In news that really shouldn't shock anybody, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary named Troy Smith the starting QB for this Sunday's matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What was interesting to note is that Singletary stated that it was a week to week deal at the QB position. I know some folks think Troy Smith should be named starting QB for the rest of time, but I think this is probably a wise decision at this point. Smith has proven he's got tremendous tools and poise under pressure.
At the same time, as Singletary said yesterday and today, he's got some bad habits that definitely need some refinement. The biggest concern in my opinion was that Troy (we'll go with his first name for the foreseeable future) held on to the ball for way too long in several instances. Obviously he made some big plays by not throwing the ball away, but he took some big sacks. He basically needs to improve his pocket awareness. He's shown he can move around and escape sacks, but the next big step is to do that on a consistent basis. There were at least tow or three times he was scrambling in the end zone and just barely avoided sacks for safeties. Great that he escaped them, but he needs to be a bit more aware when possible.
For the folks that are getting hot and heavy for Troy, a couple people made good points in previous threads. I can't find them so feel free to take credit for these. One person mentioned how any decent QB play will get folks excited. It's like we've been wandering in the desert for many years. It's easy to get excited by a possible mirage. I'm not saying Troy Smith is a mirage, but I am definitely tempering my excitement for now. It's not likely to last forever, but for now I'm going to try and keep an even keel in between games.
Another comment that followed up on this point looked at J.T. O'Sullivan's first three games as 49ers QB. In his first three starts for the 49ers, Just Turnovers was 50 for 75 (67%) with 705 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and the 49ers were 2-1. I'm not saying Troy Smith will end up like JTO because I don't think anybody can reach that level again. At the same time, it's just one more reason to not jump to unreasonable expectations two starts into the Troy Smith era.
Now this is not to say I'm not excited by what Troy Smith has done thus far. I'm as big an Alex Smith fan as anybody, but Troy has shown a certain willingness that Alex has never seemed to develop. Troy has certainly been incredibly lucky in certain instances, but Alex has seemed to rarely embrace the kind of gunslinger mentality we've seen in Troy through two games. It might bite him in the butt, and that's where the JTO comparison might be most apt. It seems like Troy is smarter in his gun-slinging (if that's possible) so maybe it's not entirely luck that we're seeing. Tre and I are both curious about this luck factor so hopefully we'll have a post later this week looking at the Troy pass attempts thus far.
And for those wondering about what Alex has to say about more or less losing his job? Well, as always he's a classy professional:
"The thing that I always appreciate from coach Singletary is you're going to hear it from him before you hear it from anyone else," Smith said. He said he wasn't surprised by the decision and noted that Troy Smith has played well in the last two games. "The explosive plays really stand out," he said. Smith said he'd be ready if he is asked to step in as the No. 2.
I know some folks are bidding good riddance to Alex Smith, but nobody can ever say he isn't a classy professional. Maybe he's not the best NFL QB in the world, but I still commend him for how he's handled one of the rockier NFL careers (without major off the field troubles) in recent memory.
After the jump I've posted Coach Singletary's press conference transcript...
Head Coach Mike Singletary
November 15, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
On whether he has had a chance to visit with the quarterbacks and make them aware of his decision regarding who will start against Tampa Bay:
On what that decision is:
"Well, as of right now, Smith will be the starter (laughing). We're going to go with [QB] Troy [Smith]."
On whether QB Alex Smith has been cleared to play:
"Should be this week."
On why he decided to start Troy Smith:
"The past two games."
On whether that decision is just for Sunday against Tampa or whether that is for the season:
"We're going week to week."
On what Troy Smith still needs to correct in his game and whether he can get that cleaned up before Sunday:
"I think it will be an ongoing thing. Every quarterback around the league is going to do something that the coach doesn't like, and I think for me, it's just a matter of continuing to work with the coordinator, and he and I - [offensive coordinator] Mike Johnson and myself - understand the things that Troy has to correct going forward. And they're just little, correctable things, and we'll do that."
On whether Troy Smith made the decision easier by the way he played against St. Louis:
"Well, I think the fact that you're able to win these last two games, and he had a big part in those games, you just want to keep that going, and look and see how much is there."
On whether he likes Troy Smith's improvisation abilities:
"I like it when it works, and when it doesn't, you go, whoa. I just think that they both have their good and bad habits, and it's just a matter of continuing to work with Troy right now and try to weed out all the bad habits we can."
On whether it was difficult as a head coach to tell Alex Smith that he won't start and how that meeting went:
"Yeah, I mean, Alex understands that. He's a veteran, he's been around the game, and I think more so than anything else, he understands me. I think we understand each other. We have a good relationship, and we just go from here."
On his sense of how the locker room feels about the quarterback situation on the team:
"I think they would feel good about it. I think they would feel comfortable knowing what the situation is right now. I think they feel comfortable with both quarterbacks. So I don't think it's a big thing one way or the other, I just feel that our team understands that I'm going to go with the guy that is winning right now. I'm going to go with the guy that has the hot hand. I'm going to go with the guy that has made the difference in the past two weeks. So they understand that."
On whether he believes that Troy has made the difference:
"I think he's made a big difference in the past couple weeks, being that we won the games. That's the biggest difference."
On the fine line between reigning in Troy's destructive improvisation and making big plays:
"It is a fine line. It really is. I mean, when you look at him play, some of the things that he does, some of the decisions that he made, he's still a young guy. And I think that's our job to keep him out of harm's way and to make sure that we protect him as much as we can."
On whether T/G Adam Snyder will be available for Sunday:
"Well, are you talking about as far as being healthy enough? Yes. I expect him to - so far so good, I'll put it that way. So far so good. Things can change, but from all of the tests and things that we're able to see so far, of course we've got to get the x-ray back, the MRI, just to make sure, but so far so good."
On whether Snyder would be the first guy in line for left tackle against Tampa Bay:
"I won't say that right now. I'm just thankful that we have some options."
On his view of the interference penalty ruling:
"You know what, it's like this. Whether I agree with them or disagree with them or understand them, or whatever, I'm not sure how much I understand these days in terms of the penalties, but I think the bottom line is the call was made and obviously I'm going to support that one and we just kind of go from there."
On whether T/G Adam Snyder at right guard and T Barry Sims at left tackle is an option for Sunday:
"I would think right now, [T/G] Chilo [Rachal], Chilo would still be the starter at right guard. Now in terms of who the left tackle's going to be, we'll wait and see and look at the options this week."
On whether Sims is one of those options:
On whether G Tony Wragge is one of those options:
"Well, you know, yes, he's an option."
"We're going to continue to do what we did yesterday, and you know, Taylor's going to continue to learn and get better and Reggie is just going to continue doing what he's doing and it's going to play itself out."
On where he stands with K Joe Nedney and the condition of his knee:
"We have to wait for the MRI to come back today before we know what exactly what's happening there."
On whether T Joe Staley will be put on IR:
On whether the choice to not put Staley on the IR is to keep options open for the postseason:
On how long Staley will miss:
"Right now, from all of the information that we have with the injury that he has right now, the average guy would be four to six weeks. Some guys heal faster than others, so we'll see how it goes."
On how comfortable he is with the depth and options on the offensive line:
"I'm comfortable. I think Sims stepped in last year and did a very good job. So I think I see no reason why he wouldn't do a good job; he or Snyder this time around."
On whether he has met with the team this morning:
On whether he senses that three of the past four games have renewed the vigor on the team:
"I think, in terms of the energy and effort and all those things, that's been steady since day one. You know, anytime that you have four games come down to the last drive, that tells you something about the losses that we had at the beginning of the season. What I think has transpired maybe in the last couple weeks is the mindset of our guys. That mental toughness, that maturity, that believing, that understanding where we are and what we can do, the possibilities that are there, the opportunity that's there. I think our guys are beginning to understand that and really step into that more."
On whether anything has led to the 49ers now eliminating their turnover problem:
"Well, turnovers are probably the number one factor in winning and losing football games. You know, some teams are able to overcome them and some are not. I just think that we've been very fortunate in the past couple of weeks to eliminate them. So, we just have to continue to work on that, but the turnover ratio is a big deal."
On whether he was ready to challenge the play where it appeared as if Troy Smith's hand was coming forward with the ball, if the Rams had recovered it:
"Don't know. It just depends. But I remember the play you're talking about, but don't know."
On whether he would consider reducing T Anthony Davis' playing time:
"Well, I just think we got to continue to work with him and weather the storm with him, you know, let him play and hopefully get better. There are some things that he's doing better, but we just have to keep at it."
On whether there were any more injuries he has discovered since the Rams game:
On whether CB Will James will be available for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers:
"I don't know; we'll just have to continue to test and see how it works out in the next couple of days."