FanPost

Say hello to all your new fans (and to Alex Smith)

Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

From the FanPosts. Fun read! -Joel

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If you don't want to read my personal banter, or the hyperbolic details of Alex Smith's history, and just want the stats on why Alex Smith will win games with you, then hit "Ctrl + F" and type: "Statistics".

Also provided in that section is a fair amount of out-bound linkage that will help you brush up on your Alex knowledge in general. :)

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Well. This is awkward.

I have been a 49er fan my whole life (born in 1990), but that never formed itself into anything relevant to my daily routine until recently. That was when I began watching every game and, as my desire to understand football better increased, I immersed myself in the world of advanced stats from 2011 onwards.

When football became my religion, Alex Smith was the metaphorical pope or priest or pastor or any other "p" word you want to use. "Patriarch", maybe? "Professional"? Either way, Alex was my favorite "player." From day one, Alex was the guy who I believed in and trusted to lead us to a Super Bowl.

So what am I doing writing a FanPost at Arrowhead Pride? Well, I'm here to tell you a story, give you some stats, and provide hyperbole. But I'm also here from the future to give you your fate.

I am you 3 years from now. 4 years from now. 5 years from now. I am you and the sooner you accept it the better because, no matter how hard you fight it and no matter how much you deny it, Alex Smith will inevitably become your favorite football player, too.

You think Alex Smith is going to go away after a year? Ha! Many 49er fans thought he would go away after 2008. And then 2009. And then 2010. And even after all his progress in 2011, people were still aching for us to move on from him.

They finally got their wish after 2012 -- eight long, bumpy, emotional seasons of hope, disappointment, heart-break, triumph, almost two Lombardis, and eventual dismissal.

He had done everything a player in his position could have possibly done given the revolving door at offensive coordinator, the lack of support from staff, and the terrible players he was surrounded by. And when the pieces around him finally settled, and he finally became immersed in a good system with good coaches and good players, and more of the fan-base had finally come to accept him, he was replaced.

Ouch.

That's Alex Smith's professional life. You'd think it would get to a guy after a while, but you would never guess it by talking to Alex because he is too classy and too legit2quit. He is a man destined for great things and destined to win; and he's proven that by emerging through all his struggles as a consistently better, improving quarterback.

Yet, there still exists a small contingent of 49er fans who loathe the man with a passion that ought be reserved for tyrants and fascists. Having perused your community for the past several weeks, I can see there are many Chiefs fans who feel the same.

I hope I can change your mind. Or, at the least, your heart.

Because if it is your wish that Alex Smith crawl under a rock somewhere, or go be a back-up quarterback in some other city; then you are in for a long, long ride. Alex Smith does not die. There is a reason we call him "The Phoenix" in Niner lore, and that's because he is always reborn just when you think he has surely met his end.

So, instead -- take it from a 49er fan -- just sit back and enjoy the ride with a smile. Because you have one of the smartest, toughest quarterbacks in the NFL. A proven winner. A proven leader. A proven valuable asset to any team.

He is going to give you nothing but his best. Return the favor to him and, when your team racks up its first playoff birth in years this season, you will be able to smile knowing you supported your starting quarterback the whole way through.

... oh, and if you think one month of all this Alex stuff is silly, and that there's way too many posts about him, then WELCOME TO THE LIFE OF EVERY NINER FAN FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS!!! lol

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First, a story: Andy (Reid), meet Alex (Smith)

In 2007, Mike Nolan was the 49ers Head Coach. Alex Smith separated his shoulder in September of that year, took three games off, and came back ineffective. He claimed his shoulder was still bothering him, but Mike Nolan thought that was just an excuse. Nolan infamously questioned Smith's toughness in front of the media and went so far as to actively undermine Smith's support in the locker room by saying he was using the injury as an excuse for poor play.

The injury eventually required multiple surgeries and cost Smith all of 2008. Mike Nolan publicly belittled his own quarterback and ended up dead wrong about the whole thing. He was fired in 2008; replaced by Mike Singletary.

Singletary entered the scene as a savior. He benched Vernon Davis and turned him into a team player, he said he wanted "winners; people who want to win." He said the 49ers will play "physical, with an F". Everyone loved it. Billboards of his mug and his ridiculous quotes went up in San Francisco and everyone was high with anticipation and hope for the future (something y'all can sympathize with).

After a .500 2009 season, things were looking up. Six of the losses that year were by a touchdown or less, and the team's Pythagorean Wins were 9.5, meaning great things lay ahead.

Both our Pythagorean Wins and our total DVOA, as well as Alex's stats, had been on a steady rise for a few years. 2010 was going to be our year. Hell [site decorum]ing yeah. We knew it, and so did everyone in the media.

After years of waiting; years of ineptitude; years of knocking at the door -- the wait was over. San Francisco was going to make the playoffs in 2010, and then return to Super Bowl glory. Nothing would stop us.

Except a 7 - 9 Seattle team... smh.

The 49ers started 0 - 5 that season, including three tough losses by a total of 8 points. The last of those losses was the now-notorious "We Want Carr!" game against Philadelphia, where boos and chants for the back-up quarterback rained down upon Alex Smith in his own stadium. One of the most disgusting football-related things I've ever witnessed.

Andy Reid was there that day. The 49ers were trailing 17 - 10 in the 4th quarter when Alex fumbled the ball during a sack and the ball was returned 48 yards for a touchdown. That was followed by a three-and-out as the crowd continued to let him have it and Alex got into a shouting match with Singletary on the sidelines.

I wonder what was going through Reid's head during all of this...

I don't know. But we do know what was going through Alex's head.

Some sort of fire was lit in him that day. He's talked about it in interviews since. Something about everyone booing him, Singletary blaming everything on him; something about his expectations of himself and his abilities. Alex Smith became a new man from that moment forward. He stopped trying to do what everyone wanted him to do, and just started playing the football he knew he could play.

In a recent FanPost here, Niners Nation member Larushka shared the statistical side of this "revelation" with you.

Smith went back in the game and led two scoring drives to bring the score to 24 - 27, all in the middle of a chorus of boos from his own "fans." With 0:36 seconds left, Alex had driven them again into enemy territory when he was hit as he threw on 3rd and 10 and the ball sailed into the arms of an Eagle.

The home-crowd disdain continued. And somewhere on the opposite sidelines, Andy Reid must have documented this experience for himself to remember.

Later in the season, Alex was injured, Carr failed to do anything (of course), and Troy Smith (who?) was brought in and him and Alex kept switching starting jobs because Singletary has no idea what he's doing when it comes to quarterbacks.

The 49ers still had a chance to make the playoffs in a Week 16 game against the Rams, but Singletary started the wrong Smith. With less than 10 minutes to go, and San Francisco down by 8, Singletary then suddenly decided to put Alex in. I am not sure what he was thinking but the 49ers lost and Singletary was fired.

The starting quarterback that day, Troy Smith, is now a back-up quarterback for some Canadian team. Singletary, who later commented in regards to him being let go, "you gotta have a quarterback [in order to win games]" (i.e., it's all Alex's fault we sucked), is a linebacker coach for the Vikings. David Carr is a free agent. Mike Nolan is an defensive coordinator for the Falcons.

As for Alex Smith? He became the first quarterback to ever lead two 4th quarter comebacks in the same playoff game, as the 49ers beat the Saints in dramatic fashion. He helped a team reach two straight NFC Championship Games, and he helped lead a team to the Super Bowl and served admirably and with class as a back-up when that's what the team needed him to do.

And now he's the starting quarterback for your Kansas City Chiefs. There's a reason for that.

As Coach Harbaugh once said, there are two kinds of passers in the world: ones who wear a helmet and start, and ones who wear a backwards baseball cap on the sidelines.

Alex Smith is not a backwards baseball cap kind of guy. Alex Smith is a survivor, a "warrior" (as Vernon Davis calls him), a class act, and a starting quarterback.

The next time the 49ers and Eagles met, Jim Harbaugh was the coach. The 49ers were down 23 - 3 in the 3rd but, this time, the comeback would be complete.

One year removed from being booed in your own stadium and Alex is still the quarterback, and he's leading 4th quarter comebacks on the road. He's winning games.

That, too, must have left an impression on Andy Reid.

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Next, hyperbole: Alex Smith Ain't Got Time For That

You might think -- and some 49er fans still do -- that Alex is some kind of virus or infection or bug that refuses to go away or die. You can think that if you want. Alex Smith don't care. Alex Smith is The Phoenix. Alex Smith ain't got time to bleed.

There's a reason he managed to maintain a starting position for 8 years even though everyone thought he would be gone after every single season. That's because "everyone" has no idea what they're talking about and Alex Smith is one of the 15 or so men on the entire planet who can play quarterback in the NFL at a high level.

Alex Smith has fought for everything he's ever had. And fought hard. You will not find a more battle-tested quarterback in the entire league, or one who's tougher. A lot of your fanbase is going to doubt him for the next few months before the season starts. He's been through worse before.

I am sorry to admit that our fanbase treated Alex like the scum of the Earth for quite a few years, and I do not enjoy being affiliated with the behavior of these so-called "fans."

But Alex has always risen above everything that has ever been put in front of him. He has met every challenge head on in the most respectful, well-meaning way possible; and he has emerged through every obstacle stronger, better, and as an ever-brightening example of what it means to be a good human being.

Put simply: Alex Smith is a winner. He's not just "the guy you want your daughter to marry" -- which is a statement his detractors often use to feign objectivity in their analysis of his on-field play -- he's the guy you want leading your football team because he's a leader and a proven winner.

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And, to finish: Statistics to Smile About

This section has information on:

  • QB data and comparisons
  • Offensive line info; balance, efficiency
  • Smith's high sack%

What you can look forward to...

Since the "revelation" in 2010, Alex Smith's stat line goes as follows:

  • 548 of 883 for 6,517 yards, 62.06%
  • 43 TDs, 4.87 TD%
  • 11 INTs, 1.25 INT%
  • 7.38 Y/A, 7.79 AY/A

This is over the course of roughly 32 full games, dating back to October 17, 2010 against Oakland (the game after the "revelation") to Week 16 of last year where he got a final "goodbye" completion against Arizona in the 49ers' last home game.

So, it includes some games "pre-Harbaugh" (before the arrival of Jim Harbaugh), but it also includes all of 2011 where Alex was behind one of the worst pass protection o-lines in football.

All things considered, that stat line is pretty darn good. How good?

Well, I went ahead and tallied up the stats of some of the best quarterbacks in the game today to see how they compared over their last 880 or so attempts.

This means all the quarterbacks listed will have their entire 2012 season included along with some games from 2011 (except where injury requires us to go go back further).

Out of fairness to Matt Cassel, however, I did not include his horrid 2012 campaign but, instead, took all of his 2011 and 2010 seasons and about 140 or so attempts from the end of 2009.

Here is the spreadsheet comparing Smith to 17 other quarterbacks. I made sure to get all the "elite" and "top-10" QBs listed and then added more for reference.

Alex comes in 12th in Y/A, 12th in TD%, 11th in Y/A, 1st in INT%, and 8th in rating -- and remember that this takes into account Smith's stats from half of 2010 (before Jim Harbaugh) through 2012.

At worst, you could argue that Alex Smith has played like a top 15 signal caller over that time span. At best, a top 10, with his performances over the past two seasons -- and what he was lined up to achieve last year in particular --notching him there.

Regardless, Smith's stats hold up very well against the rest of the league; even more so when we recall that his career is on an upward trend right now. His averages for 2012 are better than his 2.5 year averages above. He is improving.

His comp% last year was 70.2%. His TD% was 6.0%. His Y/A 8.0. Only thing that regressed was his INT%, back to around league average, 2.3%.

If you don't mind playing a little game and allowing yourself some unscientific indulgence, we can average out his 2012 stats with his "post-revelation" averages. In other words, if you don't believe that 2012 can be repeated right away and expect Alex to regress due to a new team, new system, worse o-line, etc. (all reasonable concerns), then here's an idea of what his stats could look like for 2013:

66.13 comp%. 5.43 TD%. 1.77 INT%. 7.69 Y/A.

If we assume a full, healthy season, and about 450 attempts, that gives us:

297 of 450 for 3460 yards. 24 TDs, 8 INTs. 99.5 passer rating.

That will win games.

Everything in all the stats provided here says Alex is a winning quarterback; and the 99.5 passer rating at the end of this latest stat line is just the sugar on top. Because while the traditional rating metric is not very useful for judging quarterback performance, it does correlate well with winning.

Every quarterback with a rating over 90 is going to be playing for a winning team (unless your last name is Romo and your teammates, your coaches, your defense, and the football gods themselves consistently conspire against you).

Over the last five seasons, 55 teams had quarterbacks finish with a rating of 90 or better, and 52 of those teams finished at .500 or better, with the three exceptions being the 2008 Packers, 2010 Texans, and last year's Saints.

With Smith posting a quality 95.59 rating over his last near-900 attempts (as detailed in the spreadsheet), and a 104 rating last season, "regression" would not be the correct term to explain him suddenly posting a baffling 86.3 QB rating.

The proper phrase for that would be, "wtf?"

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Offensive Line, Run Game

In 2011, I detailed who was to blame for the 49ers' offensive woes and suggested that fixing the o-line would boost Smith's rating to above 100. The 49ers addressed their issues in the offseason by getting rid of Chilo Rachal of Chicago Bears fame and Adam Snyder of Arizona Cardinals fame, who are two of the worst in the league.

Therefore, in 2012 the 49ers had the best offensive line in football, with studs across the board, and Smith posted a rating over 104. For comparison, the 2011 Chiefs were ranked 9th in pass protection, and in 2012 were ranked 14th (all rankings according to Pro Football Focus).

You guys won't have the best o-line in football next year, but as your own Mr. Thorman discusses, your line is moving in the right direction and could be a top 10 line in 2013. That is more than enough for Smith to work with.

Other things going in your favor: avoiding the injury bug that plagued the line last year, likely getting better production out of sophomore Jeff Allen, and definitely better play-calling from Reid.

On top of that, Harbaugh runs a notoriously complex offense that Alex had a mastery of. He audibled out of a pass and into a run, and vise versa, at the right times, and did it in one of the toughest offenses to run in the NFL. This does not show up on stat sheets, but it cannot be under-stated.

Reid's offense will not be as complex, but at least Reid knows he can do complex things if he wants, because Smith can handle it.

Before Kapernick took over, the 49ers were one of only six teams in NFL history to have a yards per rush attempt over 5 while maintaining a yards per offensive play over 6. In other words, most teams with successful rushing attacks do not have a passing game to compliment it. You'll notice, in the link, that the 2012 49ers do not appear on the list (they barely missed it by less than 0.03), and that is because they dropped off as Kaepernick took over.

Why? Because the 49er offense took flight through the air more under Kaep, and the ground game slightly suffered and total offensive efficiency on a per play basis also suffered.

The suffering was minimal, and the potential that Kaep has for big plays more than outweighs it. But Alex, instead of being a surgeon with his arm, is a surgeon with his brain; and while he may not give you a litany of highlight reel moments -- though he does have them -- he provided San Francisco with a balanced attack.

And that's what he'll give you, too.

I detailed the stats of every quarterback to ever play for a team with 5+ yards per rush attempt, and Smith, at the time, rated the highest of them all. He also led them in QBR (where available). Thus, the 49ers were able to run or pass with great efficiency under Smith, and much of that had to do with his command of the line.

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"Those responsible have been sacked"

Will Alex take more than his fair share of sacks? Yes. So how does one account for his alleged command of the line with all the sacks he takes? It's a cost-benefit strategy that Smith has employed since his "revelation" -- and the arrival of Harbaugh, who employed a similar strategy during his days as a signal-caller, contributed to it.

In 2009 and 2010, Smith averaged a sack rate of 6.2%, which is right at league average. Then, in 2011, his rate suddenly soared to 9%, and last year it was 9.9% while Kaepernick, behind the same 2012 line, posted a 6.8%.

That is because Smith will hold the ball if it means avoiding what he determines to be a risky throw.

Smith's sacks do not come from misdiagnosis or straight-up not seeing an obvious blitzer -- which is something Kaep struggled with but was sometimes able to evade the pressure with his other-worldly athleticism.

Smith's sacks come from holding the ball instead of forcing a play. To quote from a November Football Outsiders article detailing 2012 long and short sacks:

... 49ers quarterback Alex Smith's appearance at the bottom of the long sack charts is somewhat surprising. From 2009-2011, Smith's long sack percentage was 2.5 percent. This year, it's more than doubled, as Smith has as many long sacks this year (16) as he had in the past three years combined. Smith's interception rate has gone down in the past two years as his sack rate has gone up, so it may simply be an intentional decision to hold the ball for sacks instead of getting rid of the ball.

So, expect sacks. But also expect smart play.

There was a point last season where Smith held an NFL record by a significant margin for most attempts while maintaining an interception% below 1.0.

He had thrown only 7 interceptions in 802 attempts. The closest anyone else has come to that mark is a good 200 attempts short (Brady, from 2010 to 2011, had thrown only 6 in 625 attempts).

Even now, as detailed above, Smith's int% is an amazing 1.25%, and he has maintained that over 880 attempts while still averaging a quality Y/A of 7.38. So this is not dink-and-dunking, and it is not one fluky season -- it's a calculated decision that Smith makes himself and it leads to wins.

Alex will avoid interceptions, maintain efficient play, and give your run game a boost. Y'all have a more-than-capable running game already, and an improving offensive line that has been roughly top 10 in run-blocking the past two years. With Smith under center, expect that weapon to be utilized well.

Then expect things to open up with play-action -- a realm where Smith, at one point last year before his concussion, was leading the league in yards per attempt on play-action throws.

I think that's all I have to say for now. Oh, but just one final request, actually: please accept me into your fanbase lol. I cannot say for sure that if the Alex-led Chiefs played the 49ers that I would be able to root against San Francisco, but I can say for sure that I would be very conflicted.

I can also say for sure, now that you have Alex Smith, the Chiefs suddenly feel like my team, and I plan on learning about them as we approach what will hopefully be an awesome 2013 season for both squads. If anything, it's convenient because you're in the opposite conference and you get to beat up on the damn Oakland Raiders and that cry-baby Rivers in San Diego.

And I'm not the only 49er fan who wants you guys to win.

That is all. And at 4,200 words long, most short-story publishers would not accept this piece.

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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