A look back at the Chiefs quarterback position from the 2014 regular season.
2014 ROSTER: Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray
INJURED RESERVE: Tyler Bray (ankle)
2015 FREE AGENTS: None
Alex Smith continued his steady, if unspectacular, play in 2014. His 3,265 passing yards ranked 20th among starting quarterbacks and his 18 touchdowns ranked 19th. However, his six interceptions were the second-fewest and his 93.4 quarterback rating for the season ranked 13th.
The narrative of Smith as a “risk-averse game manager” seems to bear itself out in his passing statistics.
Many of Smith’s passes came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, including more than 80 percent of his completions and more than 69 percent of his passing yards. Smith completed 3-of-18 passes in attempts thrown deeper than 20 yards for 114 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
To add to the idea of Smith as a game manager, his play was significantly better when the team was ahead. Smith’s completion percentage was five points higher, his yards per completion were nearly a yard higher and he threw 11 touchdowns compared to one interception while the Chiefs were leading. When trailing, Smith’s touchdown-to-interception ratio was 6:5 and his percentage of sacks taken skyrockets while his quarterback rating plummets nearly 30 points.
To sum it up, Smith is considerably better at protecting a lead and seems much more comfortable in that situation. But when the team begins to trail and Smith is forced to create plays, he begins to falter. That said, those numbers are skewed by the team’s struggles at offensive line and wide receiver.
Chase Daniel threw just 28 passes last season, but won his lone start against the San Diego Chargers in Week 17 with Smith out for a lacerated spleen. While Daniel has shown himself to be a capable backup, his future is in question because of his salary.
Murray, the team’s fifth-round pick, didn’t see any action in 2014, but figures to compete for the backup position next season.
Much of the improvement from the quarterback position in 2015 will likely rely on improving the rest of the roster.
While Smith struggled throwing the ball down the field, it’s hard to blame him entirely when considering the struggles of the Chiefs offensive line and receiving corps this season.
Look for the team to address both problem spots during the offseason, giving Smith the pieces to help him improve. That said, Smith must improve his play in late-game situations and when the team is trailing.
It’s unclear how the team will proceed with the backup situation, but Smith has started 16 regular-season games in a season during his career just twice, something the front office may want to consider when deciding on Smith’s primary backup.
[Editor’s note: The original published version indicated Smith hasn’t started all 16 games in his career. The sentence is adjusted to reflect the correct amount of times he has started all 16 games in a season, which is twice (2006 and 2011 while with the San Francisco 49ers)].
ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Smith will return as the starter and Murray will be back on the roster in 2015. Beyond that, the situation is unclear.
Daniel has looked solid in his two starts in Kansas City, but his salary may keep him from returning. Daniel has a $4.8 million cap number for 2015, and the team can save $3.8 million against the cap by cutting him. With a weak free-agent quarterback class, Daniel may want an opportunity to compete for a starting job.
Bray, originally an undrafted free agent, will likely be given a chance to win a spot on the roster. The team, however, has little money invested in him. And while he has shown flashes in limited preseason action, if Bray falters or suffers another injury, don’t be surprised to see the team look elsewhere for a third quarterback.