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Is More Passing Bad? Alex Smith, Andy Reid, and the KC Chiefs


Is More Passing Bad for Alex Smith?

Now that pass-happy Andy Reid is coaching the Chiefs, it’s been suggested that more passing is NOT what Alex Smith’s doctor ordered. The theory is that Andy Reid wants to have a pass heavy offense. Alex Smith is best as a “game manager”, and that if called upon to pass more often, he’ll fail, and take the Chiefs down with him.

Time to poke some holes in that theory.

At a glance, the theory seems to have some merit. Smith’s record in games in which he passes a lot is, well, pretty atrocious. But did the 49ers lose because he passed a lot, or was he passing a lot because they were losing? Hmmm. This would probably be a good time to mention that I don’t really care if Smith and/or the Chiefs win a lot of games. My concern is fantasy football. But even so, I think it’s just too easy to say “he loses when he passes a lot, therefore, he’s not a good QB for Andy Reid’s offense.”

Let’s start with a refresher. Earlier this month I explained how Smith could score 20 points/game (6 pt. TD passing). I simply hypothesized some likely passing attempt/game scenarios, and plugged in various values for Smith’s adjusted yards/attempt (AYA), based on his long, medium, and short term history.

The assumption in that process was that his efficiency wouldn’t be harmed by an increase in attempts. If his efficiency (e.g. yards/attempt) declines as attempts increase, he could tread water statistically. That is, the higher attempts wouldn’t result in more yards or TDs.

Nothing to See Here

Fear not, he’s safe. This chart plots Smith’s yards/attempt (YPA) for every game of his career. Attempts/game is on the X axis; YPA on the Y axis. The trend line shows a slight increase as attempts/game rise.


This chart plots the AYA for every game of Smith’s career. AYA attempts to control for interceptions. See the trend line? It’s essentially flat, which means that, as his attempts increased, his efficiency (AYA) held steady.



Attempts per game are on the X axis, AYA on the Y axis. And yes, he did once have a game with negative AYA. The main point, however, is that his efficiency holds steady. Finally, this chart plots Smith’s fantasy points/attempt.


Once again, the trend line holds steady. Smith certainly has more high fantasy point/attempt games in his usual attempt range of 20-30. But he also has more low fantasy point/attempt games in that range.

Finally, consider this. From a fantasy perspective, we’ll take the points however we can get them. While discussing this article, Shawn Siegele made a great point: “more passing” becomes a self-fulfilling game plan. If it works, the team will do it again. But if it doesn’t work, the team will be losing games, which means they will have to pass more often in an attempt to catch up.

What Does It All Mean?

If you’re worried about Smith’s production, or the Chiefs’ offense somehow struggling if Andy Reid goes all, well, Andy Reid, fear not. Alex Smith can still be a QB that you build your strategy around. And he’s available for next to nothing in most draft formats.

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