Where Does Alex Smith Rank as a Quarterback?


It’s been just under one year since the rumors of the trade that ultimately brought Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs began to circulate around the internet. Now, after his first full season and a playoff game, it’s time to take a look and see exactly where Alex Smith stacks up with the rest of the NFL quarterbacks.

Though Alex Smith was labeled a “game manager” coming out of San Francisco, and even I’ll admit he did nothing in the first half of the season to shake that tag, coming out of the Chiefs Week 10 bye week there was nothing “managing” about his gameplay. During the first nine games Smith’s Passer rating was a slightly below-average 81.1. He only threw nine touchdowns in the those games — actually he threw nine TDs in four games because five of the nine games he never found the endzone — and only completed 59.7 percent of his passes.

Still, thanks to the legs of running back Jamaal Charles, the fact that even though Smith was lighting up the scoreboard he wasn’t turning the ball over and a defense that nobody in the NFL had figured out yet, the Chiefs were able to win those first nine games.

As the Chiefs came out of their bye week, everyone know what the result was. Despite opening up the playbook offensively, opposing teams had figured out a way to neutralize their pass rush, thus exposing their weak secondary. No matter how many points the Chiefs put up, the other teams were able to put up more.

Smith, however, was a different quarterback. Despite the fact the Chiefs lost five of their seven remaining games in the second half of the season, it wasn’t because of Alex Smith. His passer rating jumped a ridiculous 20 points to 101.7. That included the Week 15 match up against the Oakland Raiders in which Smith achieved a perfect passer rating of 158.3, completing 85 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Yes, in the second half of the season, Smith truly had stepped out of the “game manager” role and was simply a “gamer.”

Many people still said that he wouldn’t be able to survive without his “go-to” receiver, Jamaal Charles but he proved everyone wrong in the Chiefs first playoff game since 2010. After losing Charles to concussion six plays into the game, Smith went on to throw for 378 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Many would say that Smith did everything he could to win that game.

But, where does all of that rank Smith among other NFL quarterbacks? We all know who number one is. That’s been pounded into our collective heads since day one of the season by the folks at ESPN and the NFL Network. Looking at the stats, let’s see if Smith is truly a “Top 10” quarterback in this league as general manager John Dorsey claimed he would be at the beginning of the season.

Judging a quarterback by who has the most passing yardage in the NFL is silly at best. By that statistic, after 15 games, Smith ranks 17th in the NFL. The problem with that statistic is it puts him behind — well behind — quarterbacks like Matt Ryan (4), Matthew Stafford (3) and Ryan Tannehill (10) who all had inferrior seasons to Smith. The next stat to break down would be touchdowns.

Alex Smith found the end zone a total of 23 times with his arm. That ties him with the 15th best number along with Indianapolis Colts signal caller Andrew Luck. Again, though, it’s tough to use this as the end-all, be-all stat because again, this puts guys like Matt Ryan with 26 touchdowns and Matthew Stafford with 29 ahead of Smith.

Perhaps the best stat to size up quarterbacks is the passer rating. This takes into account just about every statistic quarterbacks can achieve, puts them into a mathmatical forumla you need to have a master’s degree in calculus to understand and spits out a number. The problem is, it isn’t perfect either. As we said earlier, Smith’s passer rating on the season was 89.1. That’s much lower than it should have been because of his slow start to the season. Lining up all quarterbacks with more than 300 passing attempts on the season, that puts Smith as the #12 quarterback in the league.

Again, it’s a misleading representation because the No. 1 quarterback according this statistic is Nick Foles from the Philadelphia Eagles. While the second year QB had a great year, I really don’t think he’s better than the guy running things in Denver. You just can’t convince me of it; just like you’ll never convince me that Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler are better than Alex Smith. But, according to the passer rating statistic, it says they are.

So, in that vain, I will give you my list of starting quarterbacks in the league who rate as “Top 10” based of off their performance this year as I see it.

1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

It hurts me to say it, but he was the best guy in the group this year. He broke the major records that define quarterback play — total touchdowns and total yardage — and will likely lead his team to a Superbowl victory.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees is consistently good. He is in the right system playing for the right coach in the Big Easy. Granted, he has one of the best tight ends playing the game in Jimmy Graham, but he can utilize his weapons well. His 39 touchdowns and 5,126 yards were second best in the league, only behind Manning.

3. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

At the beginning of the season I said that this would be a defining year for Rivers. With a new head coach and new system, it was bound to be a make or break year for the quarterback and if he continued to play poorly — as he has the past couple of years — he would likely find himself on the way out of San Diego. Suffice it to say, I think he’s safe.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers getting injured definitely hurt his stock, and his team, like anyone knew it would. You can’t expect a guy like Rodgers to continue through a broken collar bone and perform as he has in the past. In fact, the only reason he’s this high on the list was because he was able to come back from that injury and put on a show to beat the Chicago Bears to make the playoffs.

5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

I want to be clear. Tom Brady only gets put here because, as one AA reader put it, “he took chicken poop and made chicken salad.” Having an above average passing attack with nobodies at wide receiver isn’t easy. This wasn’t your dad’s Tom Brady this year. He didn’t look at all like he has in seasons past, but he still managed to put up 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns.

6. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith came into an offense he wasn’t familiar with, with team mates he didn’t know, to a team that was 2-14 last year and led them to the playoffs. With his arms and legs he combined for nearly 3,800 yards of offense and 24 touchdowns. Conversely, he didn’t turn the ball over, throwing only seven interceptions which was an NFL best for all quarterbacks who played the entire season as a starter.

7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck was awesome this year and he will be a hall of fame quarterback. However, he’s still young and while he make some big plays he makes a lot of mistakes as well, which was especially evident in the playoffs agains the Chiefs and the Patriots.

8. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

I’m tentative to put Foles here because he didn’t even play a full season, but he’s going to be good. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid definitely knew what he was doing when he drafted Foles last year. He’s going to be good for years to come.

9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

There’s a lot of hooplah that surrounds young Mr. Wilson, especially with the Seahawks making their Superbowl run. However, if you look at the stats this quarterback has put up, they’re not any different or more spectacular than Smith’s. He’ll continue to be good as long as he has a strong running game and solid defense. Sound like anyone else you know?

10. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Romo is good and will always be good. Yes, it’s true he hasn’t led his team to the big game, and that’s why he’s not any higher on the list. He is an elite quarterback in this league and will continue to play at a high level. If he could get some help from his defense, he’d be a playoff contender.

There they are, Addicts. My top ten quarterbacks for this year. Sound off, I want to hear what you have to say!