How much has Alex Smith really changed in 2017?

All the storylines fit when you look at the raw numbers. Alex Smith is having the best start to his career, and one of the best three weeks in the NFL, after the Kansas City Chiefs began the process of replacing him. With first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes II sitting on the bench, Smith has transformed into the aggressive gunslinger that no one thought he wanted to be.

One caveat: He hasn’t.

The disparity between Smith’s traditional passer rating and his total quarterback rating illustrates the help he has received from teammates in what remains a highly conservative passing offense. This is not to say Smith has played poorly. The Chiefs’ attack is best viewed as the most efficient Alex Smith offense imaginable, rather than something new.

Let’s take a closer look as the Chiefs prepare for Monday night’s matchup against the Washington Redskins, utilizing research from Micah Adams and Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats & Information.

Without a doubt, the Chiefs’ passing offense has put up some big numbers. Entering Week 4, Smith was completing an absurd percentage of his throws — more than 10 percentage points higher than the New England PatriotsTom Brady, for example. No quarterback was throwing touchdown passes at a higher rate per attempt than Smith, and none had more big-play scoring throws.

Those figures have ballooned Smith’s passer rating, a figure based on completion percentage, yards, touchdown passes and interceptions. (His 774 yards ranked No. 10 in the league.) But as you can see below, his NFL-leading passer rating stands in contradiction to his QBR, which attempts to incorporate more context about a quarterback’s performance.

In this case, QBR paints a more complete picture of Smith’s season.

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