KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The numbers say Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith ranks as not just the fastest gun in the AFC West, but the fastest quarterback in the league according to the high-tech statistics of the NFL, and that happens by design.
“Nothing good in this league happens holding on to the football,” co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “Nothing.”
The Chiefs place a premium on getting ready of the football quickly, a founding principle of the West Coast offense run by coach Andy Reid. Quick passes and unpredictability ideally opens up both running and passing lanes, but so far this season those opportunities continuing eluding the team’s offense.
“That’s always been a part of this offensive,” Reid said. “You come back, you make your decision and balls out. There’s an emphasis put on that.”
Smith ranks as the fastest starting quarterback in the league this season in average time to throw, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. His time of 2.38 seconds from the moment of the snap to the ball leaving his hand ranks No. 2 overall among ranked passers – backup Nick Foles leads the league at 2.36 seconds in limited duty.
Getting rid of the ball quickly should yield fewer sacks, yet the Chiefs rank tied for 15th with 22 sacks allowed. The short-passing game continues to produce a high completion rate – Smith’s 67.2 percent rate stands the second-highest in his career.
While most of Kansas City’s offensive numbers differ very little from a year ago, on difference stands out. The team’s average scoring output sits at 22.2 points per game, down from 25.3 a year ago. That field goal difference alone accounts for Sunday’s 19-17 loss to Tampa Bay.
Smith may be the fastest thrower in the league, but in another advanced quarterback he ranks at the bottom. In air distance – measuring the distance the ball travels from release to reception – Smith ranks last among qualified passers with an average of 18.39 yards.
Quarterbacks can throw the ball quickly as well as deep with success. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees ranks just hundredths of a second behind Smith in time to throw, but ranks 14 spots ahead of Smith in air distance.
Childress believes Smith possesses the requisite skills to throw the ball quickly while maintaining a down the field presence.
“I think that you have to be a good decision maker,” Childress said. “You have to be able to read your pre-snap clues. Obviously you have to process it during the drop, then when you get to the back of the drop.”
He pointed to two big-play examples from Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay.
“A couple of those throws, like (Travis) Kelce’s throw and Tyreek (Hill)’s catch, those are five hitch, ball out,” Childress said. “Process it, and get the ball out.”
At a time when the Chiefs offense continues struggling, the Denver Broncos pose perhaps the team’s toughest test yet. The Broncos rank fifth in the league with 29 sacks and rank top five in both yards per game and yards per play.
That means don’t expect the Chiefs to get away from their throw-first, throw-fast philosophy Sunday night, Childress said.
“You don’t see guys back there hitching three, four or five times that are usually existing for very long, particularly against this type of team,” Childress said. “If you don’t get back there, hitch it once and throw it or at the most hitch it twice and throw it, they’re usually going down.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.