Alex Smith

Role reversal? Alex Smith currently more of a gunslinger than Derek Carr

smith-carr-ap.jpg
AP

Role reversal? Alex Smith currently more of a gunslinger than Derek Carr

OAKLAND -- Derek Carr is going through a rough patch. The beloved Raiders quarterback is being criticized for his part in this prolonged losing skid, a rarity since his rookie year.

Carr is supposedly playing it safe, getting rid of the ball quick, throwing short and avoiding potentially risky deep shots downfield.

That doesn’t sound like someone who wears No. 4 as homage to Brett Favre. Alex Smith comes to mind instead.

The Kansas City signal caller is notoriously known as a game manager, a cautious leader who rarely lets it rip.

Not this year. The former 49ers No. 1 overall pick is killing it in K.C., with career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. The early MVP candidate has 12 touchdowns and no picks despite the fact he’s throwing deep more than ever.

Now that sounds like the Derek Carr we knew last year.

These quarterbacks seem to have reversed roles heading into Thursday’s clash between AFC West rivals. The Raiders are 2-4 and in desperate need of win against the AFC West-leading Chiefs.

Smith and Carr can be truly dynamic downfield. Only one guy’s found that rhythm lately.

That’s crystal clear when examining their deep throws.

Nobody’s better going yard this year than Smith, per analytics site Pro Football Focus – wrap your head around that – who is 13-of-23 for 526 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions on throws beyond 20 yards in the air. Carr is 17th, completing 3-of-10 deep shots – no starter has fewer attempts -- for 109 yards, three touchdowns and a pick.

Last year, Carr ranked fifth in passes over 20 yards in the air, again, using PFF stats, with a 46-percent completion rate, 858 yards and a 117.6 passer rating. Smith was 20th in that category, completing less than a third of his attempt with a 72.8 passer rating.

The Raiders certainly want to push the ball downfield more. Carr has but four explosive plays in nearly three games of the Raiders’ four game losing streak – he missed the Baltimore loss with a fractured in his back – and hasn’t worked short passes consistently enough to score often.

“We definitely want to be able to (create explosive plays),” Carr said. “Now does that mean we’re going to do anything differently or trying to force things? Absolutely not. That’s where you get in trouble. That’s something that I’ve learned in my career. You can’t force it. You just have to work hard and let it happen.”

Some think Smith is letting it fly with a stoked competitive fire because the Chiefs traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid believes a strong supporting cast led by Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and rookie running back Kareem Hunt allows him to do big things Carr typically does.

There is, however, one constant heading into Thursday’s matchup. Smith has owned the Raiders. The Chiefs have had Carr’s number.

Smith is 9-1 against Oakland. Carr’s 1-5 against K.C.

Smith has 8.3 yards per attempt, 19 touchdowns and just four picks against the Raiders. Carr averages 4.92 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and five interceptions versus the Chiefs.

“These are big games in the division,” Smith said. “You know they’re going to be four quarters. You know they’re going to come down to the end. You just try to go out there every single play and execute. They’re all hard fought and have been close.”

Carr knows Kansas City stands in the way of his ultimate goals. This year, he has to get past them to get the Raiders back on track. That won’t be easy.

“They do a good job of rushing the passer. They do a good job of stopping the run. They do a good job on the coverage end,” Carr said. “They’re sound. They’re really well-coached. (Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton) is a great coach. All the respect for him. So much respect that he even texted me when I got hurt last year. He’s just a good dude. But this week I don’t like him too much. He does a really good job of making sure everyone is locked in. They’re really smart. They’re really smart players. They don’t do a lot so they can see route concepts. They can visualize things and get used to seeing those kind of things.”

Scot McCloughan discusses Smith over Rodgers, 49ers QB situation

smith-alex-jersey-2005-draft.jpg
AP

Scot McCloughan discusses Smith over Rodgers, 49ers QB situation

When coach Mike Nolan and personnel chief Scot McCloughan inherited a two-win team more than a decade ago, their first act together was to draft a player they envisioned as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future.

The 49ers under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took a different approach this offseason. They determined it was best to bring in a bridge quarterback, improve the roster at other positions and push back their hunt for their franchise signal-caller until the second year.

That’s how the 49ers ended up with Alex Smith in 2005 and Brian Hoyer in 2017.

McCloughan, this week’s guest on The 49ers Insider Podcast, spoke about Alex Smith’s steady and consistent rise to being a standout NFL starter and the decision long ago to select him with the No. 1 overall pick – 23 spots ahead of Aaron Rodgers.

“It was partly my fault, if I could’ve traded back two or three spots, which I was trying to do, but no one would come up, I would’ve taken Aaron at three or four, hands down,” McCloughan said.

Instead, Rodgers was still available when it was the Green Bay Packers’ turn to select at No. 24. Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson called McCloughan, who previously worked with Thompson in the personnel departments of the Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

“They’re on the clock,” McCloughan said. “And he’s like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And I was like, ‘Ted, the guy is a really good football player.’ He said, ‘What do you think?’ I told him, ‘If I were in your spot, I’d take him at three or four, and they’re sitting at where they were.”

McCloughan selected Smith with the belief he was not a quick-fix answer. Shortly after drafting Smith, who had yet to turn 21, McCloughan stated that Smith would not begin to hit his peak until his seventh NFL season.

Sure enough, Smith’s seventh season in the NFL was in 2011 – two seasons after McCloughan was no longer with the 49ers. After never having the same coordinator or offensive system in full back-to-back seasons, Smith started to find continuity in 2011, and his career has flourished.

In 25 starts with Alex Smith under Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the 49ers went 19-5-1. After Harbaugh benched Smith following a concussion in 2012, the 49ers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs to clear the way for Colin Kaepernick.

“The plan was with (then-49ers offensive coordinator Mike) McCarthy and with coach Nolan, the first year, we were going to sit him,” McCloughan said. “Of course, we weren’t going the right way, and guys were getting hurt and he ended up playing solid his rookie year.

“I always knew with him he’d fight through adversity, which he did. I’m so proud of him. First of all, he’s a great person. Second of all, he’s a really good quarterback and he’s having the success he deserves.”

Smith’s career has taken off since Andy Reid and then-Kansas City general manager John Dorsey acquired Smith in a trade from the 49ers. In Smith’s 65 starts with the Chiefs, the team is 45-20. Kansas City (4-0) is currently the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL this season.

McCloughan knows Reid and Dorsey very well, and they called him to get his assessment of Smith before making the deal with the 49ers before the 2013 season, McCloughan said.

“You can’t miss on this guy from the standpoint, he shows up every day and he’ll be the same guy every guy,” McCloughan said. “He’s A-class character, and he’s got talent. Now, if you want him to throw it 35, 40 times a game, he might not be your guy. But he’s going to get everybody lined up, get them in and out of the huddle, and they’re going to respect him from a leadership standpoint (and) a toughness standpoint.”

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ new regime decided to postpone their quest for a long-term answer at quarterback until next offseason – when there are likely to be better options available on the veteran and rookie markets.

Of the 32 quarterbacks who have attempted 90 or more passes through Week 4, only rookie Deshone Kizer (50.9) and Joe Flacco (65.0) have lower passer ratings than Hoyer (67.9).

McCloughan said Hoyer is the kind of quarterback who has the ability to manage a game and give his team an opportunity to win against most teams. But Hoyer is not likely to ever carry a team to victory.

“The thing with Hoyer, he reminds me of Colt McCoy,” McCloughan said. “He’s not a front-line guy, but he’s played a lot of football and is intelligent. If the guys around him are good enough, you’re going to win more than you lose because of what they say about Alex. He’s a game manager.”

Shanahan said on Monday he is sticking with Hoyer as the 49ers’ starter ahead of rookie backup C.J. Beathard. McCloughan said has a high opinion of Beathard as a player who can ultimately develop into a starter down the road.

“I liked him a lot,” McCloughan said of Beathard. “He’s one of those guys, kind of like Matt Hasselbeck. Right away, he wasn’t a starter. It took a couple of years.”

Hasselbeck was a sixth-round draft pick of the Packers in 1998 who did not become a starter until 2001 with Seattle.

“They’re just intelligent guys,” McCloughan said. “It’s so important at that position, don’t make mistakes. It’s not bad to punt. You have third and 8, and everything is covered, don’t force it. I think that’s the way Hoyer is for sure, and I think Beathard has really good upside.”

Alex Smith: First six years with 49ers 'really dysfunctional'

nolan-mike-smith-alex-york-john.jpg
AP

Alex Smith: First six years with 49ers 'really dysfunctional'

The 49ers selected Alex Smith No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft.

From 2005 to 2010 (he missed the entire 2008 season), the 49ers went 19-31 over Smith's 50 starts.

He completed 57 percent of his passes and threw 51 touchdowns against 53 interceptions.

His play drew much criticism -- including harsh words from Jerry Rice.

"Arguably the greatest football player ever ... to be so vocal, doubt me, clearly his lack of support and what he thought about me -- you certainly heard," Smith recently told Graham Bensinger. "Certain words -- those are hard to cancel out. So yeah, you hear 'em. You know they're there. It's tough."

Bensinger: "You're sounding like a politician."

Smith laughs out loud.

Bensinger: "Does it piss you off?"

Smith: "I knew how dysfunctional the work environment I was in at the time was ... the culture at the time in the building, those first six years for me. I knew that it was really dysfunctional. I knew that this wasn't the way that successful places operate."

Then, Jim Harbaugh arrived and revived Smith's career.

But Smith lost his job in 2012 after sustaining a concussion, and was traded to the Chiefs.

He was a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2016 and led Kansas City to the playoffs in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

In Week 1, he completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns as the Chiefs stunned the Patriots in New England.

In June, Kansas City traded up and took quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick...