Geno Smith: QBeast?


A hot topic around these here parts is whether or not the Chiefs should take West Virginia QB Geno Smith with the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft. To answer that question there’s another question that needs to be answered first: is Geno Smith a beast of a QB or not?

One long month ago I went on record as saying that the Chiefs would be best served by selecting ILB Manti’ Te’o from Notre Dame number one overall. Since then the Chiefs have hired QB Merlin Andy Reid and… the college national championship game has played out and… I can now see I was wrong. If I was a politician… you wouldn’t want to vote for me.

On Monday when Andy Reid addressed the Kansas City media he made it clear, as clear as any coach is going to get 3 ½ months before the draft, that he’s interested in taking the best player available in the draft. So, it’s up to Geno Smith to show in his off season work that he’s not only a beast but, the best.

Or maybe we should just change our perspective.

A change in perspective can also come through comparing college prospects. Considering the elevated play of the three QBeasts from last year’s draft, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and RGIII, maybe we don’t have the most accurate perspective… yet.

Many have forgotten that in Peyton Manning’s last game, the 1997 Orange Bowl he threw for a measly 131 yards and lead his team to a loss to eventual National Champion Nebraska, 42-17. Also, Nebraska led 28-3 in the fourth quarter so most all of the points for Tennessee came in trash time.

Why bring that up? Because we sometimes get a game or two or three out of perspective with what a player’s actual and natural potential is. In Geno Smith’s case, he had an average (for him) last game of his college career: the Pinstripe Bowl. The Pinstripe Bowl was played in New York on a 20 degree day with snow gusting. Although that didn’t bother Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib and the Orangemen’s methodical  game plan, it was murder for West Virginia’s speedy skill positions players who were obviously minimized by those conditions.

Russell Wilson lost both of his last two bowl games, the Rose bowl, averaging 227 passing yards per game including an interception. Nothing to write home about or make scouts stand up and take notice.

Andrew Luck lost his last college game to the Oklahoma State Cowboys even though Stanford won the time of possession 41+ to 19+. Luck also threw an interception in that one.

In Robert Griffin III’s last season his team, the Baylor Bears, finished 6-3 in conference play. At least his team won their bowl game… over the “highly touted” 7-6 Washington Huskies. 6-3 in conference play wasn’t the best stat on his resume.

Trying to determine whether or not a QB will be a beast in the NFL is not always going to work based upon the last few games they played or the record of the team they played for.

Also, if you’re going to hold a high winning standard up for QBs then you should also do that for other position players like Manti’ Te’o. We’ll have to see if his less than stellar performance in the national championship game against Alabama is going to drop his draft status. In that game, he looked like a boy playing a man’s game.

Since the Chiefs snatched up Andy Reid to be the skipper of their clipper, another question arises: does the performance of an NFL QB depend more upon the stud QB coming out of college or the coach who’s coaching the stud QB? Was Joe Montana the Joe Montana that we know now more because of his skill level or was it Bill Walsh and the system he had in place?

Savvy coaching makes as much a difference as the player does in determining the success of a quarterback. It’s a bit of both but, in many cases, it can be as much as 65% coach (and his system) and 35% QB and his capabilities. Then again, with a player like Aaron Rodgers, it has a lot more to do with “the player.”

In 2012, and in recent years, quarterbacks are coming into the NFL with more “game readiness” than ever before. Look at the trends in quarterbacks coming into the league in the past five seasons:

Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, and now RGIII, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have all come in and either started their first or second season or have made a positive contribution. Mark Sanchez and Blaine Gabbert were left off this list for poor progress.

Fifteen quarterbacks, and that’s nearly half the starters in the NFL.

Clearly, the process of gradually developing a rookie QB from two to four years before starting is an old-school notion and it’s an outdated concept that’s not in operation in this pass-first-and-ask-questions-later NFL.

Can Geno Smith be as successful as Russell Wilson, RGIII or Andrew Luck in his first season? When the Chiefs new coach starts talking about whether or not he would take Geno Smith first in the draft — if you can “Reid” the between the lines — the answer is the same to both questions.

The performances of these three  QBs from last years draft may have skewed our thinking about how well a QB “has to” perform in their rookie season and you may be more comfortable comparing Geno Smith to the top three QBs in the previous draft, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. If there was a re-draft all three would likely go in the top ten or even the top five. Each fits the description of franchise QB and I believe Geno Smith can perform at their level.

If the Chiefs draft Geno Smith in April, then there is no reason to not expect that the Chiefs will be in the playoffs next January.

Lofty expectations? I don’t think so. Look at what Geno Smith’s upside is, which is very high. Does he also have some bust potential? Yes but, with the supporting cast of players that Reid should be able to put in place this off season, it would lead you to believe that Geno Smith’s “bust-ability”… if he’s wearing a Reid-red uniform… goes way, way down.

Consider all of the Pro Bowl players, and PB level players, Smith will have surrounding him (btw… Justin Houston deserved to be in the Pro Bowl more than Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers should start getting some PB consideration while Bowe has been there before and will — should he resign — be Smith’s  main hammer).

Evaluations of Geno Smith vary with the weather. Using a scouting priority checklist which includes: Arm Strength, Football IQ, Accuracy, Mobility, Leadership, Toughness, Resume, Maturity, Pedigree, and Hand Size, let’s do some comparisons.

Before getting into that, Alen Dumonjic of The Bleacher Report rated the 32 Strongest Arms in the league last summer and Matt Cassel ranked number 32. So, almost any QB the Chiefs draft is going to be an upgrade in the “most important” category when evaluating a QB.

Arm Strength
If Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco (he’s rated number one by Ron Jaworski) are the standard in today’s NFL then Geno Smith will soon rank right up there perhaps just behind the best. Smith can get the ball down the field to the speediest of receivers and has lots of zip on his passes as well as a phenomenal touch. His deep ball reminds me of Matthew Stafford’s.

Football IQ
No one is like Peyton Manning. Or Tom Brady. They hold their own Mensa meetings for QBs every Sunday but, Geno Smith is intuitive, reads defenses very well and makes good decisions in and out of the pocket. He reminds me of RGIII in college and makes decisions quickly like Griffin as well.

Although accuracy is not rated as the most important category in this system, it is to me and Geno Smith is very accurate. He even has excellent touch on his long balls and Jon Baldwin should be salivating like a salamander to work with him. That’s because Smith will likely make Baldwin’s career. If Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are 10 out of 10 then Smith should come in at least with a solid 8. I’ve seen him hit his receivers right in stride so many times, I found myself wishing the Chiefs QBs could learn that from him: no more “Death-to-Dexter” passes. All  the Chiefs inside receivers should flourish with Gsmith’s throwing to them. His deep ball accuracy is worth mentioning… again.

I saw Smith fall down in the end zone on a play in the Pinstripe Bowl and I thought he looked like a completely different QB than earlier in the season. Although he’s not the athlete and runner that RGIII is, he’ll be one of the more mobile QB’s in the league. If RGIII is a 10 then Geno gets a 7.5. Side Note: I don’t believe it’s that good an idea to be rated a “10” in this category anymore. QBs like Vick and RGIII find themselves hurt and on the sidelines too too much because they “think” they can do it all with their legs if they want too. Aaron Rodgers is an 8 in this category and that is probably the perfect score to have. To be escapable without being egotistical.

Matt Cassel may show up for summer workouts and gets everyone else to show up too, but, he obviously couldn’t perform otherwise. Geno Smith can be fiery on the sidelines. I saw that fire during his Pinstripe Bowl loss. Some have criticized his outburst but, it seemed totally appropriate to me. I have also seen him interviewed and his personality and approach to communicating is infectious and he’s a personable guy, smart and creative, who will be great to work with. The penultimate leader in today’s NFL is Tom Brady. If Tom Brady is a “10” then Smith comes in at an “8”… with upside. Of course, nothing makes a player look more like a leader than winning.

Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest rascals around today. It’s also part of the Steeler persona. At 6-3 and 220 Geno Smith is not a fragile toothpick. While I don’t think anyone takes a licking and keeps on ticking like Big Ben, his challenge is a bit like QBs who are mobile: they think they can take on all comers and try to do that too much… then they end up hurt and warming the bench. Geno Smith is big and durable and has some ability to move in the pocket so if Ben is a 10 then Geno is a 7.5 with upside.

There are actually not many QBs in the league who came out of college with the pedigree and experience that Geno Smith has had.
Player’s name / Cmp / Att / Cmp% / Yrds / TDs / INTs / Rating
Geno  SMITH / 985 / 1,461 / 67.4% / 11,658 / 98 / 21 / 153.7.

Geno Smith is no John Kennedy but then again, who is?  Smith’s mother said Geno was in a gifted and talented program in school growing up. He’s always been older than his years. Here’s a video of Smith talking about learning and focus.

Good family. Good school. Good conference. Solid-solid-solid, but nobody’s perfect.

Hand Size
Smith holds the ball just fine. Drew Brees is said to have a small hand size but, he does fine holding onto the ball to. Smith had no fumbles until the Pinstripe Bowl.

To see 8 good video-shorts of his play making ability try “The Case For Geno Smith.” If you haven’t had time to watch Smith play at all this season, this article provide a wonderful series of 5 second mini-flicks highlighting Smith’s finer skills. So, this might be a good place to start.

Is there any one specific statistic that would be the “best” determiner of whether or not a QB is a beast? Passer rating? TDs to Ints? “Wins” belong to the team and coaches, the whole organization. It’s not just championships because Dan Marino was a beast even though he never won the big one. Passing percentage stands out to me. Call it the QBeast Quotient.

Look at it from the opposite point of view. If a QB has a low passing percentage rate, isn’t that the death knell for a QB? Isn’t that what we really pay our QB to do? Of course we also hope some of those end up in the end zone. Of course.

Coaches can often be heard comparing prospects to players who already have a history in the NFL, or other prospects. Alex Brown of wrote a piece called, “Comparing Geno Smith and Robert Griffin III and says,

"In differentiating these two prospects, it’s clear that Geno Smith is following Robert Griffin III’s footsteps in becoming the next hot prospect and potential top 5 overall draft choice. Their production, physical build, arm talent, accuracy, and explosive supporting casts are remarkably similar, but the intriguing aspect of this comparison, is how much further developed Geno Smith appears to be. With Baylor’s offense, the inverted-veer and zone read game set up a much more potent deep passing game, as they averaged 241 yards rushing through the first 3 games of the 2011 season –that stands in direct contrast to West Virginia’s inconsistent rushing attack that produced 331 yards in week 1 versus Marshall and a meager 25 yards in week 3 versus Maryland.So why do I throw those numbers at you? Well, to tell the true story behind Robert Griffin III’s 12-yards per pass attempt average and Geno Smith’s 9 yards per pass attempt average. While West Virginia has an explosive offense, it must be noted how special Baylor’s offense was in 2011. In terms of production through the first 3 games of the year, Robert Griffin III wins with his extraordinarily efficient and explosive early season performance. In sum, Smith is deadly in the short-to-intermediate passing game, while Robert Griffin III torched secondaries in 2011 with deep, down the field throws.”"

Arrowhead Addict follower Scott Cochran posted the following comparisons after my blog “Clark Hunt Firing On All Cylinders” and wrote:

"Geno Smith vs peers, last year’s rookies and HOF college QB career stats that matterPlayer’s name / Cmp / Att / Cmp% / Yrds / TDs / INTs / Rating Geno  SMITH – 985 / 1461 / 67.4% / 11,658 / 98 / 21 / 153.7. Mi GLENNON – 611 / 1016 / 60.1% / 7,028 / 62 / 28 / 132.9. Ma BARKLEY – 1001 / 1562 / 64.1% / 12,327 /116 / 48 / 148.7. Ro GRIFFIN III – 800 / 1192 / 67.1% / 10,366 / 78 / 17 / 158.9. Andrew LUCK – 713 / 1064 / 67.0% / 9,430 / 82 / 22 / 162.8. Rus. WILSON – 907 / 1489 / 60.9% / 11,720 /109 / 30 / 147.2. Tyler WILSON – 593 / 948 / 62.6 % / 7,765 / 52 / 26 / 144.0.Some HOF QBs and some headed to the HOF Player’s name / Cmp / Att / Cmp% / Yrds / TDs / INTs / Rating Pe MANNING – 863 / 1381 / 62.5% / 11,201 / 89 / 33 / 147.1. TOM BRADY – 443 / 711 / 62.3% / 5,351 / 35 / 19 / 136.4. Aa RODGER – 424 / 665 / 63.8% / 5,469 / 43 / 13 / 150.3. Steve YOUNG – 592 / 908 / 65.2% / 7,633 / 56 / 33 / 148.9. John / ELWAY – 774 / 1246 / 62.1% / 9,344 / 77 / 39 / 139.3. Philip RIVERS- 1087 /1711 / 63.5% / 13,484 / 95 / 34 / 144.1."

Cochran goes on to say that many are blind to the fact that Geno Smith’s completion percentage is higher than anyone’s on either list. The top three are highlighted.

A more important comparison, which Chiefs fans should be interested in, is the one between Donovan McNabb and Geno Smith. It’s hard to imagine Andy Reid not seeing some Donovan McNabb in Geno Smith. Two mobile QBs with strong, accurate arms.

Player’s name / Cmp / Att / Cmp% / Yrds / TDs / INTs / Rating
Geno  SMITH – 985 / 1,461 / 67.4% / 11,658 / 98 / 21 / 153.7.
Dono McNabb – 562 // 968 // 58.1 // 8,581 // 78 // 27 // 153.

If Andy Reid would draft Donovan McNabb second overall, I see no reason why he wouldn’t draft Geno Smith first. I remember the day Donovan McNabb was drafted and a group of Philly fans booed the choice. However, things worked out alright for McNabb and the Eagles for the next ten years. When this April 25th rolls around, if Geno Smith is the pick, I think most Chiefs fans will be cheering loudly, and I’ll be among them.

After taking a longer look, a comparative look, at Geno Smith, I believe he is a QBeast and just as good a QB prospect as any who have come out in the past few years. And… he’s also the best player available.

So, what say you? Is Geno Smith a QBeast or not? I say he is.