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Alex Smith and Chase Daniel: A comparison

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes I wonder about our collective sanity.

Usually it's pretty easy to justify just how insane we are about this game. Everyone needs a hobby, we just like sports, there's no harm, etc ... However, every now and then I get a question that makes me wonder if we're not spending just a LITTLE too much time on this stuff.

For example, after dropping an 8,000-word novel on Alex Smith last week, I felt as though I'd said everything. All the angles had been covered, all the made-up stats had been discussed. We could put the quarterback discussion (at least as far as film review goes) to bed.

Then someone asked me why I didn't compare him to Chase Daniel against the Chargers in Week 17. And the insanity began all over again. Am I REALLY going to take the time to break down the snaps of a backup who may not even be in a Chiefs' uniform next season, just for the sake of completing the picture? Are we seriously so nuts that we care enough to be that detail-driven?

The answer, of course, is yes. And so another hour was spent staring at All-22 film, this time Chase Daniel against the Chargers. There's a slightly different tone to this article, though, as the sole reason to study Chase is to compare him to the oft-debated Alex Smith. And compare we shall.

Additionally, it's come to my attention that the monster Smith article lacked one thing; my opinion. This cannot stand. So a bonus in the conclusions here will be some opinion (again, opinion. As in, my subjective thoughts based on the film I've watched) on Smith as a quarterback overall, and how far the Chiefs can go with him.

But first, let's look at the "stats" (see the Smith novel for a brief explanation of these stats) Chase accrued during the Chargers game.

Missed Shots Happy Feet Potential INTs Drops Saves Nice Throw Flush Inaccurate Pass
4 4 2 3 (25 yards) 0 1 2 8

First, I'd like to point out that I've now mastered the art of making a table. I am now officially only 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. Score! (H/T to AP user John Dixon for making it so easy even I could do it. I like you, John. I don't care what everyone else says about you.)

All right, so we've got Daniel's stats from the Chargers game. For the sake of comparison, here is the same table with Alex Smith's "average per game" for the same stats.

Missed Shots Happy Feet Potential INTs Drops Saves Nice Throw Flush Inaccurate Pass
2.4 2 0.33 2.33 1.87 2.73 4.8 3.93

Now, you have to take into consideration the fact that Smith's "stats" are an average over time, so this isn't an exact science. But it's useful to discuss various narratives that were pushed after Chase's sole start of the season. But we'll return to that point later. First, we'll discuss Chase's stats as they compare to the "average" Alex Smith game.

The most obvious difference in Daniel and Smith that's reflected in the stats is their accuracy. While Smith occasionally struggles with his ball placement, he's significantly more accurate than Chase based on these samples, with half the "inaccurate pass" stats of Chase. Chase sails more passes and puts more passes into the dirt than Smith does, and it's not particularly close. You'd have to take Smith's very worst game of 2014 to find a game he had as many inaccurate passes as Chase did against San Diego.

I could go in-depth about the other differences, but the numbers are there and accurately represent what was observed via All-22 review. Simply put (and remember, Chase has a small sample size here), Smith is better at every aspect of the game than Chase. On average he misses fewer shots down the field (not a typo), doesn't get happy feet as often (or as quickly, if you're interested), throws fewer potential picks, saves more plays, has more nice throws, and is much more accurate.

Keep in mind that's over a selection of games in which Smith was (on average) significantly more pressured than Chase was against San Diego.

That said, what did Chase's game against San Diego LOOK like? Well, he did have a nice throw to Travis Kelce on an out route to the left. And Chase is very mobile, using it well and decisively. That's both a good and a bad thing. He doesn't hesitate to take off and so is usually able to get SOME positive yardage. On the minus side, that means he occasionally takes off when he should make a throw instead. The below plays is an example of that.


This is one of the packaged plays we saw so many times. Chase correctly reads the defender crashing hard on Jamaal Charles (which almost any defender is going to do, because Jamaal Charles). He then instantly takes off and scampers for a seven yard gain. Not a bad play at all.

However, Chase's decisiveness leads him to miss the fact that Travis Kelce is going to be in a one-on-one situation against a defender if his blockers don't screw up (which they didn't). On the flip side of that, Chase has a one-on-one situation against a safety. If I'm a quarterback I'm taking Kelce every time in that situation.

This highlights one thing I saw with Chase that was rare with Smith; poor reads. I didn't create that stat with the Smith column, but it was rare to see Smith tuck and run with a superior option available (when he didn't have a "happy feet" situation), or make a throw to a covered receiver when there was a better option available. The same thing happened on a short pass (which was a pretty nice pass into a tight space) where Dwayne Bowe got blown up.


Some people were thrilled that a Chiefs quarterback made a throw into tight quarters, which is understandable. Smith's inability (or unwillingness) to do so was a problem in 2014 and resulted in some dead drives. So it's easy to see why people were happy to see a throw like this.

The problem is throwing the ball into a tight space where a receiver is absolutely going to take a shot should only be done when there's not another option. And on this play, Albert Wilson had considerably more space to work with and would have gained more yards without getting smacked. Can Bowe take a shot? Sure. Is it worth the potential incompletion / fumble / injury when there's a better option readily available? Maybe not.

Again, Chase is a perfectly solid backup. His decisiveness can help the offense. But it can also hurt it when that instant decision he makes is wrong. This happened throughout the game, as Chase generally made a decision immediately where to throw or whether to run, regardless of the protection available.

And as far as the myth that Chase would be more aggressive pushing the ball down the field, well, the number of "missed shots" contradicts this theory. On the very first drive of the game this happened.


A missed shot is a missed shot, regardless of the quarterback who does it. It's an absolute myth that Chase was any more effective stretching the field than Alex Smith was the majority of games. Chase took some shots, but they were all poor throws except one "OK" throw to De'Anthony Thomas (in which Thomas had to slow down and make a fantastic adjustment). Badly missed deep passes aren't scaring anyone, guys.

"What's your point, MN?"

Glad you asked, random citizen.

There are a few reasons to do this.

First is for completing the record. We've got what HisDirkness so eloquently called "The Alex Smith Bible" to look at and try and come to some conclusions about Smith. In that, he was compared to a few games by Tony Romo for the sake of having a base to look at. However, it was a mistake on my part to not include a game by the backup quarterback in the same system. Now we're looking at more complete data.

Second, the simple fact is there is a (small?) contingent of people here and on Twitter / Facebook (Facebook comments are WILD. It's your Facebook account, people. That's public stuff!) who insist Chase is able to run the Chiefs offense as well as Smith. They point to the San Diego game as proof. And they're wrong. They just are. Chase is a decent backup with limitations to his game. Smith is a decent starter with limitations to his game. Very different animals.

Chase is a decent backup with limitations to his game. Smith is a decent starter with limitations to his game. Very different animals.

Finally, the whole "opinion" part of Alex Smith. Based on all the tape, all the time, all the arguments (believe it or not, arguments people make for an against Smith have swayed me, as both sides make good points) that have sucked enough time and energy out of my life to qualify as one of my kids, I've come to the following conclusion. Get ready, here it comes...

Alex Smith is a solid NFL quarterback with an unusual set of strengths and weaknesses. His strengths allow him to be an exceptional game manager (a highly misused term) who will make occasional plays when the system falters, but his weaknesses mean he's not a guy who will carry a weak offense. I'd put him in the same tier as some QBs that have a higher ceiling and lower floor (like a Joe Flacco), but he's so different from those QBs in his strengths / weaknesses that the comparison will always seem off.

And that paragraph is why people will never, ever stop fighting about him. He's unique. And his uniqueness isn't always a GOOD uniqueness. I'm OK with him as the Chiefs quarterback, but not thrilled with him as the Chiefs quarterback.

So there's a subjective opinion on Smith. I'm quite certain many will disagree. But at least now we have completed the record on him. I absolutely would have been bothered all offseason if the information on Chase wasn't accounted for. I have all the issues.

I look forward to the comments. Let me grab a helmet first, though. I have a feeling I might need it.