It’s decreasingly productive to have continuous discussions about Alex Smith and his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs. That era is over, Patrick Mahomes is here and the Chiefs are entering the future. However, Smith posted numbers last season that may give us an indication of what’s to come in the Mahomes era with Andy Reid at the helm.
Smith hasn’t ever been known as a risk-taking passer. He checks the ball down and often tries to avoid jamming throws into tight windows. Obviously, there are pros and cons to that. In 2017 though, which was unarguably his best season, we saw a version of Smith that found a ton of success pushing the ball downfield.
Take a look at this chart from Pro Football Focus:
From 2007-2016, Smith’s deep-ball passer rating was 83.5, or 14th out of 21 quarterbacks PFF looked at. But in 2017? His 131.4 passer rating on deep balls was the best in the NFL, a marked 31.3 point improvement from the previous decade of data.
What can we glean from this information? First of all, Alex Smith is capable to making plays down the field (why coaches won’t let him or why he refuses to is another discussion). More importantly, it gives us a look at what we can expect from next season’s Kansas City offense.
We already know the team is planning to throw the ball all over the field next season. It’s why the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins, among other things. It’s what Mahomes is built to do well.
Last season, Smith was in the top 10 of deep passes thrown per PFF’s numbers. If Reid was willing to throw the ball deep that much with “Captain Checkdown,” imagine how often we’ll see a strong-armed, risk-taking quarterback throwing deep.
Matt Nagy is out and former running backs coach Eric Bieniemy is in for the Chiefs as offensive coordinator this year. Obviously, that’s going to lead to some changes. But this is still Reid’s team and Reid’s offense, first and foremost. His general tendencies and plans will take precedent, as they should. We saw what he did with Smith as his quarterback for five years (and it was a net positive undoubtedly).
With Mahomes and the pieces around him, the expectation see be a top-five deep-ball passer rating going forward. If Smith could do it, Mahomes should as well.