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What we learned from watching every Alex Smith pass in the Chiefs 2014 season

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I didn't want to do this.

Reviewing film is really, really time consuming. Especially when it's a quarterback. Especially when you're trying to watch for multiple things. And ESPECIALLY when you're going to cover every game.

But with the Alex Smith debate raging on and on and on, I don't have a choice. Both "sides" are making claims that are (as of right now) totally unsubstantiated by substantive All-22 review. Two examples from both side of the fence would be something like...

"Alex Smith ignored open wide receivers constantly down the field."

"Alex Smith never had enough time because of a crappy o-line."

Those statements are on opposite ends of the Alex Smith War, but they're both remarkably similar in that they have no real teeth. Neither has anything other than anecdotal evidence to back it up. And so both sides hammer away at one another with unproven, untested statements.

It's time to end that.

Now, please understand; film review is pretty subjective. This limits how much you can take away from these types of things. My idea of a dropped pass could be different from yours. My idea of "happy feet" (failing to step into what should be an adequate pocket) could be different from yours.

Furthermore, without knowing the calls, reads, and routes, we're operating half-blind. Where we see a horrible overthrow, it could be a WR running the wrong route. Where we see Smith make a great play to escape the pocket, it could be Smith totally blowing the play by not making the throw called for. We just can't say for sure. So keep that in mind.

However, for all its limitations, nothing comes close to All-22 film review to evaluate a player. Statistical analysis is about 1/100th as effective, according to a stat I just made up. And most importantly, it's the only way to check the claims many people are making in this bitter divide between Chiefs fans.

And so, I'll be watching every 2014 dropback by Alex Smith on All-22 and tracking the following:

1) Missed Shots - Receivers open down the field who go ignored (we'll use 15-plus yards as "down the field" for the purposes of this column). This is a gigantic complaint against Smith, we'll see if it holds up.

2) Happy Feet - Clean pockets Smith messed up by not stepping up into them

3) Potential Picks - Passes that SHOULD have been intercepted

4) Drops - Catchable passes dropped and the yardage potentially lost

5) Saves - Plays Smith SHOULD have been sacked but made a play

6) Nice throw - Where the QB makes a throw where you say, "nice throw"

7) Flushes - Where Smith chased from pocket by actual pressure, hit, or sacked before any receivers get open, and there wasn't an obvious escape through normal pocket manipulation

8) Inaccurate passes - This one kinda explains itself.

9) Non-QB INTs - Where a pass is intercepted due to a tip, a receiver dropping the ball, getting it ripped out of his hands, or running the wrong route (the last one is almost impossible to say, I doubt I see it).

Now as far as my methodology goes, let's lay out a few things. First, a WR doesn't need five yards of separation to be "open" down the field (or anywhere else). By my standard, he needs to have gained enough of a step to where an over the shoulder throw couldn't be picked off (barring an underthrow). For example:

Albert Wilson absolutely has separation there, even though the defender is only a yard and a half away. That's a throw that should be made if the QB sees it in his progressions.

So yes, when I say "open" I don't mean "wide open." I mean "open to where an average throw would result in a completion." So Smith doesn't get a pass if a receiver was only kinda / sorta open. When you're an NFL QB, the window shouldn't have to be that wide to throw it.

Second, a QB doesn't "miss" an open receiver unless he sees him (duh, I know). If a WR is open down the field on the left side but the play is a packaged quick out to the right, that's not an ignored receiver. Anyone will tell you some routes down the field are just "clear out" routes to get the defense away from the actual play.

Third, a catchable pass is NOT just any pass that hits a WR in the hands. That's way too easy a standard on a QB. For this purpose, a catchable is simply one a WR should routinely make. You know, one to where, if he'd caught it, we wouldn't have thought a thing about it. A routine play, if you will. Subjective? Yes. The best we can do without being too easy on Smith? Absolutely.

Finally, remember that one play could have several of these "stats," (for example, a "save" isn't going to generally occur without a "flush") so don't expect to add them all up and come to the number of dropbacks Smith had.

And one last time ... I'm going to make this as objective as possible. But it's still just one guy's opinion. Let's do this. I'll try to inject some pictures and / or humor along the way, but this is going to be long as it is. So go get a drink of water and maybe a snack. And if you're on the toilet, expect your legs to be numb by the time you get through it.

This first game is going to have more explanations and screenshots in it as I try to provide examples early of what I'm looking for. After roughly 12 hours of All-22 and another six of actual writing, let's get after it.

Week One: vs. Tennessee Titans (45 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 3

Happy Feet- 2

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 2 (17 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 1

Nice Throw- 4

Flushes- 5

Inaccurate Passes- 7

Non-QB INTs- 1

As you probably expected, this was a rough game in general. The entire gameplan looked wildly different from what we saw the rest of the season. Multiple times the Chiefs lined up with five offensive linemen and no TE on the line, with somewhat predictable results (pressure if no quick throw).

Additionally, the Chiefs took shot after shot down the field this game. It was just bizarre. Smith was as aggressive as I've ever seen him. Unfortunately, he also struggled with accuracy (as the above stats display). Two of his interceptions could be directly attributed to Smith missing (both deep shots to Donnie Avery). And it's not as though inaccurate passes just led to picks or incomplete passes.

Here's an example of poor accuracy costing yards in a way that doesn't show up on the stats sheet (this should give you a baseline as to how picky I'm being).

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Here, Donnie Avery gets open running a dig route. He's got decent separation and room to run IF he's hit in stride (or anything resembling in stride, really). Instead Smith throws it behind Avery, forcing him to stop and wait for the ball. That gives the CB time to catch up to him and what could've been a 40-yard gain is a 17-yard gain.

If you think I'm being too picky there, well, I'm doing so on purpose. Because throws like that take yards off the field.

Of course, the very next play Smith redeemed himself with this throw.

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If you can't quite make out the ball, that's because it's being practically PLACED in the hands of a sprinting Frankie Hammond. The throw was from the opposite hash mark in addition to being 20-plus yards down the field, leading to it being about 30 yards in the air.

I show you this not to prove Smith had a good game (he didn't), but to show you what I'm talking about when I say a "nice throw". He absolutely stuck that one. Of course, Hammond rewarded him by bobbling the ball and kinda diving out of bounds, so ... yeah.

Another play I'd like to point out shows both a "missed shot" and "happy feet."

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Here, Smith is under a bit of pressure coming from his right. However, it's not the kind of pressure that requires him to run away. It's the kind of pressure that requires sliding left while keeping his eyes down the field. Think Big Ben here. You don't need to be fast, just buy yourself an extra couple seconds.

And really a couple seconds is all Smith would've needed, because as you can see, he had a man coming open. But instead, Smith starts running left (he developed a nasty habit of trusting his legs a bit too much this season. He's a good athlete, but he ain't Mike Vick) and turns his body to the point that throwing to ANY receiver is no longer on the table.

Classic example of both "happy feet" and a "missed shot." Another example of happy feet came earlier in the game. This play ends in a 3-yard loss and had many people blaming Jeff Allen. I'm showing you an early part of the play to make my point.

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Look, there's absolutely no doubt Jeff Allen is getting beat around the edge. I won't deny it.

However, if you look at the rest of the play you see Jamaal Charles (you're beautiful, Jamaal) about to pick up the blitz (he gave very little ground once he made contact. Again, the man's a beast) and the rest of the line holding up just fine. All Smith has to do is calmly step up and let the rusher run around him, which will also give Allen a chance to recover.

Instead, Smith again trusts his legs too much and takes off right, around the rusher (using the rusher's momentum against him). He beats the rusher but is now out of position and has allowed other rushers to disengage their blocks and pursue him. They chase him out of bounds three yards shy of the line of scrimmage.

Both those plays are good examples of what I'm talking about when I chalk up a "happy feet" stat. The good news is I only counted it as happening twice vs. the Titans.

A different type of play (last example in this game, as you're going to die reading this column at the rate we're going) is the "flush" and "save."  As stated, a flush is where Smith is pressured, hit, or sacked quickly enough that the play never had a shot. A "save" is where he somehow manages to escape and complete a pass or scramble for a decent gain. The following screen shot was just such a play.

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This is the best angle to show what I'm talking about. Here, Smith DOES have an open Donnie Avery on a curl route to the left. However, as this shot shows, there's no chance whatsoever to step up and make the throw, as Mike McGlynn was destroyed by a swim move and Smith is about to get inhaled by a defender. It happened too quickly to even find a checkdown. It's a QB's worst nightmare (no, not Justin Houston, the OTHER worst nightmare); immediate interior pressure.

Smith, however, manages to duck away and elude the defender, then displays his wheels for a 17-yard scramble. He took a play that was flushed and saved it. Hence, the terms.

One more thing to note about this game; while the Titans didn't use many stunts, when they did they were highly effective. It was a harbinger of things to come, and I can guarantee opposing coaches saw it too.

All right, onto Denver. As we go further and further along, these should go faster.

Here's a good time to break the mundane film review with a fun anecdote, though. I just finished writing the above lines and told Mrs. MNchiefsfan I'm pretty sure this is going to be at least 6,000 words. There was an absolute silence from her followed by, "Ummm... is it at least funny?"

Now that my wife has shattered my confidence beyond repair, lets move on.

Week 2: At Denver Broncos (48 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 3

Happy Feet- 2

Potential Picks- 2 (both occurring on plays with an offsides penalty, thus a free shot)

Drops- 4 (for a 43 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 4

Nice Throw- 5

Flushes- 6

Inaccurate Passes-6

Non-QB INTs- 0

Ah, the Denver game. This was truly the tale of two halves for Smith. He was MUCH better in the second half. Unfortunately, it seemed as Smith played better the surrounding cast played worse. The offensive line in particular really struggled down the stretch and during the comeback.

One interesting thing I noticed in this game; Smith's throws are consistently away from a defender. That is, he almost never leads a receiver into an incoming defensive player. He'll consistently throw it away from where the defender is. I thought this was a coincidence at first or an example of inaccuracy, but it's happening time and again with it almost NEVER happening the other way (the ball going toward the defender), which you'd think would happen if it were just an inaccuracy issue.

I don't know whether Smith is trying to protect his receivers (maybe) or his innate cautiousness leads him to keep the ball as far away from the defense as possible (more likely in my opinion), but it's an interesting thing to watch.

Anyway, this game the Chiefs offense looked a lot more like what we saw most of the year. After the first half, the Chiefs switched to mostly quick, short throws. When they did anything else Smith was getting hammered or flushed pretty quickly.

Smith did have his missed shots down the field, though.

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This is yet another instance of Smith missing a shot down the field because of happy feet. It's a trend I'm seeing I really don't like. Travis Kelce could have potentially scored here had Smith hit him. A penalty bailed the Chiefs out, but you just can't make that mistake as an NFL quarterback.

It's frustrating, because at other times in the game (like the attempted comeback drive in the fourth quarter), Smith shows a willingness to hang tough and take SHOTS to get the ball down the field. His throw to Dwayne Bowe to get the Chiefs inside the 10-yard-line was ridiculous. Two screenshots show Smith as the ball is being released and then Bowe as the ball arrives.

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Smith is actually getting hit AS HE RELEASES THE FOOTBALL, and still sticks a 20-plus yard throw that drops perfectly into Bowe's arms as he runs down the field. Just gorgeous.

It's hard to reconcile the Smith who makes a ballsy, terrific throw with the guy who dropped a similar throw 5 yards too far in front of Junior Hemingway with no pressure earlier in the game. All that said, Smith played significantly better this game than I'd thought upon first viewing. He made some really tough throws down the stretch and hung around as he was getting hammered by rushers.

Week 3: At Miami Dolphins(31 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 0

Happy Feet- 3

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 3 (for 21 yards, conservatively)

Saves- 1

Nice Throw- 1

Flushes- 2

Inaccurate Passes- 0

Non-QB INTs-0

Early in the game against Miami, the Chiefs were again getting beaten up in pass protection and Smith was getting antsy in the pocket. The reason the offense looked so much better as the game went along is they switched gears to this type of play.

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That screen shot is taken barely a second after the snap. As you can see, the ball is already leaving Smith's hands.

This game was full of plays like that. Which makes sense. It counts on Smith to make quick reads and accurate short throws, both of which fall right into his wheelhouse. It was the classic Alex Smith game; play smart, avoid mistakes, make the occasional play when things break down (which he did a couple of times), and get the ball to playmakers while not making any bad throws (I seriously didn't see one pass that warranted "inaccurate pass" status, which is a weirdly impressive stat).

And it was like clockwork against a tough Miami defense. Smith is absolutely the best game manager in football. And that very sentence alone is what likely drives so many of us crazy about him, as it really sums up his greatest strength AND his greatest weakness all in one.

This was Smith's best game so far, even though it didn't contain as many impressive throws as the first two did. Smith was more a key cog in the system, rather than the focal point of an attack. If that makes any sense whatsoever. Let's move on.

Week 4: vs. New England

Missed Shots-2

Happy Feet- 1

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 2 (18 yards lost conservatively, 1 TD very likely lost on a screen to Knile Davis)

Saves- 0

Nice Throw- 1

Flushes- 1

Inaccurate Passes- 3

Non-QB INTs-0

For a game where the Chiefs absolutely manhandled the opponent, it was a pretty quiet game from the quarterback position. Smith didn't have to make many plays for the Chiefs to win. He just needed to execute what was a superior game plan from Andy Reid, who absolutely destroyed the best coach in the NFL for 60 minutes.

Smith did have one terrible missed deep ball to Travis Kelce (it was on the first drive, I'd bet anything you remember it). He also had a missed shot that was frustrating. Here, take a look at the pretty picture to give your eyes a much-deserved break.

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Dwayne Bowe ended up with the catch and a first down, but Hemingway could've been a huge gain. Smith went with the "safe" throw, and in his defense the drive ended up as a TD. But still, it is what it is; a missed shot down the field.

Overall, there's not much to take from this game we didn't already learn from the Miami game. Smith can execute a good game plan really, really well and doesn't take anything off the table when things are going well for an offense. Onto the 49ers game, where things were most definitely not going well for the offense.

Week 5: at 49ers (32 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 1 (ten yards, not 15+)

Happy Feet- 1

Potential Picks- 1

Drops- 3 (for 32 yards, conservatively)

Saves- 1

Nice Throw- 0

Flushes- 2

Inaccurate Passes- 5

INT's Not on QB- 0

Smith obviously ended this game with an AWFUL interception (it's not listed as a "potential pick" because it was, you know, an actual pick). Additionally, Smith left a couple plays on the field that were big. Everyone remembers Kelce dropping what should have been a first down on a potential TD drive. What's been less talked about is Smith had Junior Hemingway coming open for what could've been a big gain.

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Now, did Smith make a play that SHOULD have resulted in a first down? Yes. Does this absolve Kelce from dropping what would've been a conversion? Absolutely not. Is it still frustrating? Of course.

Overall, this was Smith's least impressive game so far. Yes, that includes the Titans game. While Smith made several really bad throws in the Titans game, he also made multiple nice throws. In the Niners game, he made a few costly errors and didn't make up for it with any big plays. He had his shot at revenge and let it slip away. Rough game overall for the Chiefs, as the run defense also had a terrible outing. Yuck. Sometimes my job isn't fun. Let's move on.

Oh, fair warning; I'm going to have a conclusion section at the end that will ATTEMPT to be brief. So if you're feeling lazy (or just, you know, don't have an hour to kill) you can skip ahead to that and see the overall stats and impressions on Smith.

Week 7: at San Diego

Missed Shots- 1

Happy Feet-1

Potential Picks-0

Drops-5 (for 74 yards, conservatively. It was an awful day)

Saves- 5

Nice Throw- 4

Flushes-5

Inaccurate Passes- 2

INT's Not on QB- 0

Man, I did not remember the San Diego pass rush giving the Chiefs so many problems. But they were all over Smith for much of the game. This was his best performance of the year to date. It wasn't a particularly impressive day with base stats, but Smith overcame a REALLY poor day from his receivers and o-line, didn't make many mistakes (how he avoided a single "potential pick" while getting hounded is beyond me), and made plays down the stretch. I called out his very poor performance vs. the Niners, but he deserves a ton of credit for this win.

Let's all re-live the horror, shall we? Remember this drop by Junior?

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Unless the ref decided to abandon all pretenses of neutrality and tackle Hemingway, he was getting at least 20 yards on that play. Ugh. Just ... just ugh.

And A.J. Jenkins ... well, let's put it this way; he stepped out of bounds with nothing but open field in front of him, and I'm not even sure that was his worst play of the day. He misplayed a deep ball from Smith on a post to the point that it was like he'd made a bet as to how hard he could make the catch. Spoiler (can you spoil things from months ago? Feels like you can't); he didn't win said bet.

Smith was a lot more aggressive with throws into tight quarters and higher degrees of difficulty this game. One of the "nice throw" throws he made was a solid back should pitch and catch with Bowe.

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I'm not sure why Bowe and Smith didn't go to the back shoulder throw more in 2014. Every time I felt like they'd really gotten it down and were about to FINALLY get on the same page consistently, we wouldn't see it for a full game.

We're almost halfway there, guys. At this point I'm QUITE certain half of you have skipped to the end, so the narratives will continue to get shorter and shorter. Well, that's what I'm aiming for. We'll see how it plays out.

Week 8: vs. St. Louis

Missed Shots-3

Happy Feet- 1

Potential Picks- 1

Drops- 1 (3 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 2

Nice Throw- 0

Flushes- 4

Inaccurate Passes- 4

INT's Not on QB- 0

In yet another example of how a final box score doesn't tell you much of the story, this blowout win over the Rams was a pretty "meh" game from Smith. He actually had a few rough plays (missed shots and inaccurate passes), and didn't really balance them out with any great ones. he had plenty of decent throws but nothing worth giving "nice throw" status.

It's funny, because while in the Chargers game Smith played very well while the supporting cast struggled, in this game Smith was aggressively average while the supporting cast played great. Football, man. Onto Week 9.

Week 9: vs. New York Jets (32 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 2

Happy Feet- 1 (ended game with it, rough play)

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 2 (16 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 0

Nice Throw- 3

Flushes- 2

Inaccurate Passes- 3

INT's Not on QB- 0

Not a ton to report, so this is as good a place as any to make a point I've been meaning to make for some time; simply put, not everyone recognizes what's going on with a play when they say a receiver is "wide open" after the fact.

Here's a screen shot for you to take a look at and fume.

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Smith makes a quick throw to Bowe (who has an arrow handily pointing him out). It's a short pass that results in a short gain (five yards).

But wait a minute ... LOOK HOW OPENING ANTHONY FASANO IS!!!! I mean, Smith could just loft that up and he'd waltz to the ball and score. Awful play on Smith's part, right?

Well... no. Because we're looking at the play AFTER the throw has been made. Let's look at the defenders right as Smith is winding up.

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You see, the defender didn't start to move forward until he saw Smith start to throw the ball. Prior to Smith starting his motion the defender was as you see him here. Meaning had Smith shifted his eye level to Fasano, the defender would have moved THAT direction rather than forward.

The basic point is this; NFL defenders are really, really, really fast and react really, really, really quickly. By the time the ball arrives to a targeted receiver, defenders are in a very different place and moving a different direction than they were prior. In fact, I've seen repeatedly defenders shift even as a QB is winding up to throw. It's the reason pump fakes actually, you know, fake.

In other words, if you're judging how "open" a receiver is or isn't based on where he is once the ball is thrown, you're not gauging accurately what the QB was looking at prior to the throw.

Does this absolve Smith of all his missed shots? ABSOLUTELY NOT. The point is solely that one reason a fan may believe receivers are constantly running open is they're judging what the defense looks like post-throw. You have to judge based on where defenders are before a throw (and what direction they're moving).

And just in case you think I'm saying this with a motive, let me note that Smith's final snap in the Jets game was AWFUL. Totally panicked in the pocket and ended up getting sacked when he had several guys open. A very "Happy Feet" play.

One final note ... you may have heard the Chiefs didn't have a touchdown pass to a WR all season long (it was mentioned once or twice or 500 times). In order for that to happen, some truly amazing plays have to take place. One of them was in this game. Here's A.J. Jenkins after catching the ball and turning to run toward the end zone.

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The fact that Jenkins managed to avoid scoring a touchdown here (he slipped and fell forward instead, which was a bold move, Cotton) is practically performance art. Throw that in with his "I think I'll inexplicably step out of bounds for no reason rather than run straight 40 yards for a touchdown" play against Miami and one has to wonder if Jenkins saw a shot at history this year and decided to make it happen.

Anyway, on to Buffalo.

Week 10: at Buffalo (37 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 3

Happy Feet- 2

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 2 (24 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 2

Nice Throw- 4

Flushes- 8

Inaccurate Passes- 6

INT's Not on QB- 0

What a bloodbath this game was. The Chiefs offensive line got absolutely shattered by a tough Buffalo defense. I counted EIGHT plays that were dead in the water before Smith had a chance to do anything. Add that in with the two "saves" and you've got 10 plays where a borderline miracle was needed to make something happen. That's over a quarter of the dropbacks!

That said, Smith is not without blame on a day the offense struggled. There WERE snaps where he had time to throw and he simply missed (hence the six "inaccurate passes"). He was clearly antsy in the pocket and wasn't getting his feet set before throws. And quite frankly, Alex Smith doesn't have the arm talent to get away with sloppy footwork. Additionally, Smith missed a couple shots down the field when he got happy feet in the pocket.

Fortunately, Smith and the offense redeemed themselves on a third quarter drive that was phenomenal. I wrote about that drive at length so I won't cover it here. That said, this game included the absolute best throw I've ever seen Smith make. Take a look if you have time (and I assume you do as you've likely been fired for reading a football site at work for so long).

One odd feature in the gameplan worth noting is that the Chiefs took a lot more shots down the field, and had a lot more receivers running deep routes than in prior games. Why Reid went that direction against the only pass rush in the league as scary as the Chiefs I'll never know. Just a weird game overall.

Week 11: vs. Seattle (16 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 1

Happy Feet- 0

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 1 (8 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 0

Nice Throw- 1

Flushes- 1

Inaccurate Passes- 1

INT's Not on QB- 0

I think we all know this game wasn't about Alex Smith. The defense and Jamaal Charles were the main story here. This was a very "Alex Smith" game. He made absolutely no serious mistakes, protected the football from a swarming secondary, and made a few plays here and there. The second quarter TD drive was largely a product of a really nice 20-plus yard toss to Travis Kelce. Smith also made a few really nice reads throughout the game on packaged plays, which helped keep Seattle off balance.

He also had a missed shot down the field that could have been big, so it's not like it was perfect. And additionally, it DOES have to be noted how much of a role player Smith was for most of this game. He just isn't the driving force in this offense. That belongs exclusively to Jamaal Charles. This was a very "OK" game from Smith, one where his strength of not hurting the team came in handy. But to say he was a main reason the Chiefs won would be a stretch.

And OF COURSE I'm going to post this...

I will never stop watching that. I'll be 102 in a nursing home and still cackling at the sight of Kelce absolutely crushing a player I don't like for reasons I'll never fully understand. Sorry about the rough loss, Seahawks. Or, more accurately, sorry, not sorry.

I really don't want to do the Raiders game. But it's time we gird our loins (that's straight out of the Bible, guys. I really should stop using it until I look up what it actually means), grit our teeth, and do what we came here to do.

Week 12: at Raiders (40 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 6

Happy Feet- 4

Potential Picks- 2

Drops-

Saves- 0

Nice Throw- 2

Flushes- 7

Inaccurate Passes- 6

INT's Not on QB- 0

If I were to pick a single word to describe how bad Smith was for most of the Raiders game, I think it would be "woof."

Just an awful performance for Smith outside of a couple of solid drives in the third and fourth quarter. In fact, he was so bad I think he affected the ability of the All-22 cameraman to function. The "Madden" view stayed focused on the o-line and Smith even after the ball was thrown, which basically means I wasn't able to really focus in on anything and had to stick with a bird's eye view. You know your QB had a bad game when it's affecting cameramen.

I mean, he had inaccurate throws...

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Hemingway, as the arrow indicates, was running the other way when Smith threw that pass. And it was WAY behind him. I understand Smith was trying to throw it away from the defender (a pattern of his), but he missed badly here on what could've been a nice play early in the game.

Smith also had a really rough play where he hesitated prior to throwing to an open DAT.

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Smith should've made the throw immediately, but instead hesitated for roughly half a second. That's an eternity in the NFL, and it gave the defender (who was hung up ever-so-briefly in the end zone) a chance to close and smush DAT, causing an incompletion.

People talk about Smith's conservative nature with regards to throwing it down the field, but in my opinion it's more evident on a play like this. Smith thinks, then reacts. He needed to just react. Now, that's not what he always does, but it's what he did here and it cost the team four points in close game.

And of course, we all remember this play...

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Technically, this shouldn't qualify as a "Missed Shot," but I included it anyway. Because it's so clearly a missed chance, I eschewed the "15 yard" rule. I actually did that with several other Missed Shots this game as well.

Now, it wasn't all an Alex Smith dumpster fire. On the third quarter touchdown drive Smith made a fantastic throw to Kelce and several other really solid plays under pressure. And it's not as though the offensive line had a good game. This was the game we can look back on if we really want to see how stunts destroyed the Chiefs offensive line. It was ugly, especially in the fourth quarter.

All that said, this was the worst game of the season for Smith, and it's not even close. Not even kind of close. Ugly, ugly game. Yuck.

Week 13: vs. Denver (32 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 2

Happy Feet- 2

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 0

Saves- 3 (all in 4th Quarter)

Nice Throw- 2

Flushes- 8

Inaccurate Passes- 4

INT's Not on QB- 0

Weird experience watching this game. In the first several drives Smith wasn't looking sharp at all. Then he got better as the game progressed. Significantly better. However, as he started playing better the team started playing worse (same thing happened in the first Denver game, oddly enough).

Smith made one of his better passes of the year this game on the Chiefs TD drive, a down the field strike to Kelce between four defenders.

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That throw was made as Smith was being hit, too (there was a LOT of pressure this game. The o-line meltdown had officially begun.

Smith followed up that throw with a 20-yard TD throw to Fasano lofted between the safety and the underneath linebacker. Just a really strong pair of throws back-to-back.

Unfortunately, Smith's love for trying to keep the ball away from the defender once again came back to haunt him with inaccurate passes, including this one.

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This is the same deal as the Hemingway picture from the Raiders game. Bowe was running the other direction, with a defender somewhat present but not necessarily threatening. Smith clearly attempted to place the ball away from the defender, and it got away from him. That's the problem with trying to direct throws to one side or the other rather than directly to where the receiver will be; it reduces your margin of error.

Smith played really solid football in the fourth quarter. I'm absolutely serious. All three of his "saves" and many of the "flushes" came in that quarter, as the Broncos pass rush was just teeing off on him every chance they got. It was brutal to watch. Despite that, though, the Chiefs had a shot right up until Donnie Avery had the football pop out on him. Re-living that moment was one of the worst parts of this column. It was such a "you're an idiot for allowing even a glimmer of hope to shine through" moment. Ugh.

Smith finally got a "INT not on QB" stat this game, with his pick coming off a deflected pass that settled gently into the hands of DeMarcus Ware. It was seriously that kind of day.

Week 14: at Arizona (47 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 5

Happy Feet- 3

Potential Picks- 1

Drops- 4 (44 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 6

Nice Throw- 6

Flushes- 11

Inaccurate Passes- 5

INT's Not on QB- 0

This game was fantastically frustrating to re-watch. It consisted of an unreal combination of poor play calling, awful offensive line execution, and several key missed opportunities by The Conservative Mr. Smith (Alex Smith's evil alter ego).

Let's get in a good mood before we start, as we interrupt our regularly schedule programming to show Albert Wilson de-cleating an Arizona secondary player.

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Albert Wilson, if he works (and all indications are he's working), is going to be a very solid receiver for the Chiefs. I'm openly calling it. Don't say he's a "small" WR. Yeah, he's short. But the man is built like a running back and HITS people like one too.

Anyway, back to Smith.

This game featured (as shown above) five missed shots by The Conservative Mr. Smith. Now, the timing of those missed shots wasn't actually all that killer on the offense, as several of them happened on a touchdown drive. However, that doesn't absolve Smith from this play (or anything close to it).

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On the other hand, Smith spent the majority of the day compensating for incredibly poor offensive line play. If I were as hard on the line as I've tried to be on Smith during this process, I could have easily called 20 plays "flushes" instead of 11. Arizona exploited the offensive line's inability to account for stunts over and over and over and over. And then over some more.

And as you can see, Smith had multiple "saves" and "nice throws" to go next to the issues he had with accuracy. It was an weird performance, but one where Smith legitimately played well the majority of his dropbacks. Smith made several throws nearly as good as this one to Kelce while on the run.

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Of course, Smith followed that throw up with an inaccurate pass down the left sideline that led Bowe too far out of bounds. So, yeah.

One interesting aspect of this game was that the Chiefs offense actually WAS moving the ball, despite the many issues with the line (and failure to run the ball more when the run was pretty effective). It's easy to see 14 points and say the offense got shut down. But this was truly a game where multiple promising drives were ended for reasons that were... well, yeah.

The Anthony Fasano "pass interference" that stole a touchdown (on a great play from Smith to extend the play) was ridiculous. The Travis Kelce "fumble" was just as dumb. I will not argue with anyone about this. The Chiefs lost out on 10 points minimum on those drives. It sucked.

The final drive of that game has gotten a lot of attention as representing everything wrong with the Chiefs offense. And frankly, I agree. However, I disagree that the last drive problems were on Smith. I'm certain many will disagree, but that's life.

Bash the short throws all you want, but this represents what very nearly every single snap looked like on that last drive.

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Instant pressure (this was roughly 3/4 of a second after the snap, if that), no WRs more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. No options.

That last drive DID represent a lot of what was wrong with the Chiefs offense. But it was much more a condemnation of the protection than Smith, with some playcalling splashed in. You want to see a reason to condemn Smith, look at the Raiders game, where he actually played poorly. The Cardinals game he was one of the players who showed up and made plays.

The reason I'm hammering on that point is because when I watched the Cardinals game live (with no All-22), I believed Smith struggled. I openly admit after doing the legwork that I was wrong about this game, much like I was wrong about the Pats game when I thought he played at a very high level.

Anyway, two games left. We're almost home.

Week 15: vs. Raiders (34 dropbacks)

Missed Shots- 1

Happy Feet- 3

Potential Picks- 1

Drops- 4 (43 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 2

Nice Throw- 6

Flushes- 3

Inaccurate Passes- 2

INT's Not on QB- 0

The offensive line might have played their best game of the season with regards to pass protection in this game. Smith was rarely rushed, and it was obvious in how he played (that and a pretty "meh" Raiders secondary).

People remember this game for the bomb to Albert Wilson (mostly because it was such a rare sight for this Chiefs team), so I'll just take this opportunity so say that throw does NOT qualify as a "nice throw" throw. It was a decent throw, sure. 50-plus yards in the air completions are rare. That said, Wilson had to slow down noticeably to catch the ball (though he didn't have to stop). Sorry, no "nice throw" on that. A NICE throw would've meant a touchdown.

Hopefully that gives a little more insight to the standard for a "nice throw." This qualifies.

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That throw was 25-plus yards in the air from the opposite hash mark. THAT is a "nice throw". Your ordinary, run-of-the-mill "good" throws or "decent" throws don't qualify.

One of the few poor plays Smith had on the day was another potential wide receiver touchdown that vanished into the night (no doubt laughing fiendishly to itself). DeAnthony Thomas got great separation on the left sideline, and Alex JUST missed him.

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As you can see, the ball actually grazes DAT's fingertips. You really can't get much closer to a completion without actually having one.

In case you're wondering; yes, that qualifies as an "inaccurate pass." I've been a pretty strict grader throughout this process, and an accurate throw (not a "good" one, just a decent one) results in a completion and probably a touchdown.

Overall, though, Smith played a very, very good game. The presence of Albert Wilson and Jason Avant (as opposed to A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, and Frankie Hammond Jr.) was definitely helpful.

One more game.

Week 16: at Pittsburgh (53 dropbacks, one lacerated spleen)

Missed Shots- 3

Happy Feet- 4

Potential Picks- 0

Drops- 2 (9 yards lost, conservatively)

Saves- 1

Nice Throw- 2

Flushes- 7

Inaccurate Passes- 5

INT's Not on QB- 0

This is an interesting game to re-watch, knowing what we now know about Alex Smith's lacerated spleen. Hindsight is always 20/20, but watching it now it should have been obvious something was wrong. Smith was walking around gingerly and didn't have as much on intermediate-to-deep passes as he usually has (not that his arm is normally a cannon, or even close. But you could see a difference in ball velocity on a lot of throws).

Other than that, this game was notable in that more shots down the field were being taken prior to Smith getting hurt (and even a little afterward). It wasn't consistent, but then, the line was getting Smith hammered in the second half. Enough that watching it knowing he was hurt made me wince.

All right, we've gone through 15 games and about a zillion throws. Time to do some math and draw some conclusions.

Alex Smith's 2014 Conclusions

I don't intend on this section being all that long. The goal of this entire article (or is it a "volume" at this point?) is to just present information as I observed it, and leave conclusions to you. However, there are a few conclusions I've drawn from watching every throw Alex Smith made this year, and I might as well share them. But first, some math. Here are the grand totals through 15 games of the unique stats I was tracking.

Missed Shots- 36 (2.4 per game)

Happy Feet- 30 (2 per game)

Potential Picks- 5 excluding offsides shots (.33 per game)

Drops- 35 (for a total of 350 yards lost in the most conservative estimate possible)

Saves- 28 (1.87 per game)

Nice Throw- 41 (2.73 per game)

Flushes- 72 (4.8 per game)

Inaccurate Passes- 59 (3.93 per game)

INT's Not on QB- 2 total

Those numbers may not mean a whole lot to you in a vacuum. In fact, it's kinda hard to say EXACTLY what they mean standing on their own.

However, the reason this all started was to take a look at bold statements both sides of the Alex Smith Wars are making. Things like "Smith is missing open receivers down the field constantly," or "Smith never had time in the pocket."

So... how do those statements hold up?

For starters, the idea that Smith NEVER had time to make throws is just plain false. Yes, getting "flushed" nearly five times a game is rough. However, that still leaves around 35 or so dropbacks a game where Smith wasn't getting flushed, where he had a chance to make a play. So let's just stop with the idea that the offensive line was the ONLY reason the offense struggled at times. Was it really bad in some games? Absolutely. But don't act as though Smith never had a chance. In fact, he had around 30 a game.

On the flip side of things, it's just wrong to say Smith NEVER made plays on his own or NEVER made truly exceptional throws. He did both multiple times per game. Yes, Smith is a game manager. But he absolutely made some fantastic plays this season, even when things were falling apart around him. In fact, many of Smith's best plays came when the rest of the offense was struggling. It's no more true that Smith never made plays than it is the offensive line never provided protection.

Also, drops ... kinda yucky, man. That's a lot of yards on the table. But I think we all know about WR issues on the Chiefs.

I've got a few general "film" observations, but first, as a bonus, I went ahead and reviewed Tony Romo on All-22. Why Tony Romo? Well, because outside a few diehards, everyone in the universe concedes he's a very good quarterback (particularly in the regular season). He's also known for being willing to take shots downfield and has a phenomenal o-line, as well as superior receivers to Smith. So it seemed a good "tough" comparison to make. Cam Newton was considered (more similar situation), but too many people still try and claim he isn't good. I didn't want to be accused of making this easy on Smith.

Here's how Romo's two games panned out. FWIW, the QB and games were selected by others, not me (lest accusations of bias or gaming the system emerge).

Here are the results of those games (note; the second NYG game was chosen, as it consisted of more pass attempts)

Missed Shots- 5 (2.5 per game)

Happy Feet- 0 (Romo is fantastic in the pocket)

Potential Picks- 7 (3.5 per game)

Drops- 3 (for a loss of 33 yards, conservatively)

Saves- 6 (3 per game)

Nice Throw- 7 (3.5 per game)

Flushes- 3 (1.5 per game)

Inaccurate Passes- 8 (4 per game)

I'm not looking to start a "Romo vs. Smith" debate. In my opinion, Romo is the better QB. That's not the point. The point was to discover whether there's any truth in the idea that Smith leaves guys open down the field more than other QBs. Based on this small sample size of a known gunslinger, he does not.

You see demonstrated two very different skillsets in Romo and Smith. Romo puts a lot more on the table with better pocket presence, more "nice throws", and more deep shots. Smith takes a lot less off the table by hardly ever creating opportunities for a defense (Romo throws a potential pick multiple times a game, Smith throws one once every three games or so).

Again, the point isn't Smith vs. Romo. The point is that we can add one more busted myth to our list. Let's list 'em all out to close this monster of a column, splitting them up into myths both "sides" have put forth...

Pro-Smith myths found to be untrue

1) Smith wasn't under duress nearly often enough to say he "never had protection." He absolutely did, plenty of times every game. More than enough to make plays.

2) Smith did at times struggle with inaccuracy, despite sticking with mostly shorter throws. He was a part of killing drives, in large part due to his tendency to miss when trying to put the ball away from a defender.

3) Smith definitely suffers from happy feet, and it ain't all on his OL. He gets twitchy and takes off instead of moving around the pocket with his eyes down the field. This is probably his biggest weakness as a QB, and it's time we stop saying it's not an issue (or that it's just his OL's fault).

Anti-Smith myths found to be untrue

1) The idea that Smith never made plays on his own and didn't make a number of very impressive throws is just wrong. Both happened, and both happened multiple times a game on average.

2) This whole "Smith left open receivers down the field a billion times a game" line of thought is a myth. Smith DID miss receivers down the field pretty much every game, but not at a rate any greater than a guy who loves to chuck it deep. It's a complete falsehood that he was doing it at some horrifying rate.

So what does all this mean? IS Smith a good quarterback? CAN he get it done in a non-perfect situation? Hey, you tell me. I'm just a guy who watched a dozen hours of throws and wrote about it, so I'm clearly a maniac whose opinion shouldn't be trusted. I just hope the time spent on this will help provide answers for those who wanted them. If not, well, you're not perfect either!

Go Chiefs. I'm gonna go take a three-day nap.