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How Chiefs QB Alex Smith performs in wins vs. losses

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

No quarterback in today’s game is as good (good?) as KC Chiefs QB Alex Smith at throwing fewer than 200 yards in a game.

Fun, right?

So, does it matter? Do Alex Smith’s passing yards matter? What are they in wins vs. losses? If they don’t matter, then what the heck does matter? What is life?

Correlation is key

We’ve done this before, but let’s do it again. We’re going to look and see if there is any correlation between passing yards and winning a football game. I’ve grabbed passing stats from the 2011 to the 2016 seasons and I’ve run them through a correlation coefficient calculator. You can visit the site I use here: Have fun NERDS.

A correlation coefficient is typically between -1 and 1. The closer the number is to zero, then the less effect one item has on another. The closer the number is to -1, then one item has a negative effect on another. Same concept goes for positive 1.

The correlation between passing yards and winning football games is 0.069422 — Which means it’s safe to say there is very little or perhaps no correlation between passing yards and winning football games.

So this whole time we’ve been fighting about Alex Smith’s passing yards totals, we’ve been wrong. It doesn’t friggin matter!?!?

It’s like arguing politics on Facebook, you weren’t getting anywhere anyway. It might be even worse than arguing politics on Facebook.

So ... what does matter?

I went through a number of other passing stats and calculated the correlation coefficients as they relate to winning football games.

Stat Correlation
Stat Correlation
QB Rating 0.48293
Yards per Attempt 0.368628
INTs -0.343167
Completion% 0.328502
Passing TDs 0.278884

The most important QB stat in terms of wins and losses is QB rating. Yards per attempt, interceptions, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns are all important stats towards winning, but QB rating takes the cake.

Let’s see how Alex Smith does in these categories.

(Minimum 400 attempts per season, active players only)

Alex Smith 2013-2016 Rankings

Stat NFL Rank
Stat NFL Rank
QB Rating 12th (92.2)
Yards per Attempt 26th (7.03)
Interceptions 2nd
Completion% 10th (64.53)
Passing TDs 20th

The interception and touchdown rankings were a little tricky to calculate, take them with a grain of salt. As you can see, the low yards per attempt hurts while the QB rating and interception numbers are strong.

Alex Smith in wins vs losses

I took it one step further and calculated these stats for Alex Smith in wins vs. losses since coming to Kansas City.

Stat Wins Losses
Stat Wins Losses
QB Rating 99.7 79.6
Yards Per Attempt 7.44 6.61
Interceptions (per game) 0.32 0.75
Completion% 67.6 60.5
Touchdowns (per game) 1.37 1.00

Alex Smith averages 240 yards passing in losses, and 214 yards passing in wins. Goes further to show how passing yards don’t really matter in terms of winning and losing.

Looking at the variations between Smiths winning stats and losing stats made me think he could possibly be an inconsistent player. However, the average QB rating for the losing team in the NFL from 2013 to 2016 is 78.1. He was slightly higher in losses.

Summing it up

We can (but won’t) quit complaining about Alex Smith’s passing yards.

When it comes to winning, what really matters most is QB rating and/or QB efficiency. Alex Smith has been an above average QB in Kansas City in terms of efficiency, so he deserves a lot of credit for the team’s success.

Somehow I don’t think we’ll remember this information the next time he throws for 178 yards.

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