Where Does Alex Smith Really Rank Amongst NFL QBs?
It's a time of optimism in Kansas City. After a dismal 2-14 2012 season, the team cleaned house. There's a new general manager, new head coach, new coordinators and a new quarterback in the personage of Alex Smith.
However, it appears that optimism has gotten a little out of hand given the statements offensive coordinator Doug Pederson made Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star:
Ultimately, every team has to have a quarterback. I think we have the best in the league. There are a lot of great ones, but over time, Alex has proven he can get it done. He’s a sharp guy, he brings a wealth of knowledge, he’s experienced, he’s a proven winner the last couple of years, and he needs a team to embrace him.
Whoa now, big fella. There's embracing a guy, and then there's guzzling the Alex Smith Kool-Aid by the gallon.
Granted, some of what Pederson said is true. After a slow start to his career, the 29-year-old Smith blossomed in his last two years in San Francisco. In both 2011 and 2012, Smith completed at least 61 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating above 90. Over that stretch, Smith threw 30 touchdown passes against only 10 interceptions.
But best quarterback in the NFL? Come on now.
For argument's sake, let's take a look at my admittedly unscientific ranking of the NFL's quarterbacks from No. 1 to No. 32:
These rankings are based on a number of factors, from past performance to potential. There are sure to be plenty of folks who take issue with where some of these passers are ranked, but Smith's middle-of-the-pack placement is fair.
Ask yourself this: How many of the quarterbacks ranked ahead of Smith would you trade for him? There may be a signal-caller or two that you prefer Smith to (it's a subjective ranking, after all), but the vast majority of the players ranked ahead of him are no-brainers.
None of this is meant as a knock against Smith, who completed more than 70 percent of his passes last year and had a 104 passer rating when he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
With that said, the fact remains that Smith was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Comparing him to the NFL's elite quarterbacks is just silly.
For starters, the top five quarterbacks on this list have 11 Super Bowl appearances and eight Lombardi Trophies between them.
Behind that group are the young guns who took the NFL by storm last year, each of whom has not only experienced NFL success already, but who are also just beginning to realize their NFL potential.
Then there's Joe Flacco, who just won a Super Bowl and has led the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs every season since he was a rookie.
It's upon entering the realm of Matthew Staffords and Ben Roethlisbergers that Smith's name comes up in conversation. Players like Stafford and Cam Newton have posted big numbers, but those numbers haven't translated to victories.
Roethlisberger has a pair of Super Bowl rings, but he has taken a pounding throughout his career. That pounding appeared to be catching up with him in 2012.
Once you hit that group, an argument can be made for Smith, but not before (unless you really like Kool-Aid).
A comparison of the top five's stats to Smith's in 2011 (his last full season as a starter) doesn't help matters:
As one might expect, Smith brings up the rear in just about every category. His completion percentage was slightly higher than Eli Manning's, but Manning threw for nearly 1,800 more yards.
Once again, none of this is to say that Alex Smith isn't a solid starting quarterback in the National Football League. He is, provided that he's used correctly.
A large part of Smith's ascension in San Francisco was the result of the team's scheme and coaching. Jim Harbaugh's offense didn't ask too much of Smith. The 49ers leaned on the running game while counting on Smith to get rid of the ball quickly and accurately when he did drop back to pass.
In that respect, Andy Reid's West Coast offense should be a good fit for Smith's skill set. Reid was never shy about throwing the ball in Philly, but his offense is more about quick slants and yards after the catch than it is pushing the ball vertically through the air.
Where does Alex Smith rank among NFL QBs?
Pederson's comments may border on ludicrous, but on some level, they're understandable. After watching tape of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn last year (and then waiting for your eyes to stop bleeding), popping in some film of Smith from 2012 would probably make you think you were watching Joe Montana.
However, Smith isn't Joe Montana any more than he's the NFL's best quarterback, and there's a bit of risk in saying that he is.
After all, someone might believe it. Expectations are already raised in Kansas City, with many pundits tabbing the Chiefs as a dark-horse playoff contender.
The danger comes when those expectations become unrealistic. Smith withered under unrealistic ones at the beginning of his career in San Francisco.
Just let Alex Smith do what he does and be who he is.
Expecting more is asking for trouble.
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