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Ranking Chiefs' Alex Smith vs. the other starting quarterbacks

Where does Alex Smith rank among NFL QBs? We investigate.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When I was a kid, I NEVER told my Dad I was bored. Ever. That was in part because he was a minister and I feared his ability to hand down eternal consequences (my grasp on theology was not terrific). It was also because "I'm bored" meant "Find work for me to do" to my Dad. He was a real sadist, that man. And child advocates having not been invented yet, no one was around to tell him how bad it was for my self-esteem. How I didn't grow into a self-loathing crazy person is beyond me.

All that said... I'm bored.

(Ducks and looks around for parental consequences)

The draft is forever from now, give or take a century. The Chiefs will never sign a free agent again. We don't have team activities yet. March Madness is over. Baseball is baseball. I'm not sure what this "hockey" is that so many of my fellow Minnesotans love, but I fear the unknown and so refuse to check it out.

The draft is forever from now, give or take a century.

I suppose I could get some work done. But I don't feel like it. So instead, let's play a game called "Alex Smith vs. The Field!"

Here's how it works ... Alex Smith is going to be pitted death-match style against every quarterback who took 50 percent or more of his team's snaps last year. From this, we will have a definitive (or not) idea as to where Smith stands in the league. It will be entirely subjective and based on things that may or may not make sense. I highly doubt we'll learn anything. But it WILL kill some time ... and really, in April, that's all anyone can ask of anything.

(My wife may not be thrilled that I'm wasting my time like this. You guys can keep a secret, right? Oh well, let's do it.)

Alex Smith vs ... Geno Smith

Like any smart manager, I'm starting Alex off with an easy win, but one that represents just LITTLE danger. Basically, Geno Smith represents everything Alex Smith doesn't. He throws a solid deep ball and is willing to take chances, but throws almost twice as many picks as TDs. Geno may have a lot of potential, but Alex is the clear winner here.

Hey, guys, remember the time I thought we should take Geno No. 1? Um .... my bad. In my defense, though, some of you thought we should take Tyler Wilson. So there.

Alex Smith vs ... Chad Henne

This one is a little more interesting, since Henne has been (at times) compared to Smith in that they're both "game manager" types. Henne is what I'd call an average quarterback. He's not going to kill you, but he's not going to help you.

(Cue the, "That's exactly like Alex Smith!" lines)

Now that you got that out of your system ... I take Smith because he's got a better arm, is more athletic, doesn't turn the ball over as much, and passes the "eye" test as both a field commander and a QB more than Henne does. Other than that, they're exactly alike.

Fun fact, Henne had an INCREDIBLE 20 passes batted last year. For those who felt like it was an epidemic for Smith (and I sure felt that way at times), he had 11 in 45 more drop backs. Chad Henne is the Picasso of batted passes.

Alex Smith vs ... E.J. Manuel

Alex wins going away. Why? Because Manuel is very, very overrated at this point. In a weird way, getting injured is the best thing that could've happened to him after playing "kinda / sorta decent" football. It allowed fans to hang onto their hope. We fans love the unknown.

Alex Smith vs ... Terrelle Pryor

If you had asked me this halfway through the season, man, I would have struggled.  Pryor was doing some pretty remarkable things. But then we played dem Raidas and I got a chance to see what happens when a QB melts down in crunch time. It was ugly. Now in Pryor's defense, he was being EATEN by our defense (remember 3rd and 48? Good times). But still, Alex easily.

Alex Smith vs ... Matt Schaub

Matt Schaub played some of the worst quarterbacking I've ever seen last year. Truly horrific. I don't normally go with the Skip Bayless-style takes, but he looks mentally shot. Additionally, all the man ever did was look "good" when being protected by a stud OL, RB, and WR. Smith continues to roll.

Alex Smith vs ... Mike Glennon

Glennon is intriguing. He's also a statue who looks to be getting replaced after a rookie year where he showed some promise (emphasis "some" and "promise). To be fair, Lovie Smith could be wrong on this one. Smith wins out for not looking as though he's at your door to collect paperboy fees.

This is the first one it's been a real question, though. Glennon's worth keeping an eye on.

Alex Smith vs ... Ryan Fitzpatrick

Please. More like, "Ryan MISS-patrick, amirite? Guys?"

Alex Smith vs ... Joe Flacco

Now we're getting somewhere. After the Ravens won a Super Bowl in large part due to a hot run by Flacco, the sporting world lost its collective mind and decided that Flacco was elite. Then 2013 happened and everyone said, "Oh yeah, that's right! He runs red hot for a game or two and then ice cold!"

Flacco is what he is, an average QB with a big arm whose highs and lows are higher and lower than most average QBs.

Flacco is what he is, an average QB with a big arm whose highs and lows are higher and lower than most average QBs. I'm sticking with Smith.

Alex Smith vs ... Eli Manning

Eli was Joe Flacco before Joe Flacco was Joe Flacco. Of course, Eli is better than Joe Flacco. He's another guy who runs hot and cold, but Eli has had sustained periods of very good play. To be fair, he's only had that when his receiving corps was playing well. Chicken or egg? I have no idea.

I DO know that Eli was vastly overrated by most because of his pass rush winning him two Super Bowls. That said, he's a good QB who had a crap season. Of course, Eli had a pretty "meh" 2012 as well. At what point is it on Eli? I'm going to roll with the trends (TRENDS!!!!!!!!!) and stick with Alex. Three years younger, much more athletic, has been better the last two seasons.

Alex Smith vs ... Robert Griffin III

I gotta roll with RGIII. I'm not happy about it, though. I get that Griffin struggled a lot last year, but in his defense, his team was a mess and he was clearly not healthy to start the year. Of course, he struggled with accuracy, which I find VERY frightening in a quarterback (remember that pick he threw to Derrick Johnson? Awful, awful throw). But he was in a pretty bad situation.

Again, I don't feel to good about it, but I have to go with RGIII. Too high of a ceiling, and under Andy Reid ... yeah. Smith takes his first loss.

Alex Smith vs ... Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer is one of those quarterbacks that seems to be bulletproof from criticism. If any other QB tossed as many picks on a consistent basis as Palmer has over the years, he would be widely viewed as a terrible quarterback. But because Palmer was, for a couple years, an exceptional QB (sometime in the 90s I think) he gets a pass.

I take Smith every time here. Palmer can't move and has one setting; "high." He can't stop making bad decisions. That's a bad combination. Props to him for staying alive behind that Cardinals OL, though.

Alex Smith vs ... Andy Dalton

If you say Dalton, I don't know what to tell you. Dalton may have a fantastic namesake (I thought he'd be bigger), but he's basically another version of Joe Flacco. If you get Good Andy, you'll have a good game. But Bad Andy is even worse than Bad Flacco ... and that's saying something. And considering "throw the ball up to A.J. Green" is one of the easiest concepts on the planet...

I'd take Smith. Also, gingers and stuff.

Alex Smith vs ... Nick Foles

I'm taking Smith, and I'll tell you why.

(Waits for the screams of "fanboy" and "homer" to die down)

Did you watch Foles play this year?  I just ... I can't get on board with the idea he's as good as those stats. I mean, they are REALLY impressive stats, but...

(Goes back and looks at the stats one more time)

OK, I just changed my mind. I'll go with Foles.

(Watches a YouTube highlight of Foles)

Yeah, I'll go with Foles. Although it's closer after watching the video. Foles had a LOT of bounces go his way this last season. That said, he's accurate and keeps a cool head under pressure. Considering his age, I'm rolling with Foles.

Alex Smith vs ... Cam Newton

QB 1: 60.6%, 6.5 YPA, 23 TDs, 8 INTs

QB 2: 61.7%, 7.1 YPA, 24 TDs, 13 INTs

Those are really, really similar stats. QB 1 is Smith and QB 2 is Cam Newton. Fun fact: Newton's receivers dropped 13 fewer passes this season than Smith's. When you're dealing with numbers this close, that pretty much makes up the difference. Now we'll look at QB stats again.

QB 1: 111 rushes, 5.3 YPC, 6 TDs, 1 FUM

QB 2: 76 rushes, 5.7 YPC, 1 TD, 3 FUM

QB 1 is Cam (the TD number gave it away, I'm sure). QB 2 is Smith, who was more efficient when running the ball than Cam. Of course, he doesn't have the TDs, but that's easily explained by the difference in play calling. Ron Rivera calls runs for Cam near the goal line, Andy Reid calls runs for Jamaal Charles.

Anyway, all that stuff aside ... look how similar the two quarterbacks are statistically. Yet somehow, I don't hear anyone ever question whether Cam is a franchise QB. Interesting. I give Smith a VERY slight edge due to the fact that Cam has never thrown fewer than a dozen picks in a season. Smith gives you everything Cam does statistically, with fewer INTs.  I'll take it.

Alex Smith vs ... Matt Ryan

This time last year I say Ryan, no question. Now? I'm not sure.

Now I get that Ryan still had a decent season despite injuries being a major problem. He also played a killer schedule of defenses. But I can't help but observe that when Julio Jones wasn't around, Ryan's TD / INT ratio fell to almost 1:1 (though his yards per attempt remained decent and his completion percentage was very good). That's at least worth noting.

And Ryan DID have Jones for five games, as well as Roddy White for well over half the season. He also had the ageless Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas who, while not a world-beater, is better than any WR the Chiefs trotted out not named Dwayne Bowe.

This time last year I say Ryan, no question. Now? I'm not sure.

Would you take Ryan's group (five games of Julio, over half a season of White, Douglas, and TG) over Smith's group (Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, The Beard)? I think I would. Also worth noting; Ryan was without Jones AND White for only three games this season, and was absolutely horrific in two of them.

Ryan additionally provides you with nothing on the ground whatsoever. I dunno, guys. Have we ever seen Ryan put up great numbers without a ton of weapons around him?


No we haven't. I'm very, very, very hesitantly going with Smith here. Because Ryan isn't bringing Julio, TG and company with him.

Alex Smith vs ... Jay Cutler

Smith.That was easy. It was nice to have a breather after that last one.

Alex Smith vs... Ben Roethlisberger

I gotta shorten these up. I take Big Ben. I think he's gotten to the point that he's a little underrated. Very few players do more with less than Big Ben lately.

Alex Smith vs ... Tony Romo

Romo. I hate myself for this, but Romo. He's a good quarterback on a bad team, which leads people who can't accept that this happens to believe he's not a good quarterback.

Alex Smith vs ... Matthew Stafford

Stafford might be the most overrated QB in the league currently.

Chucking it up for Calvin Johnson is not an elite skill. Stafford might be the most overrated QB in the league currently. He completes 58.5 percent of his passes, has under a 2:1 TD/INT ratio ... and people try and pass him off as elite. No, he's not. He's Joe Flacco throwing to the biggest freak in the league. A very easy choice of Alex Smith.

Alex Smith vs ... Josh McCown

McCown somehow made this a tough decision by playing really, really well for the Bears (who, of course, proceeded to ship him out in favor of Jay Cutler's contract. How are Bears fans not more angry?). McCown looked better consistently than Cutler ever has. I like the way he stepped up and hope he succeeds with the Buccaneers.

But ... he's still a guy who has been around since 2002 and has only one year of looking better than hot garbage.  We're three years into Smith playing well at QB. I'm going with the guy who didn't need the emergence of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery as the most freakish WR duo in the league to play well (shoutout to Alshon for winning me $140 in my money league this year!).

Alex Smith vs ... Tom Brady

Yeah ... we're getting into some pretty tough territory here. The only edges Smith has are his legs and his age. And it's not enough.

Alex Smith vs ... Andrew Luck

Things are going to get rough for Smith here.

Alex Smith vs ... Ryan Tannehill

I thought I'd give Smith a short break from "elite-type" territory.

I really like Tannehill. He made due with a terrible, terrible, terrible offensive line last year, and managed to go the entire season without plugging Mike Wallace between the eyes with the ball from five yards away. That says a lot about his grit AND his self-control. He's also one of the few QBs in the league who is a better runner than Smith. He could pass Smith with more time.

For now, though, it's still Smith. Much like in the Cam comparison, Smith gives you everything Tannehill does, but without all the interceptions. We'll see what Tannehill does with a better OL, but I'm not swapping out on pure potential (except with RG3, who has shown he can do MORE than what Smith does. That's the difference there).

Alex Smith vs... Russell Wilson

These two are a lot alike as quarterbacks. Wilson has one skill that sets him apart; he can throw on the run significantly better than Smith can. That gives him a huge edge, since both quarterbacks use their feet a lot.

Smith is better at reading defenses right now and can run a more open offense, but it's clear that Wilson will get there.  He's just a very, very good quarterback at a very, very early age. I have to go with Wilson. He's every bit as good as Smith going into his third year. I very much think he's got a shot to be the best of that 2012 group.

Alex Smith vs ... Philip Rivers

I don't want to hear about Rivers reviving his status as "borderline elite" last year. Nor do I want to be reminded how insanely well he played in that first loss this last year. Philip Rivers is the worst. That said, yes, I'd take him over Alex. I hate everything.

Philip Rivers is the worst. That said, yes, I'd take him over Alex.

I will say, though, that this was pretty close.  Rivers has almost constantly been surrounded by elite playmakers, and the one year he only had one legit target (2012) his stats came way down. Then they hit on Keenan Allen, brought in Danny Woodhead, and watched Eddie Royal become relatively healthy ... and Rivers stats came back up. Interesting.

I'm not saying it's enough to make me take Smith, but it's a conversation.

Alex Smith vs... Drew Brees

Drew. C'mon.

Alex Smith vs ... Peyton Manning

I refuse to acknowledge Manning's existence by discussing him further, but yes, it's Manning.

Alex Smith vs ... Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers wins this matchup against everyone. He's a machine sent back in time to play quarterback.

Alex Smith vs ... Colin Kaepernick

OF COURSE I'm saving this one for last! Controversy! Drama! Harbaugh! $20 million dollars a year! Let's look at the stats...

Kap: 58.4%, 7.69 YPA, 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 524 rushing yards (5.7 YPC), 4 rushing TDs

Smith: 60.6%, 6.52 YPA, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 431 rushing yards (5.7 YPC), 1 rushing TD

Smith is more accurate, Kap throws for more YPA. Same efficiency running the ball. Who do you take? I have no idea what the tiebreaker here should be.

I do know that third down and the fourth quarter is where QBs make their money. Looking at their splits, both are impressive on third down QB rating-wise, but Kap is superior on third down overall. Both have their ratings go down in the fourth quarter, but Smith's is significantly higher there. Again, all tied up. These two seem determined to be as statistically equivalent as possible.

Third and long is the last split I'm going to check before calling it a dealer's choice. If third down is the money down for QBs, thirrd and long is the BIG money down. The stakes don't get higher. Third down with nine-plus yards to go ... You're not going to believe this; they both have 51 attempts in that situation. Unreal.

Smith: 64.7%, 10.41 YPA, 4 TDs, 1 INT

Kap: 58.8%, 6.92 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT

I'm calling it. Every other advantage has been small for either player. This one? Not even close. Maybe what the Chiefs need to do to open up the offense this season is tell Smith that it's always third and long. Couldn't hurt.

How does Smith fare against the field?

I had Smith go toe-to-toe vs. 28 quarterbacks who saw 50 percent or more of their teams snaps. So we're clearly short a few teams. However, I don't think anyone is going to argue that Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, etc. are a choice above Smith (except Titans fans, who continue to convince themselves that Locker is a stud). So I'm giving Smith those four.

Where does Smith rank? ... I've got 11 other quarterbacks I'd take over Smith.

With that in mind, where does Smith rank? If my counting is correct (and that's never a sure thing for me), I've got 11 quarterbacks I'd take over Smith. A few of them (Rivers, Foles, and MAYBE Big Ben as well as Romo) I had to talk myself into taking over Smith.

So apparently I think Smith is outside the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL, if only by the slimmest of margins. I'm glad we could work this out, and I hope I helped you waste some of your day. Please, return the favor and tell me where I'm completely wrong.

(The summer mailbag is open!  Send questions/comments/criticisms/blatant hatred to @RealMNchiefsfan or email me at

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