FanPost

Trends and averages: Alex Smith 2013 report card

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts. I am a couple of days late getting this up on the front page. Great stuff. -Joel

Welcome back Chiefs fans. Some of you may remember a series of posts I produced over the summer chronicling the career trends of several quarterbacks, including our own and then unknown Alex Smith. I did this in order to get a feel for where Smith's career had been, where it was going, and how he compared to some of the elite, winning, and non-elite quarterbacks in the league. After looking at some of Smith's basic stats, and comparing his trends to Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, and Joe Flacco, I made the (unbeknownst to me at the time) controversial statement:

Alex Smith is not Tom Brady. But, Alex Smith is also NOT Matt Cassel. Alex Smith's future looks bright--at least as bright as Joe Flacco's.

Now, we are familiar with the Alex Smith debates that have raged on since that time. My analysis dabbles in statistics, primarily because I do not consider myself qualified to break down game tape with any authority. Thus, I have left most of the "how has Alex Smith been doing so far" up to the guys like MN who see things on a game-by-game basis. Now that I have a full season (which yields a better statistical significance) to look at, I thought I'd go back and see how the trends played out in the 2013 regular season. After all, I wouldn't want to be called out for failing to stand behind my predictions (again).

If you are unfamiliar with the format of my earlier posts, or if you want to refresh your memory on what some of these stats mean, you can go back and see my original posts here (TNA:2), here (TNA:3), and here (TNA:Finale). The "finale" link is your best source to read up on the advanced stats, and TNA3 will explain the most about the trends displays. I'm not going to rehash much of that information here, but rather focus on 2013.

The Basic Stats

These are the familiar "ESPN" talking-head stats that everyone knows, but everyone wonders "how much do these really tell you about a QB playing football?" My answer is, not much - but they can give you a barometer to gauge a QB's relative performance. Before the season, we saw that Smith's numbers were substantially behind Tom Brady in nearly every category. Smith's average numbers looked much closer to Matt Cassel than they did to Joe Flacco, but the trends showed a different story. Smith, like Flacco and Brady, was getting better in nearly every category, every year, whereas Cassel was regressing in almost every stat. Given the trajectory of Smith and Flacco's trend lines (which were converging) I predicted they would have similar years, with perhaps Smith passing Big Joe this season.

Here are the trend charts with 2013 included. We'll start with the yardage and completion stats (right-click on each chart and select 'open in new window' to see it larger):

0k7u_medium

First, we notice that only Tom Brady and Alex Smith continue to show an improvement trend in every category. Smith's attempts per game and yards per game jumped over previous years (not surprising given Andy Reid's offense), but his yards per completion dipped (also not surprising given Reid's West Coast system) although Smith did outperform Flacco in that Category. Next we'll look at the performance metrics of completion % and QB rating:

Xvms_medium

First, Alex Smith, although he performed below his trend line, is the only QB to show a career improvement in either of these stats. And although his numbers dipped from 2012, Smith outperformed all three of our other QBs in both categories. As for production and turnovers:

6z9q_medium

Again, Smith is the only QB here to have his trend going the right way in both stats. And again, although he dropped off a bit from his 2012 year, he outperformed Brady, Flacco, and Cassel in TD% and INT%. What we also see from the "R squared" value displayed on each chart, is that Alex Smith's upward trends are some of most statistically significant in our sample. This means that we can rely on his trend information a bit more than the others, suggesting that his "continuous improvement" is not just a mirage.

I added tables below so you can see everyone's 2013 numbers next to their career averages.

I put in bold the QB who led (these four QBs) in each category, and also put in italics each QB that outperformed their career average in the 2013 season.

Efficiency Stats

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Year

Pct

Pct

Pct

Pct

Att/G

Att/G

Att/G

Att/G

Avg

Avg

Avg

Avg

Yds/G

Yds/G

Yds/G

Yds/G

Rate

Rate

Rate

Rate

TD%

TD%

TD%

TD%

Int%

Int%

Int%

Int%

2006

61.8

58.1

32.2

27.6

6.8

6.5

220.6

180.6

87.9

74.8

4.7

3.6

2.3

3.6

2007

68.9

48.7

36.1

27.6

8.3

4.7

300.4

130.6

117.2

57.2

8.7

1

1.4

2.1

2008

63.4

60

--

32.2

26.8

7.2

6.9

--

230.8

185.7

--

89.4

80.3

4.1

3.3

--

2.1

2.8

--

2009

55

63.1

65.7

60.5

32.9

31.2

35.3

33.8

5.9

7.2

7.8

6.3

194.9

225.8

274.9

213.6

69.9

88.9

96.2

81.5

3.2

4.2

5

4.8

3.2

2.4

2.3

3.2

2010

58.2

62.6

65.9

59.6

30

30.6

30.8

31.1

6.9

7.4

7.9

6.9

207.7

226.4

243.8

215.5

93

93.6

111

82.1

6

5.1

7.3

4.1

1.6

2

0.8

2.9

2011

59.5

57.6

65.6

61.3

29.9

33.9

38.2

27.8

6.4

6.7

8.6

7.1

190.3

225.6

327.2

196.5

76.6

80.9

105.6

90.7

3.7

3.7

6.4

3.8

3.3

2.2

2

1.1

2012

58.1

59.7

63

70.2

30.8

33.2

39.8

21.8

6.5

7.2

7.6

8

199.6

238.6

301.7

173.7

66.7

87.7

98.7

104.1

2.2

4.1

5.3

6

4.3

1.9

1.3

2.3

2013

60.2

59

60.5

60.6

28.2

38.4

39.2

33.9

7.1

6.4

6.9

6.5

200.8

244.5

271.4

220.9

81.6

73.1

87.3

89.1

4.3

3.1

4.0

4.5

3.5

3.6

1.8

1.4

Career Average

59.1

60.3

64.5

59.9

30.7

32.4

35.9

29.1

6.7

7.0

7.7

6.6

204.0

224.4

277.1

190.2

79.5

84.1

100.6

82.8

3.9

3.9

5.9

4.0

3.0

2.5

1.7

2.4


Production Stats

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Cassel

Flacco

Brady

Smith

Year

G

G

G

G

TD

TD

TD

TD

Int

Int

Int

Int

20+

20+

20+

20+

40+

40+

40+

40+

2006

16

16

24

16

12

16

46

34

8

8

2007

16

7

50

2

8

4

56

11

15

1

2008

16

16

1

0

21

14

--

11

12

--

37

37

--

6

10

--

2009

15

16

16

11

16

21

28

18

16

12

13

12

37

44

43

33

8

8

12

5

2010

15

16

16

11

27

25

36

14

7

10

4

10

40

40

53

30

4

7

9

7

2011

9

16

16

16

10

20

39

17

9

12

12

5

21

44

71

41

5

7

14

6

2012

9

16

16

10

6

22

34

13

12

10

8

5

24

60

57

22

1

12

8

4

2013

9

16

16

15

11

19

25

23

9

22

11

7

26

45

49

42

5

14

8

6

Career Average

12.2

16.0

14.1

10.8

15.2

20.2

33.7

14.7

10.7

13.0

9.7

8.4

30.8

45.0

53.6

30.4

4.8

9.7

10.6

5.3

What do we see here?

  1. Smith beat his own averages in Completion %, Attempts/Game, Yards/Game, QB Rating, TD %, INT %, Games Played (and this was a BIG ONE for Smith - we got a full season out of him), Total TDs, Total INTs, Throws of 20+ yards, and throws of 40+ yards.
  2. Smith led all four of these QBs in Completion %, QB Rating, TD % and INT %.
  3. Smith also beat Flacco in Yards/Completion, Total TDs, and Total INTs, and came close to matching Flaccos' 20+ Yard passes with 42 to Flacco's 45.
  4. Smith broke that magical 20 TD mark for the first time in his career. Some on AP doubted he could do so.

Therefore, I feel safely confident in saying that my prediction, as far as the 2013 season basic stats are concerned, was spot on. But does this tell us the whole Smith story? No. As mentioned above, these stats don't give us a feel for how much a QB really contributes to his team. We need advanced stats for that, and as we saw in my first "finale" post, these are the stats where Smith looked pretty pedestrian. How did his 2013 go?

The Advanced Stats

In my TNA:Finale post, I broke some advanced stats into three general categories: Execution Stats, Production Stats, and Contribution Stats. The Efficiency Stats focus on how well a QB does with the ball everytime he touches it. The Production Stats roughly tell us how much a QB is able to accomplish with all of those touches. Smith struggled a bit in this category mainly because of his inability to stay on the field - if you don't play, you can't produce. Last, the Contribution Stats try to tell us how much each QB's production meant to the team in terms of producing wins. What we saw from Smith in the earlier post was that he was nowhere near the "elite" quarterbacks of the league in any of these categories. As far as comparing him to other Super Bowl winning QBs, we saw that Smith's averages were well behind the others, but that his trends suggest he was joining their company. The question is, did he maintain that trend through a full 2013 season?

The Execution Stats

03qv_medium

What do we see? We see that Smith did not fall far here with the loss of Jim Harbaugh. Instead, even with a dip in performance, he continues his positive trend line in every stat, whereas all of the others are regressing slightly or starting to plateau. Smith didn't leave any of these guys in the dust, but he certainly didn't play like his first few seasons in the NFL. This goes a long way toward answering the "was it Harbaugh or was it Smith?" and "cherry-picking years" questions.

QB

Stat

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013 Regular Season

Career Average

Cassel

ANY/A+

-

-

-

105

83

110

86

80

97

93.50

Flacco

ANY/A+

-

-

-

96

105

107

98

105

82

98.83

Brady

ANY/A+

118

116

108

142

120

128

132

120

103

120.78

Smith

ANY/A+

49

92

69

-

93

98

104

111

100

89.50

Cassel

EPA/P

-

-

-

0.17

-0.09

0.14

0.01

-0.08

0.03

0.03

Flacco

EPA/P

-

-

-

0.02

0.12

0.13

0.11

0.1

0.03

0.09

Brady

EPA/P

0.22

0.14

0.4

-

0.22

0.27

0.3

0.28

0.13

0.25

Smith

EPA/P

-0.33

-0.04

-0.25

-

-0.03

0

0.08

0.12

0.07

-0.05

Cassel

DVOA

-

-

-

1.1

-29.3

8.4

-25.9

-30.5

-2.9

-13.18

Flacco

DVOA

-

-

-

-3

8.4

9.4

0

-1.4

-16.7

-0.55

Brady

DVOA

28.6

17

54.1

-

40.4

46.7

35.4

35.1

12.1

33.68

Smith

DVOA

-88.6

-16

-52.8

-

-19.5

-12.2

3.1

14.9

-5.1

-22.03

From the table above, we see Smith beat his career averages and Joe Flacco in all three stats, yet, even with his down year, Brady continues to dominate this sample of QBs. We also see that old Matty Nice played well up North for the Vikings this season.

The Production Stats

B7kw_medium

Here are three different stats for "Expected Points Added" which tells us how responsible Smith was for our scoring this year. Again, we see a positive upward trend continuing do in large fact to Smith playing in 15 games this year (and it would have been higher had Reid not rested him). Smith was nowhere near Brady's elite production, but he showed no dip from this 2011 or 2012 seasons and bested both Flacco and Cassel. Remember, however, that Cassel only had 9 games, so that's not a fair comparison.

QB

Stat

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013 Regular Season

Career Average

Cassel

ESPN Pass EPA

77.9

37.2

51.3

31.2

14.1

21.1

38.80

Flacco

ESPN Pass EPA

48

70.8

85.3

60.6

62.7

40.1

61.25

Brady

ESPN Pass EPA

-

77

96.2

131

114.3

76.1

98.92

Smith

ESPN Pass EPA

-

32.5

29.5

62.3

41.7

46.4

42.48

Cassel

ESPN Total EPA

66.9

2.7

38.6

22

7.1

14.4

25.28

Flacco

ESPN Total EPA

24.3

51.8

68

56.6

39.7

36.2

46.10

Brady

ESPN Total EPA

-

72

86.3

110.7

109.2

64.7

88.58

Smith

ESPN Total EPA

-

16.9

14.7

32.5

34.5

37.9

27.30

Cassel

Adv/Stat EPA

-

-

-

104.7

-58.4

73.9

3.1

-25.5

7.8

17.60

Flacco

Adv/Stat EPA

-

-

-

10.3

73.8

77.3

71.1

62.7

21.6

52.80

Brady

Adv/Stat EPA

133.1

84.3

263.7

-

140.9

151.8

212.9

202.5

96.4

160.70

Smith

Adv/Stat EPA

-79.3

-20

-56

-

-12.2

0.2

44

34.4

45.9

-5.38

Our table shows again that Smith was consistently beating his averages where others were not. We would expect that given our "upward trend" information.

The Contribution Stats

7j69_medium

The Chiefs won more this year, so we naturally expect Smith to get a piece of that pie in these stats. Again, Brady ruled these four QBs in each stat. From the trends however, we see that Smith's passing contribution (shown in DYAR and QBR) was above both Flacco and Cassel, while his WPA was not. What does this reflect? This demonstrates the value of these advanced stats - and it essentially is showing that in Smith's "monster" game against the Raiders, Jamaal Charles actually deserved the credit for most of those scores, even though they were technically screen "passes." Despite JC being responsible for so much of the Chief's offense this season, Alex Smith again maintained a positive trend in all three stats and did not regress back to his early years.

QB

Stat

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013 Regular Season

Career Average

Cassel

ESPN QBR

63.1

30.9

52.2

51.2

36.5

48.7

47.10

Flacco

ESPN QBR

43.2

55

60.4

59.7

46.8

46.7

51.97

Brady

ESPN QBR

-

65.1

76.8

72.7

77.1

61.1

70.56

Smith

ESPN QBR

-

40.2

40.1

45.8

70.1

49.4

49.12

Cassel

DYAR

-

-

-

458

-619

589

-277

-354

124

-13.17

Flacco

DYAR

-

-

-

232

667

695

409

354

-219

356.33

Brady

DYAR

1405

999

2674

-

2021

1918

1997

2035

993

1755.25

Smith

DYAR

-866

-147

-552

-

-210

-26

442

420

212

-90.88

Cassel

WPA

-

-

-

2.91

-2.3

1.28

1.04

-1.12

1.37

0.53

Flacco

WPA

-

-

-

-0.13

1.48

3.31

3.01

2.44

1.19

1.88

Brady

WPA

3.61

1.45

6.38

-

2.3

3.48

6.63

4.69

3.82

4.05

Smith

WPA

-1.57

-0.62

-1.7

-

-1.83

-0.18

0.17

0.89

0.86

-0.50

And again, Smith beat his own averages in each stat and bested Flacco in the passing stats. Most importantly, we saw Alex continue his upward trend in WPA up into positive values (WPA tells you how many "wins" a player added for his team - one of the most important stats in football in my opinion). This means Smith is helping the team win, not relying on the team to win in spite of him.

Conclusion

All told, this was a good year for Alex Smith. He continues to improve, he did not regress too badly given the change of teams and schemes and the loss of Jim Harbaugh. He met my prediction by equaling the play of Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. On the other end on my prediction however, given his play, old Matt Cassel may have kept his name in contention for continued play in the NFL - just not on this team.

I did not put together any "post-season" stats because I believe the sample size is too small to get any good data (with the possible exceptions of Manning and Brady who have enough post season play to fill a stats book). I believe the playoffs are a clean slate, and that we have the talent to produce a win if we keep from beating ourselves. Our defense has shown flashes of brilliance. Our offense has shown they can produce and produce well. Our special teams truly are special. I've got my playoff beard going strong. And - for the first time in a long while - I have a really positive feeling about the direction of this team.

Let me know down below how you think our quarterback did this season.

Happy New Year's everybody!

Go Chiefs!

Destroy the Colts!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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