Now that an Alex Smith trade to Kansas City appears a fait accompli, long-suffering Chiefs fans are wondering what to make of the former No. 1 draft pick turned bust turned redemption project turned Wally Pipp.
I have to admit, the news doesn’t particularly excite the emotions. Everyone who knows anything knows Smith is a game manager masquerading as a viable starting quarterback due to the brilliant machinations of one Jim Harbaugh.
Kansas City hasn’t attempted to draft a franchise savior since they used the No. 7 overall pick in 1983 to select Todd Blackledge with Dan Marino on the board. They haven’t tried it again for thirty years, instead opting for a long series of retreads that includes Steve DeBerg, Dave Krieg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green, and Matt Cassel. An entire generation of fans has known nothing but castoffs.
It’s hard to handle the idea of the Chiefs with the No. 1 overall pick and trading for Smith instead of selecting their own Matthew Stafford or Andrew Luck or RG3. Of course, there are supposedly no franchise quarterbacks in this draft, which has me scanning the historical archives for the what the ‘scouts’ had to say about Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Survey says: . . . Well, you never know what’s going to be on the board.
John Dorsey and Andy Reid are just joining the Chiefs, but they better understand the stakes. To go with Alex over Geno in the battle of the Smiths, they need to be absolutely certain the rookie won’t turn into a star and simultaneously have a lot more confidence in Smith than the rest of us.
Regardless, if Smith is the hand we’re dealt, let’s see what we’re likely to get.
The most accurate way to do quarterback comparisons is to use adjusted yards per attempt. We also want to get a large enough sample to even out the inherent randomness of quarterback stats. Most importantly, we want to focus on a set of years that accurately compares quarterbacks at the same level of experience and athletic development. Therefore, we’ll use three seasons worth of data and compare Smith to other quarterbacks in their age 26 to age 28 seasons.
Alex Smith Historical Comparisons Age 26 to 28
The comps turn out to be shockingly good. Troy Aikman is already in the Hall of Fame and Tom Brady and Drew Brees will be in the not too distant future. The list also includes a former Reid signal-caller in Donovan McNabb.
The comparisons also serve to undermine the major argument against Smith – namely that he’s purely a system quarterback who’s recently benefited from crafty manipulation. Brady, Brees, and McNabb had access to some of the best coaching the NFL has to offer. Aikman is in the Hall of Fame at least in part because he was the caretaker for a franchise overflowing with talent.