Answering the Common Rebuttals
The following are a list of counterarguments that people have proposed against the idea that Alex Smith is a Chiefs legend. Using the definition provided above, none of these arguments would disqualify the former Chief from classification as a team legend. However none are terribly accurate either.
‘Mr. Check Down’
Alex Smith threw a lot of short passes to a lot of close receivers as a Chiefs quarterback. There is no question about that. While some see that as a negative, it should instead be viewed as three attributes at work. First, he knew where his best weapons were. Second, he regularly did not have time to look downfield. Third, he understood his physical limitations and took full advantage of his mental prowess.
‘He has Happy Feet’
If Smith threw the ball down the field, we’d call this amazing footwork. Does he move a lot in the pocket and out of it? Yes. When he was with the Chiefs, did he have to do so because of an incredibly high pressure rate? Yes. Did this prevent him from being an effective quarterback? No.
Alex Smith is the all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback for the Chiefs with 1,672 yards.
‘High Sack Rate’
Alex Smith had a 7.3% sack rate as a Chiefs’ quarterback and that is pretty high. On this note, there are two responses. First, it is far more preferable to take a sack than throw an interception (and in all honesty, those attempts to throw the ball away due to pressure could have resulted in a turnover due to inferior arm strength). Second, that rate is better than Len Dawson (10%) and Dave Krieg (10.4%). This is the best argument for Smith being a bad quarterback, in my opinion.
‘High Interception Rate’
This is patently false. He has the best interception rate (1.4%) of any quarterback in Chiefs history with more than 100 career pass attempts as a Chief.
‘Low Completion Percentage’
This, too, is false. He has the second highest completion percentage (65.1%) of all quarterbacks in Chiefs history with more than 100 pass attempts.
‘Low Touchdown Total’
Smith ranks 6th in touchdown percentage (percentage of touchdowns thrown when attempting a pass) amongst Chiefs quarterbacks with more than 100 pass attempts, with a 4.2% rate. That is tied with Trent Green (remember those offenses?) and ranks ahead of other like Rich Gannon and Joe Montana.
This was discussed at length on the previous page. From 2014-17 Smith had Travis Kelce, who was obviously very good for him. For 2016-17, he had Tyreek Hill. For 2013-14, he had Jamaal Charles. That is pretty much it. Those are excellent weapons, to be sure. But for three of his five years his best weapon was a running back who missed 11 games in the third year (and was still his best weapon). This feels unfair as a criticism, because he had average (at best) weapons when considering the other targets surrounding these three.
‘Reid made him great’
Is this really a criticism? Alex was able to implement the offense that Reid built around him and lead the team to five consecutive winning seasons. That sounds effective, not negative. Are there a lot of instances of quarterbacks being great without good offensive coaching?
Most of his career numbers are marginally lower/worse when not with Kansas City than with the team. None are significantly lower, though. Yes, his Chiefs tenure was the best part of his career (at least, so far), but to say he was a wholly different quarterback is unfair. That transformation happened in the 2011 season and carried through his last two years in San Francisco and in to Kansas City.
Smith was a bad quarterback his first five seasons playing in the league (he missed the 2008 season due to injury), but he was a good quarterback the last two years he was with the 49ers. With them he had his career-high completion percentage (70.2%, 2012), his career-low interception rate (1.1%, 2011), and his caree- high touchdown percentage (6%, 2012). His record in that span was also 19-5-1.