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Is Alex Smith’s Past Success a Result of Exceptional Talent Around Him?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Many Redskins fans will very quickly point to Alex Smith’s 2017 season when defending the move to trade for him and let Kirk Cousins walk as a free agent. I’m in the boat that Kirk didn’t want to be here any longer, no matter what we did, and Alex was the next best thing. But there are plenty that will argue, that because of Smith’s past success, specifically his 2017 season, he’s the better quarterback for Jay Gruden’s offense.

The Stats:

When it comes to judging quarterbacks, I prefer to use QBR.

QBR: QBR, or Total Quarterback Rating, is a proprietary statistic created to measure a quaterbacks effectiveness . It incorporates all of a quarterback’s contributions to winning, including how he impacts the game on passes, rushes, turnovers, and penalties. Since QBR is built from the play level, it accounts for a team’s level of success or failure on every play to provide the proper context, then allocates credit to the quarterback and his teammate to produce a clearer measure of quarterback efficiency.

Aside from QBR, I also take into account a quarterbacks completion percentage, yards per attempt, rating and W-L record to get a more accurate picture of how effective that QB was in a given year. I factor in things like personnel around him, injuries and games played to draw my clearest picture.

I usually do not factor in passing attempts or yards, as these can be incredibly misleading. I also tend to look at the most recent stats, because as we all know, this is a “what have you done for me lately” league.

Alex Smith’s 2017 season

QBR (min 12 games)

Alex Smith finished 6th in the NFL in QBR with a rating of 67.0.

Top 5:

Carson Wentz - 77.2

Case Keenum - 74.3

Tom Brady - 73.2

Dak Prescott - 69.5

Matt Ryan - 68.3

*If QBR is any indication to a team’s success (which I think it is), you can see that two of the top three players on this list were in the Super Bowl.

Completion percentage (min 12 games)

Alex Smith finished 3rd in the NFL in completion percentage at 67.5%.

Top 5:

Drew Brees - 72.0

Case Keenum - 67.6

Alex Smith - 67.5

Josh McCown - 67.3

Tom Brady - 66.3

Yards Per Attempt (min 12 games)

Alex Smith finished tied for 2nd in the NFL in YPA at 8.0.

Top 5:

Drew Brees - 8.1

Alex Smith - 8.0

Jared Goff - 8.0

Tom Brady - 7.9

Matthew Stafford - 7.9

Jameis Winston - 7.9

Philip Rivers - 7.9

Rating (min 12 games)

Alex Smith finished #1 in the NFL with a rating of 104.7.

Top 5:

Alex Smith - 104.7

Drew Brees - 103.9

Tom Brady - 102.8

Carson Wentz - 101.9

Jared Goff - 100.5

W/L (min 12 games)

Alex Smith went 9-6 on the season

Top 5:

Carson Wentz - 11-2

Tom Brady - 13-3

Ben Roethlisberger - 12-3

Case Keenum - 11-3

Jared Goff - 11-4

Smith’s 2017 Supporting Cast

Alex had some great weapons around him last season in Kansas City. Let’s take a look at just how good those weapons were.


Kareem Hunt: Hunt led the NFL in rushing with 1327 yards, and tied for fourth with 8 touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns.


Tyreek Hill: Hill was 7th in the NFL in yards last season with 1183, and finished with 7 receiving touchdowns.


Travis Kelce: Kelce led all tight ends with 83 receptions, and was second to only Rob Gronkowski in yards with 1038. His eight touchdowns were tied for second among all tight ends.

So as you can see, Alex Smith clearly had a supporting cast cast of excellent weapons at his disposal in Kansas City. Some may even say he had the best tandem of weapons in the league.

So, the question becomes, is it the quarterback who makes those players around him shine, or is it the players, who make the quarterback look that good?

In the case of Alex Smith, I believe it’s the latter.

During his first 12 seasons in the NFL, Alex Smith never had offensive weapons like he had in 2017. Consequently, his best QBR (min 12 games) before last year was a 58.4 (2015 - Kansas City). Prior to 2017, Smith had never thrown more than 25 touchdown in a season, and had never had a rating over 100 (min 12 games).

This season in Washington, Smith has been without a true play-maker at wide receiver, and a tight end who has been eased back into action after offseason toe surgery. The team’s best running back was lost in the preseason to a knee injury, forcing the staff to bring in Adrian Peterson off the street. Peterson has done exceptionally well given the situation, and is one of the top running backs in the league in rushing yards per game.

To make matters worse, Chris Thompson, the teams best overall weapon, has played in just five games due to multiple injuries, and he’s tallied a mere 322 total yards and one touchdown on the season.

Still, the Redskins are 5-3 and are currently first in the NFC East.

...So, are the Redskins 5-3 BECAUSE of Alex Smith, or are they 5-3 DESPITE of him?


How much of the Redskins early success can be attributed to Alex Smith?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Most of it - He’s a leader and a winner
    (43 votes)
  • 66%
    Some of it - He doesn’t turn the football over and he’s a good game manager
    (380 votes)
  • 26%
    None of it - The running game and defense have carried us in our wins
    (151 votes)
574 votes total Vote Now