Usually when describing quarterbacks, the term "game manager" is either a half-hearted compliment or an equally lukewarm insult.
It's a term used to describe a physically limited quarterback who keeps his teams in games by doing as little as he can get away with.
In guiding the Kansas City Chiefs to a 26-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night, Smith completed 22 of 35 passes for 273 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was hardly the sort of performance that legends are made of, and it drew more than one snarky comment from the Twitterverse:
If you need 3 yards, Alex Smith with get you 4. If you need 10 yards, Alex Smith will get you 4.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) September 20, 2013
Granted, Smith's 5.7 yards per attempt entering Week 3 is rather paltry-looking when compared with some quarterbacks.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com shared a stat that just reinforces this fact:
Alex Smith has thrown 3 passes this season that have traveled 20+ yards in the air.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) September 20, 2013
However, Andrew Siciliano of Fox Sports pointed out a rather interesting statistic of his own:
If you think Alex Smith's 5.66 yards per attempt is dreadfully low…consider Tom Brady's 5.20 average.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) September 20, 2013
There's a flip side to all that dinking and dunking that Alex Smith does. He also doesn't turn the ball over.
Smith has now attempted 105 passes this season without throwing an interception. He was similarly careful with the football last year in San Francisco, where he completed over 70 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of over 100.
There's also the not-so-insignificant matter of the only statistic that really makes a bit of difference in the National Football League.
It bears repeating: Since 2011, no QB. whose played in ever year, has a higher winning % than Alex Smith— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 20, 2013
That's right. According to Wingo, no quarterback who has played in the NFL in each of the past three seasons has a higher winning percentage than Alex Smith.
Not Aaron Rodgers. Not Tom Brady. Alex Smith.
Sure, some will argue that Smith also had the luxury of playing for the 49ers, who boasted a strong ground game and a punishing defense.
However, that goes both ways. Smith helps defenses by not committing stupid mistakes that put the defense in the unenviable position of defending a short field.
It's having an effect in Kansas City. The Chiefs ranked 20th in total defense in 2012. They entered Thursday's matchup ranked third, with the same personnel.
Finally, can we just dispense with the notion that Alex Smith can't make plays? It wasn't Colin Kaepernick who won a duel with Drew Brees in the 2011 playoffs that included a ridiculous touchdown run.
That was Alex Smith, who threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Is Alex Smith a top-10 NFL quarterback?
And guess what? He didn't throw an interception in that game either.
At the end of the day, Alex Smith is what he is. He's not going to challenge defenses vertically unless he has to. He takes what the defense gives him, all the while being very mindful of not making mistakes.
If that makes him a game manager, then so be it, because he's become a damned effective one.
Given that the Chiefs are sitting at 3-0, I seriously doubt they mind.
Well, except for Dwayne Bowe maybe. Not sure how well he's taking all this.