If the 49ers honor his request and put him on the market, Alex Smith will likely be the most sought after QB this free agent season. Let’s take a look at his career.
Prior to being drafted into the NFL, Smith was the leader of the Utah Utes. He was able to lead them to a Fiesta Bowl victory and a top five rating in college football. He was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the year.
In 2003 and 2004 Smith completed more than 65% of his passes. His 47 TDs and 8 INTs put him at the top of college quarterbacks. Even though these stats were great in 2004, they pale in comparison to the quarterbacks coming out of college these days. Geno Smith, for example, had 73 TDs and 13 INTs in his final two years at West Virginia.
Alex Smith was the #1 pick in the 2005 draft. Through his first six seasons in San Francisco, he worked with six different offensive coordinators. Smith also struggled with injuries during this time. 2011 was definitely his best season as he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the New York Giants.
Since 2011 was his best year, let’s look at those stats. 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a 61.3% Completion rate. A good comparison would be to look at Matt Cassel‘s best year. In 2010 Cassel threw 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and had a 58.2% Completion rate. Cassel QB rating that season was a career best 93. In the other three seasons with the Chiefs, his rating has been in the 60s and 70s.
Smith’s quarterback rating was extremely low his first three years (40.8, 74.8, 57.2). This is normal when a good player goes to a very bad team and they are rebuilding. His last four years have been in the 80s and 90s, with 2012 being his best at 104.1, and that’s when he got benched!
Another good statistic to look at with any quarterback is how they protect the ball. In the last four years Cassel has turned the ball over 21, 9, 13 and 18 times by fumbles or interceptions. Smith has turned the ball over 15, 14, 10, and 8 times. What I really like about this statistic for Smith is that each year his number have improved. The same cannot be said for Cassel.
It’s tough to know how much of Smith’s improvement is on him and how much is the better play, talent and coaching of those around him. It would be easy to look at these stats and say that Cassel is at least in the same “league” as Smith. Whether or not Smith is a “prized” free agent or not will remain to be seen though it seems likely if the 49ers let him out of his contract. The numbers certainly make him out to be an upgrade over Cassel and Quinn. But regardless of the outcome, fans of the Chiefs simply cannot handle another year of dreadful quarterback play.