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ESPN's Ron Jaworski explains why Alex Smith, one of the best play-action QBs, is the 20th ranked QB

Jaws is counting down his top quarterbacks in the league. Coming in at No. 20 is Alex Smith. Read on for Jaws' comments about Smith.


Way, way back in the day, ESPN used to cover sports, specifically football. Actual Xs and Os stuff. And when they did that, Ron Jaworski was their man. The former Eagles (and Chiefs) quarterback played in the league from 1973-1989. He's one of the top Xs and Os analysts on ESPN. That's the reason I was so curious to see his quarterback rankings, which he has been counting down on ESPN.

KC Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith ended up at No. 20 on Jaws' list. You can see the full list here. ESPN's PR folks shared Jaworski's justification for ending up at No. 20 for Smith.

"Now it gets interesting," Jaws said. "My top 20. My 20th-ranked quarterback is Alex Smith.

"A year ago, Smith was coming off his best season in the NFL, having led the 49ers to the NFC Championship. This year, he's the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a great move by Andy Reid to acquire Smith.

"The defining element of Smith's play is efficiency. He executes the offense the way it's designed, and he makes very few mistakes. Last season - for the second year in a row - he was exceptional on first down. In 2012 he led the NFL in first-down passing, with a quarterback rating of 119. Much of it came off play-action, or in the case of the 49ers, hard run-action out of base personnel. There was no better play-action quarterback last season than Smith. He had a quarterback rating of over 132.

"There was no better play-action quarterback last season than Smith." -Jaws

"Smith has been outstanding out of multiple tight end personnel over the last couple of seasons. No quarterback has thrown the ball more with three tight ends on the field. You don't see that very often in today's NFL.

"This play [diagrams play on screen] was beautifully designed with all three tight ends to the same side. First, look at the impact of the run-action on the two linebackers and the safety. This was hard run-action. Then you see that Delanie Walker's vertical route occupied the corner. That left Vernon Davis matched on a safety, a safety that initially reacted to run. He had no chance on Davis' wheel route.

"One area Smith improved in 2012 was in the pre-snap phase of the game. He was much better at the line of scrimmage checking and audibling.

"It will be interesting to see what Andy Reid does in Kansas City. Don't be surprised if he turns Smith loose a little bit and features an up-tempo offense with an emphasis on quick throws. Remember, Alex Smith played for Urban Meyer at Utah."

A few reactions from me:

  • [Sounds alarm to cue something important] Play-action! Keep that in mind. Smith is excellent at play-action. The Chiefs hired Chris Ault, the grandfather of the pistol, a formation in which the play-action pass could be very effective. Think play-action with Chris Ault. It's not all about the pistol. The play-action will only work with a guy like Jamaal Charles back there. Think how effective that could be.
  • Interesting note that Smith has been "outstanding" with multiple tight end personnel. The Chiefs have multiple tight ends who will see the field. If those tight ends can block AND catch, it helps sell that play-action.
  • I'm to the point, as a Chiefs fan, where I just want to see them not screw it up. Don't care so much about going for the jugular or things like that. I just want them to not screw it up. Don't look bad. Don't go 2-14. Just look like a normal dang team. Is it bad that my expectations have lowered like that?
  • I would LOVE to see an up-tempo offense that excels at short throws. Efficiency is the name of the game and that's where Smith makes his money. The Chiefs traded for him partially because he was so accurate, so you may as well put him in the best position possible to highlight that accuracy. An up tempo offense, focusing on quick throws and our guy Jamaal Charles ... I'm getting excited.
  • If you're wondering -- and I know you are -- Matt Cassel ranked 22nd on this list last year. Alex Smith ranked No. 16 last year.

Holy crap, is it football season yet?

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