Alex Smith: Will he reach 4,000 yards?


It is well known in Kansas City Chiefs circles that Alex Smith has never eclipsed the magic 4,000-yard mark for a season. The benchmark is often the yardstick by which the best quarterbacks are measured by. Last season, 11 quarterbacks managed to throw for 4,000 yards or more. In this pass-happy league, Smith should be looking to increase his passing yardage in 2015 from 3,285 yards, which put him 19th in the NFL.

Clearly, ranking quarterbacks by the amount of passing yards is not the only way to judge quarterbacks. For example, I don’t suspect many would classify Russell Wilson as the 15th-best quarterback in the NFL, below quarterbacks like Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill. However, a 4,000-yard season is impressive for any quarterback, especially for one in Smith’s position; someone who orchestrates a run-heavy offense with a poor offensive line and highly unproven receivers.

With the San Francisco 49ers, Smith had to endure consistent change. Six different offensive coordinators in eight seasons is difficult for even the most experienced quarterbacks. In his eight years with the 49ers, Smith played all 16 games in two of the seasons, his sophomore year in 2006 and his penultimate season in San Francisco in 2011, and only played 11 games or less in all of the others.

Clearly, Smith would always struggle to post impressive passing numbers playing 11 games or less in a season. Furthermore, it is extremely tough for a sophomore to break the 4,000-yard barrier. In fact, it has only happened four times in history; Jeff Garcia with the 49ers, Peyton Manning in 1999, Kurt Warner’s fairy tale in 1999, and Dan Marino’s ridiculous 5,084-yard 1984 season with the Miami Dolphins.

Smith has only surpassed 3,000 yards three times in his career. No prizes for guessing that these three seasons are the 2011 season in San Francisco (healthy) and his two seasons under Andy Reid for the Chiefs. In fact, Smith’s two greatest seasons, in terms of passing yardage, have come since being traded to the Chiefs.

In 2013, Smith passed for 3,313 yards. Last year, Smith regressed a little in terms of yardage, throwing for 3,265 yards. However, he was only able to play 15 games in these seasons; the first he was rested in Week 17, and last year a lacerated spleen prevented him from playing all 16 games.

To this point, 2015 is the best opportunity Smith will get to put up passing numbers to persuade many in the NFL community of his talent. In 2013, the talented Kansas City roster was adjusting to not only a new quarterback, but a new GM and head coach after an abysmal 2012 season. To expect Smith to surpass 4,000 yards in such an environment would have been crazy.

In 2014, Smith essentially scrambled for 15 games. The offensive line for the Chiefs had an extremely poor year, and Smith bore the weight of this insufficiency. Furthermore, Smith had a lack of receiving talent throughout the team. Other than Travis Kelce who emerged as a true No. 1 tight end, Smith’s weapons were lackluster to say the least.

The receivers around Smith is where the greatest improvement has been made from last year. Smith will have a better Kelce, a rejuvenated Jamaal Charles and an improved wide receiving core, with improvements from De’Anthony Thomas and Albert Wilson, the drafting of Chris Conley and the exciting free-agent addition of Jeremy Maclin.

Kelce will only improve in 2015, and looks set to push for 1,000 yards and 100 receptions in the season, barring injury. With the athletic tight end playing alongside a much improved group (even though Thomas, Wilson and Conley are relatively unproven), expect to see Smith air the ball out a little more.

If Charles is back to his best, as he claims, then Smith will legitimately have three major offensive weapons in the all-time Kansas City running back, Kelce, and Maclin on the outside. Complementing these weapons are a strong run game and explosive players such as Thomas and Conley. Unquestionably, Smith has all the opportunity to prove to people that he’s more than a game manager.

So, will Smith eclipse 4,000 yards? The offense will be greatly improved from 2014, especially if the offensive line holds up more than last year.

Smith will post a career-high passing yardage for the season, but he will not reach 4,000 yards. If the offense performs to its absolute best, Smith will be close to the 4,000-yard mark, but the offensive line will prevent him from doing so. I expect Smith will be around the 3,500-3,700-yard range.

So, what do you think, Chiefs fans? Do you agree that the offense will be better than ever under Reid and Smith in 2015? Do you think that Kelce could push towards 100 receptions and 1,000 yards? And how many yards passing do you think Smith will put up? Will he reach 4,000 yards? Let me know in the comments. And as always… GO CHIEFS!!