In the history of the NFL, no position is more important than the Quarterback. In fact, since 1957 when the NFL MVP was first given out, QB’s have won 38 of the 58 total awards. Having an elite QB is certainly looked upon as a necessity to be successful in the NFL, but exactly how important it is may depend on how you view or rank the QB’s in the league.
Many NFL writers and experts predict which teams will compete for the Super Bowl simply by the quality of their QB’s. Alex Smith, who helped lead the 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl (although he did not play in the game), is generally not considered an elite QB. I wanted to take a look at the Super Bowl-winning QB’s since 2005, and compare how Alex Smith ranks in comparison to shed some light on whether Smith could potentially lead the Kansas City Chiefs to an NFL championship. I used 2005 as a cut-off since the league has changed to emphasize passing more since then.
First, I took a look at the QB’s who won the past 11 Super Bowls, looking at their season stats for passing yards, TD’s, completion percentage, and QB Rating, as well as where those numbers ranked in comparison to other QB’s during the season in which they won the Super Bowl (rankings are in parentheses). I also compiled an average for each of those statistics, and looked at the QB rating for the losing QB’s as well. The data are in the Table below (clicking on it will make it sharper):
One thing you will notice is that none of the past few Super Bowl winners ranked in the Top 10 for passing yards, which is partially an indication of the league becoming more geared towards passing. The range of TD’s thrown was between 18 and 45, and none of the QB’s led the NFL in that category. Completion percentage also seems less important than previous years and none of the past 4 Super Bowl winners were in the top 10 in that category. The average QB rating was 93.2, with an average ranking of 11. The range of rankings for QB ratings was from 1 to 32 thanks to Joe Flacco’s low rating in 2013. The losing Super Bowl QB’s tended to rank in the top 10 in QB rating as well, especially since 2009.
Just for the fun of it, I took a look at each winning QB’s defense to see if that helped them win the Super Bowl. Their teams gave up an average of 18.9 points per game, with 6 of the teams ranking in the top 10 in that category, including 5 teams in the top 5.
Second, I compared Alex Smith’s career numbers and recent seasons to see how he compares with those averages. When it comes to passing yards, Smith has a career average of 2317 yards in his 9 seasons. It should be noted that he has only played at least 15 games in 4 of those seasons, leading to a diluted average number of passing yards. For the Chiefs, Smith has played 15 games in each season, with an average of 3289 yards per season, which is roughly 700 yards less than the average Super Bowl-winning QB.
For TD’s, Smith has thrown 122 in his career, good for an average of 13.6 per season. Again, considering the lack of complete seasons in his career, it is useful to examine his numbers in KC. Smith has thrown 41 TD’s the past two seasons, good for an average of 20.5, which is about 7 TD’s fewer than Super Bowl-winning QBs.
For completion percent, Smith has averaged 60.4 in his career and about 63.0 for KC. This matches up well with Super Bowl-winning QB’s, who average 63.4 in their championship seasons.
Finally, for QB Rating, Smith has averaged 82.8 in his career and 91.3 for KC. Super Bowl-winning QB’s average a rating of 93.2, and Smith is clearly in that range. In fact, if you throw in Smith’s 2012 season, in which he only played 10 games but garnered a rating of 104.1, Smith would have an average rating of 95.5, which would give him a better rating than 6 Super Bowl winning QB’s and 8 QB’s who lost the Super Bowl. While QB rating is not a perfect measure of a QB, one could argue that Smith can and should be considered among the upper echelon of NFL QB’s based on his rating the past 3 seasons.
For all things considered, Smith has played with a poor offensive line in his two years in KC, and had no elite wide receivers. With a revamped offensive line for 2015 and an elite wide receiver (Jeremy Maclin) that Smith can now throw to, it is very likely that Smith can set career highs in passing yards, TD’s and QB rating, all while leading the KC Chiefs to their first playoff victory in 20 years and possibly even take them all the way to Super Bowl 50, which will be held Feb. 7th in the San Francisco 49ers stadium. That would make for a remarkable homecoming for Smith.
Additionally, it appears that not only having an elite QB, but having a decent defense is important for a team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. The Chiefs certainly have that since they were #2 in the NFL in 2014 and #5 in the NFL in 2013 in scoring defense. It is my opinion that Smith can lead the KC Chiefs to a Super Bowl, whether in 2016 or beyond, based on his proximity to the averages of Super Bowl-winning QB’s in pass yards, TD’s, completion percent and QB rating, as well as having an elite defense.
What do you think? Can Smith lead KC to a Super Bowl? Go Chiefs!