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Why Geno Smith is protecting the ball better than you think

Interceptions plus sacks plus fumbles equals...Geno’s elite?

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We here at Field Gulls are divided on our opinion of Geno Smith. We’ve noticed you are, too.

But here’s a fun one: we can now all agree that he is not a reckless endanger-er of the football. One who endangers? He has not committed reckless endangerment. With the football.

Check it out:

Oh, the discourse. Let’s walk this out with a few simple steps.

STEP 1: Throw Kyler Murray right outta there. Man’s played a solid 1/9th of most the QBs up here. Geno Smith is #5 on this list.

STEP 2: Remember that PFF’s favorite thing to do is cite Smith’s over 4% turnover-worthy play (note: It’s 3.6% right now). It’s the thing they bring up in nearly every weekly review. Remember it and laugh.

STEP 3: Acknowledge that indeed, Smith is in the top-half of the league in interception-worthy plays on balls thrown. That’s a big difference from how PFF frames it. By my count, he’s 10th. I took only the quarterbacks with over 100 drop backs, and he sits a tick behind Josh Allen and a galaxy behind Will Levis or Mac Jones.

STEP 4: Wonder whether Geno’s ability to execute game-winning drives and complete 40+ yard throws to DK Metcalf is worth an interception worthy rate of 4.7%, in between Justin Herbert and Josh Allen. Then notice how far those guys like to throw the ball as well and go, “hmm.”

STEP 5: Skip over the sack rate for a moment and feast yore eyes on the 0.8% fumble number (just two fumbles all season). Only three quarterbacks have littler fumble propensity - Matt Stafford, Dak Prescott, and Kenny Pickett. Levis hasn’t fumbled yet, but he’s at a third of the plays.

STEP 6: Admire the elite ball-skills, but admittedly remember that Smith had 8 fumbles last year, and has done so in two other seasons. Perhaps there is some randomness here, but in any case he’s certainly not the one-armed waving daredevil lunatic that Lamar Jackson is.

STEP 7a: Back to the sack rate we go. In the comments of the post above, it is clarified that this charts sacks which are deemed the quarterback’s fault. By that metric...

STEP 7b: Only two quarterbacks in the NFL have a better sack rate than Geno Smith. The almighty forces of Mac Jones and Gardner Minshew the II. They both have 300+ dropbacks, so it’s not sample size. Are they elite? I mean...no. So they’re just getting rid of the ball or never attempting much deep.

STEP 8: Who cares about those guys get back to focusing on Geno!

Up high is good. That’s getting sacked less. To the right is how long the quarterback still has the ball after “pressure,” meaning somebody got up in his business and he had to move. Smith’s footwork in the pocket has been a noticeable improvement over last year, and to say it’s unparalleled would be a stretch, but it might be close. He’s in the vicinity of Patrick Mahomes Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield at being hard to bring down, but also seems to have a slightly wiser awareness of time to throw. Thus, the distinctly better sack rate we have before us.

STEP 9: Celebrate!

And I’m serious.

I’m one of the people who didn’t think Geno had the HIM / he’s back / hang the banner game last week that some people did, but I am absolutely not one of the people who thinks Geno should be benched. I have far more problem with why either he or the receiver are not doing the correct play than the 4.7% interception-worthy throws.

But this chart sorta flips the narrative that he’s reckless, careless, overtly risk-oriented, etc. It’s staggeringly untrue. Interceptions have the most to do with decision-making, sure. But sacks do as well, and fumbles to a degree. Furthermore, those elements of the game have to do with specific footwork skill and a fluid knowledge of where to go when things fall apart. You think Drew Lock’s better at that?

Obviously this list doesn’t perfectly sort itself out in order of the best quarterbacks of the NFL. But if Pete Carroll’s looking for a QB who takes care of the ball, he’s got one. If anything, it does feel pretty fair to consider the left side of the table as trustworthy and the right side of the table as a liability. On occasion, the reward outweighs the risk, which is why guys like Anthony Richardson are top draft picks.

Geno Smith can make the big plays, and he’s not putting his team in impossible situations. Perhaps we should watch more Raiders or Falcons games for some perspective.