K.C. Chiefs: All Things Alex Smith

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So, what’s up with Alex Smith? For some time now, he and the Chiefs have been dancing around a new contract and as recently as March 25th, 53 days ago, Andy Reid was singing his praises,

“I loved his accuracy. I love his want-to to be great. I love the way he took things over and challenged everybody around him and not in a boisterous manner but just by leading by example and teaching on the field. I appreciated his whole game. His approach to the game raised the whole team. He’s a gym rat. You’ve got to kick him out of the building. I was almost on secret double probation his first week in the building, because he wanted to stay there forever and I’d have to kick him out.”

Then, three days ago, in an 810 WHB radio interview Andy Reid (go to the 7:50 mark of this interview) sounded like he was dodging the question about whether or not a contract with Alex Smith would get done before the season started. And his comments came right after he’d spent time singing the praises of new Chief QB Aaron Murray.

I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, usually, however I do say where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

In an article by Christopher Hansen for the Bleacher Report, he documents both John Dorsey and Andy Reid’s history of drafting QBs and part of the reason for doing so in each case was to gain leverage in negotiations,

“Quarterback contracts are notoriously difficult to handle because they often have the upper hand in negotiations.  By drafting Murray, the Chiefs are at least sending a message to Smith’s agent that they are preparing to move on without him if he plays hardball.”

Yes, “football is a business” and it was clear in Andy Reid’s interview that he’s comfortable bypassing the business side and allowing GM John Dorsey “handle that.”

On the other hand of the smoke and fire is the possibility that the Chiefs brass see real potential in Aaron Murray in the short term. Maybe they want to get him to camp and see if he can give Alex Smith a run for his money. Aaron Murray is no slouch and if you haven’t read and watched Ben Nielsen’s review of Jon Gruden’s QB Camp with Murray you may want to do so before reading further. In the last video around the 6:20 mark, Jon Gruden says of Aaron Murray,

“Well, over the last five years we’ve been real lucky to have a lot of quarterbacks come through here, some of the best, and he’s at the top of the food chain. This kid knows the game inside and out. He’s been in a very diverse offense at Georgia. Traditional I-formations, he’s been in a spread no huddle system in the same game. And he’s made all the vertical passes that most quarterbacks have made over the past four or five years. This kid  can do it all.”

Keep a close eye on the contract talks with Alex Smith between now and camp to see whether or not this theory hold any water. Although I will repeat what I’ve said many times about this draft… it was so deep that a first round talent could be picked up in the third. That applies here with Aaron Murray and perhaps he’s a QB who slipped a round or two too far in which case someone could say of him… he’s a first or second round talent that slipped way way too far. He started 52 games for Georgia. A four year starter. Four years. No, that’s not quite the equivalent of four NFL years but those years should count for more than your average QB coming out of college.

Like I said, keep an eye on Alex Smith contract talks….

In his 17 month history with Chiefs players, several of John Dorsey’s “contractual decisions” have been somewhat disconcerting. Choices to sign some players for too much (like Dunta Robinson or Dwayne Bowe or Chase Daniel) obviously dramatically affects his ability to negotiate with other players. Not only does he set a bad precedence with one player but then he’s spent cap money that can’t be used where he’d like to use it. In this case on a potential franchise QB.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I’m a big Dorsey supporter when it comes to evaluating and bringing in talented players to the Chiefs roster. However, his contract offers are inconsistent and that creates a tenuous environment when it comes to dealing with a player like Alex Smith. A player who just had an above average year guiding the Chiefs to a playoff berth… but he’s also a QB who needs to show he can consistently progress and continue to lead and win games on his own. Much as he did for one game, the playoff game vs. the Colts.

It raises a good question: who are the Chiefs actually negotiating with in Alex Smith? What is Alex Smith really worth?

An infamous regular blogger here at AA has challenged that Alex Smith is not “one of the better QBs in the league” which would basically require that AS11 NOT be better than 16 other team’s QBs. This bloggers actual statement was,

“I bet if a national poll was taken he (Alex Smith) would rank in the 16-18 range”

So, I’m willing to take this challenge. However, if Alex does ranks in the top 16 then you have to admit that you can’t go around saying he’s a bad QB. If he’s 17th or worse… say what you will.

Firstly, ranking a QB is a little like ranking all cars makes against each other which virtually never happens. Sure, you’ll find all sorts of car rankings in the mid-size, compact or any number of other categories like trucks and vans… but I don’t think I’ve ever read one rating all sizes and models against each other. Why is that a good analogy? Because you have west coast offenses, like the Chiefs and you have run-centric offenses, like the Seahawks and so on and so forth. So, it may be unfair to compare Russell Wilson to Alex Smith

That said, this will be a journey into the upside and downside of Alex Smith to prove whether or not, once and for all, if Alex Smith is a top 16 QB… or not.

The Upside

The following ranking is based on the QB Rating. It says that Alex Smith is rated 14th out of all QBs who played at least 7 games. However, if you take both Sam Bradford and Josh McCown out of the equation, because neither played more than half the season, then Smith would come in at #12. That sound like the top half of the league to me.

ESPN QB Ranking

BTW, I think players who only play half a season should not be included in lists like this because, as any QB will tell you, playing a whole year and sustaining your performance for that length of time, is very different than doing so for half the time.

The Downside

The following link will take you to the Bleacher Report’s post ranked Alex Smith at #17 out 49 QBs in 2013. QBs who appeared a game at one time or another in 2013. They had this to say about Smith,

“The truth of the matter is this—of the 16 QBs who threw over 500 times in 2013, only Chad Henne had fewer yards passing. In addition, only three of those 16 QBs had fewer touchdown passes than did Alex Smith. But just like you’d expect from a game manager, Smith did throw the fewest interceptions of that same group of guys.”

2013 QB Power Ranking from “The Bleacher Report

Once again, we have a list of QBs who ranked ahead of AS11 which includes Josh McCown in the top 16 who, while counted on the list of QBs who started a game this year, should not be included as a QB who is better than Smith (I don’t know anyone, with the exception of one possible person, who would want McCown as their QB more than Smith). In that case, Mr. Smith would be counted among the 16 top half QBs minus McCown while 16 other teams represent the bottom half of the league. If, on the other hand, you count all 49 QBs in this ranking, as a legitimate ranking system, then Alex Smith is better, ironically, than 32 other QBs in the league.

NESN has an intriguing QB ranking as of February of this year in which writer Doug Kyed places the top 19 QBs in the league into these groupings:

1. Peyton Manning

2 Tom Brady

Then the comes the next bracket of hurlers,

3. Aaron Rodgers

4. Drew Brees

5. Russell Wilson

6. Philip Rivers

7. Ben Roethlisberger

With another break in the brackets then,

8. Colin Kaepernick

9. Cam Newton

10. Andrew Luck

Then the next tier,

11. Tony Romo

12. Matt Ryan

13. Eli Manning

Then another group,

14, Jay Cutler

15. Alex Smith

16. Matt Stafford

17. Joe Flacco

18. Robert Griffin III

19. Nick Foles

I don’t necessarily agree with who is in each group here, or the ranking order, but am fond of the idea of grouping QBs with similar rankings and abilities. For Manning and Brady, as long as they are in the league, I will have to rank them above all other QBs. The year Aaron Rodgers was voted the MVP, he deserved it… “that” season. So, ranking a QB should take into account the totality of a player’s career and not just the season they just had.

So this is not based upon NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2013 and in that case you’ll have to accept that Alex Smith had some below average years early in his career. On the other hand, Mr. Smith has progressed and at this point in time it’s difficult for me to see him as anything less than a top 14 QB.

The question is, why top 14. Or, better said, how do you get to 14? I can accept that the second tier of QBs above are better than Alex Smith including: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger but I would question Russell Wilson. Just because a QB wins a Super Bowl doesn’t make them a top 5 QB. Russell Wilson is not a top 5 QB. Does he do well what his offense asks him to do? Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily include throwing the ball a lot. I can see Alex Smith leading the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory but if he does that, I won’t suddenly believe he’s a top 5 QB. Notice that Joe Flacco is ranked #17. He won the Super Bowl the year before but you don’t find him up there now. Split the difference and Wilson should probably be about 12-16.

That simply points out that an above average QB can lead their team to a championship in the NFL. That alone does not make them top five.

Jay Cutler, the player ranked just ahead of AS11 has all sorts of ability as a QB. The aspect of quarterbacking a team that he seems to lack is the ability to lead. This is where I’d rank Alex Smith way ahead of Cutler. In fact, I’d place Cutler behind Matthew Stafford.

So, 1-16 would look like this to me,

10. Tony Romo

11. Matt Ryan

12. Alex Smith

13. Eli Manning

14. Matthew Stafford

15. Jay Cutler

16. Russell Wilson

Now, it’s this group in which I see Alex Smith comparatively. In other words, in my mind, he could flex-rank anywhere from 10 to 15. I don’t see him as ranking in any way below Russell Wilson. However, I can see him comparing favorably to the rest in this group. One way to understand this better without scrutinizing years of stats, is to ask yourself which QB would you want to face least. I believe most of these QBs and their teams would not want to face Alex and the Chiefs more than the other way around.

However, this part of analyzing Alex Smith’s worth, is all subjective. However, in a sense, numbers rarely tell us all the traits we really want to know: is a QB a winner? Do other players want to play with him? Do his team mates want to win for him? Bottom line… Alex Smith is a winner and is quite capable of moving higher on this list in the next year and consequently, the Chiefs need to pay him, respectively.

No matter what is said here, there are those who would still rag on and on about Alex Smith and say he’s not a good QB or that he’s not in the top half of the league in terms of rank. However, I hope the Chiefs stay away from using trivial leverage methods to bring Alex Smith value down. No, I don’t want him to be overpaid but, getting him signed so he can stop worrying about whether or not he’s wanted here beyond this next season is important to the continued growth of the Chiefs overall.

Alright Addict fans, give me a number… where do you rank our Mr. Smith?

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