45th out of 48 in yards per att(captain checkdown), has been sacked 29 times, T.Brady and C.Newton sacked 28 times, R.Wilson 29, Luck, Breese, and RG3 sacked 22 times. Lol. Cmon man!!!

    • elly violette

      Wow Micah… you go… I bet you’ve been waiting for this post to come out! hehe

      • micah stephenson

        Uh….??? Waiting??? Lol. I feel like a broken record! I been saying the same thing from the moment they signed him.

        • Austin Bradley

          Wow you seem to be a person that has been hurt badly in your life. So you have found a cause and it’s alex smith. I just want to tell you it going to be ok. You are a good person and this to will pass. See all better!

          • micah stephenson

            You copied and pasted this. I don’t know why you felt this was worth posting twice.

      • micah stephenson

        Hey!!! You kinda cute Elly! You shud post more so we can see your pretty face. ;-)

  • tomflex

    It seems that every year about this time we hear “we have to find a way to utilize Bowe”. After a while you begin to wonder what exactly you are supposed to do with a receiver that isn’t all that fast, seldom runs the right route, can’t get good separation and drops too many good easy passes.. For the last few years we have had to deal with an offense that just doesn’t seem to click. One of the reasons is a lack of legitimate playmakers…..It’s time to accept the fact that Dwayne Bowe is not one either.

    • ladner morse

      Sems like you have a completely different idea of who Bowe has been to the Chiefs over the years. In my mind he has been the Chiefs best playmaker… and sometimes only playmaker… since he was drafted.

      • Chris Tarrants

        I tend to agree with both of you. Several time we could have either won a game that we lost or started a rout if it wasn’t for Bowe dropping an easy pass, but at the same time he has been a great redzone weapon since he arrived. He needs to stay but he should be our number two WR IMO

      • micah stephenson

        Amen. My brotha! He is one of the best in the lg.

    • micah stephenson

      How do you know Bowes rate of not running the right routes, if you don’t know the routes yourself? Im just curious of how you know that? Are you assuming or do you know a chiefs player? Bowe runs a 4.4 40 but so do most the wrs and CBs in the nfl so noone is ever wide open anymore unless its a bad zone coverage or busted man coverage.

  • Calchiefsfan

    It’s not just Alex Smith or the dropped passes or the O line play or the play calling, it’s all of it. This offense has been struggling in general and everyone needs to step up their game. I see some progress but not a lot. The O line has shown improvement the last 2 weeks and Smith is starting to look down field more so that is some what encouraging. I’m hoping the Chiefs will pick it up down the stretch and I expect better performance next year. Especially if we improve our receiving core.

    • elly violette

      This is the main area that I hope the Chiefs will get better this off season. The offensive line can use the most help of anyone on the team and it would help Alex Smith more than anything too.

  • elly violette

    Alex Smith has a huge winning record for the past three years. When I watch games I don’t see him making plays that make me say that I think he’s losing the game for us. Since that’s true and he has such a great winning record… I don’t know why anyone would be upset with him as our QB.

    • ladner morse

      I agree… it’s just that Smith is so enigmatic because of the strong feelings so many have about some of the things he doesn’t do as well as other QBs. But in the end… he wins.

      • KCMikeG

        Which is ALL that matters.

    • micah stephenson

      I do. Just look at him in general. He just don’t have that umph! That it. That wow. You can just tell he ain’t it. Yea he do n enough to stay employed, which I understand lol, but he ain’t gone win a bunch of playoff games and a superbowl.

      • Bosco Cletus

        There are at least 15 other teams in the league that would love to have him AND his record as the Chiefs starter. Just sayin.

        • micah stephenson

          The record but not the QB.

  • Chris Tarrants

    The problem remains the offense and the players on it. Sad thing is that nobody can really put their finger on whom or why. All it took for the defense was a few new faces and you get this new blood thirsty defensive corps. We made some changes on offense but not enough and obviously not the right ones. I do not in any way think that Cassel could do anything for this team except hold Smiths clipboard or maybe get Reid more sauce for his BBQ lunch. I honestly think the problem is the whole WR corps, Bowe should be our number two WR and we need a big fast burner who can take the top off of defenses but also go up and fight for balls. Dexter should probably either strictly be special teams or find a new city to call home. Charles, and Davis are both here to stay and will be a cornerstone, Smith isn’t a bad QB but he can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap.

    • ladner morse

      Chris… first of all… I would finish your last sentence by adding the word… “yet.”
      Your opening comments comparing where the offense is at progression ally to the defense is comparing apple and oranges. #1, all the Pro Bowl players last year reside there. #2, I doubt you can even come close to comparing the thickness of the offensive playbook to the defensive playbook. This offense is super complex and when you look at it that way… they’re all do really good.

  • Jim Harper

    One thing most everybody seems to forget is that Smith does not call the plays. I am sure he has the ok to change the play at the line of scrimmage, but if QB’s constantly (outside of Manning) well they will usually find the bench. Reid’s west coast offense is entrenched in short passing plays with a healthy dose of Jamaal was well. He throws the ball downfield, but that is mostly to keep defenses honest. With the exception of last week Bowe has been seeing double coverage all year making him a poor choice to throw at. Smith protects the football and after way too much Cassel I appreciate the fact that he does not turn the ball over. Case in point there was nobody in the league that thought KC could compete with Denver. Well they lost by 10. That means they were in the game all night, and the difference was the 1st quarter shut out of 10 to 0. That also means we played them even up for 3 quarters in THEIR house. I really believe a bigger problem lies within our receiving corps. His completion % is down because he won’t put the ball in harms way thereby eliminating drive killing interceptions. I think we are in an ideal position. Our remaining schedule is better than Denver’s and all we have to do is beat them in KC and then just match what they do for the remainder of the season. If they do that, then we lock up home field throughout the playoffs and Denver is a wild card. I like our chances.