Our discussion of the Alex Smith QB decision continues to roll along at full throttle. The 49ers do have a game this week, but I have a feeling the discussion about the QB position will not be slowing anytime soon. Accordingly, I thought it would be useful to open up a new thread. I figure that first off, the other thread is up close to 400 comments, making it harder to follow the conversation. Second, I wanted to maybe take a different angle to Mike Singletary and the 49ers decision to start Alex Smith this weekend at Indianapolis. Also, after the jump I've posted the Mike Singletary transcript from today's press conference.
Aside from two great runs against Seattle, Frank Gore and the 49ers rushing attack has left a lot to be desired after a very impressive preseason. If this team is going to be successful and potentially make the playoffs, they have to establish the run game at a greater level than where it currently resides. Will elevating Alex Smith into the starting lineup bring enough to make that happen?
The answer to the question obviously depends on Smith's performance in the passing game. However, his skills would seem to be sufficiently better than Shaun Hill to keep defenses honest. Alex Smith does not have to be a superstar in this offense for the team to move the ball efficiently. Sure he needs to be able to make big plays, but as I said at some point with Shaun Hill, the passing game does not have to be Colts-esque. The difference between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith is that Smith can make more of the deep throws necessary to keep the defense honest.
If Smith is able to find some success, even just a little bit, on the intermediate and deep passes, will that automatically translate to more success for Gore? We didn't see much in the second half from Gore, but part of that was due to the team paying catch-up. The 49ers will need to control the clock against the Colts and that is done with a solid rushing attack. The passing is necessary, but I honestly don't think the offense can roll out a spread style offense for 4 quarters without a sufficient rushing game backing it up. Maybe you disagree on that point. The 49ers do have some skilled receivers, but I just think that 60 minutes of spread doesn't fly on the NFL level.
So, for the purposes of this post, say Alex Smith sees some success in the passing game. Maybe not Peyton Manning success, but he can move the offense. If we get some success, how much will the rushing game benefit? Or are the offensive line issues going to get in the way? Or even worse, are Jimmy Raye's unimaginative runs going to get in the way (although he has started mixing up the running plays a little bit more)?
Reminder that we've got Singletary's transcript after the jump. He had several comments about the use of a balanced attack, as opposed to just rushing it up the gut every time...
Head Coach Mike Singletary
Press Conference - October 26, 2009
San Francisco 49ers
"First of all, the injury report: [T Tony] Pashos, left shoulder contusion; [LB Marques] Harris, hamstring strain; [DT] Justin Smith, left calf strain; [NT Aubrayo] Franklin, right knee sprain; [LB Takeo] Spikes, right shoulder sprain. Pashos will have an MRI today. We should know a little bit later on today. He and Takeo Spikes both will have MRIs, and we'll have further information later on.
As far as this upcoming week, in terms of the quarterback, [QB] Alex Smith will be the quarterback. As far as, will [QB] Shaun Hill be back and all this other stuff, I think I told you last night, we're not going to be a flavor of the month kind of thing, ‘Well, let's see, this guy will be this week, this guy will be next week.' One of the things I want to have you understand is I wanted to make a decision based upon who I feel gives us the best chance to win. I think Shaun Hill, at the beginning of the season - when I met with Shaun today, I told him just that, ‘I felt that you gave us the best chance to win at that particular time.' He has done a great job up to this point, but we feel that right now, we need to go with Alex. I feel that Alex Smith gives us the best chance to win, and to use the tools that we have going forward."
On why Smith gives the team the best chance to win:
"Because I think Alex has had a chance to really regain some of the confidence, not that he ever lost it, but I think just giving him a chance to settle in and have him watch Shaun Hill - and there's something about watching a guy and looking at some of the mistakes that he made and how you would do it different, looking at some of the things that he does well and maybe implement those things in your game. He had a chance to look at his decision-making process, learn the offense a little bit more, but certainly giving him a chance to develop that hunger, develop that excitement and enthusiasm for playing, ‘and, if I ever get a chance again, I'm going to do it this way.'"
On whether the team needs Smith's ability to hit the intermediate and long passes:
"I would just say this: I think, right now, overall, Alex Smith really just kind of fits the bill in terms of doing the things that we need to get done."
On whether he will open up the passing game a little more:
"I think, going forward, we'll just try to look at it and, once again, it depends on how the team is playing us and everything else. I just want to reiterate what I said from the very beginning. I have never, ever said that we're just going to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball - three yards and a cloud of dust. I have always said I want to run the ball when we want to run the ball. I want to strive more for balance, but I want to run the ball when we want to run the ball. That's what I've always said. I have not shied away from that. I want a balanced attack."
On why the team hasn't been able to run the ball when it wants to run the ball:
"We haven't been able to run the ball when we wanted to run the ball because they normally have about eight-and-a-half people in the box, sometimes nine. Sometimes, that makes it a little more difficult. When you have an offensive line that's been banged up and you're trying to get that right, it makes for not a good combination right now, but as we build confidence, as we continue to get better, it will work itself out."
On whether he is concerned with the lack of success on the ground in the second half:
"No. I think that as we go forward, things will work themselves out. Yes, we had a tough time running the ball at the beginning of the third quarter, but there were also a couple of runs we made. It's the cat-and mouse-game; if you can throw the ball then you can run the ball, if you can run the ball then you can throw the ball. As we evolve and we get more in sync with whet we are trying to do with the offense, and once again, we had a chance to see what Alex Smith can do, we are just going to continue to explore where we are going to go with his ability."
On what he will do with the offensive line if Pashos cannot play Sunday:
"You know what, I'm not going to start, ‘What about this? What about that?' If he can't go, we'll work it out. We will figure it out. There are several options that we have, whether we take Snyder back out to tackle and keep everyone else kind of the way it was. We will just have to take a look and see."
On the right guard position:
"Right now, we have to continue to help [G] Chilo [Rachal] as much as we can. I think one of the issues we have right now, some guys are really trying to play perfect. Some guys are really trying to play mistake free. When you do that, you become robotic and it takes you out of your game. I just want guys to go out and play. I think a guy like Chilo, it is like any player, when you know the spotlight is on you, when you know you have to play better, some guys respond to it very well, and there are other guys that fall prey to it. I think it is one of things where we have to help Chilo as much as we can because there are some things he does very well, but there is one particular stunt there that really gets him at times and we have to continue working on that, showing him that in practice and allowing him to work on it. He just has to mature on it."
On whether that particular stunt accounted for a sack in the game:
On whether switching quarterbacks was something he thought about before the game:
"When I talked to Shaun Hill this morning, it is one of the things I really wanted him to understand, this is not something that was premeditated. It is not something I talked to anybody about like, ‘Well I'm going to wait for the right opportunity to do this.' It was important for me that he understood that as the head coach, I think my most important responsibility is to put us in a position to win. I just remember at the end of the Atlanta game, we were behind, and we were trying to make some plays and it just wasn't happening. Yesterday, you kind of see the same scenario coming, and I just felt we have to do something to help ourselves, give ourselves a chance to get back in the game and try and win the game. That's really all it was. As I said before, when I look at Alex we really didn't know what we were going to get. I was hoping we were going to get what we have seen out here in practice, and that is what we got. I was excited to see that and the excitement and the enthusiasm on the sideline, and the excitement and the enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball, the receivers, the running backs, everybody. It was just one of those things where I felt we are going to go forward with that."
On whether QB Alex Smith starting is a function of his athletic ability over what QB Shaun Hill brings:
"Athletic ability? Are you talking about having a stronger arm, maybe make the throws? I think it's probably a combination of a number of things, - just really getting settled. You have another coordinator coming in. You had an offseason where you are trying to work things through with your shoulder, finding out exactly where you are with your shoulder, and at the same time, you are just trying to get settled. We were just letting the guy get settled and getting a chance to think about some things and at the same time, there happens to be a season going on. We wanted to let him develop that hunger, let him get excited about if I get an opportunity again, let him develop some confidence. ‘I think I can do that. If it comes again, I want to do it like this or I want to do it like that, rather than just putting him in there at the beginning of the season and if you don't have success right away, then it's same old Alex. I don't think it's the same old Alex. I think Alex has matured, I think he's grown and I think he's ready to play. We're going to find out. We'll find out next week."
On where the quarterback situation falls in terms of his concern about this team:
"Quarterback is certainly one of them, but the quarterback situation, for me, has never been an overriding factor because of the way we said we had to play to begin with and that was to run the ball. But, the offensive line, we've got to continue to make sure that we get the things that we need there, the continuity in a hurry. That revolves around a number of things. So, when you are able to put eight and a half people in the box and just sit there, in your comfort zone, and stunt here and there, I mean, it's awfully hard on an offensive line that's trying to jell. You've got some young guys in there at the same time trying to make it happen. You can get awfully creative when you've got eight guys in the box. So that's certainly one concern. Hopefully, we are able to make some throws. Hopefully, we are able to make them and get the heck out of the box and hopefully we are able to make them play us right, make them play us fair. We certainly have some playmakers out there and having a quarterback that can consistently make the throws that Alex can make, then it gives us a chance to really branch out a bit and open things up a bit."
On concerns on defense:
"Defensively, we are continuing to look at the film there and make some evaluations. We'll have to make some decisions on the defensive side, if we need to."
On whether he is talking about personnel:
"Yes, but we have to look at more film and we'll get there."
On the primary concern being the secondary or the entire defense:
"Just the defense."
On someday having CB Nate Clements move to safety:
"That's not in the realm of thinking right now.."
On his concerns of the defense in general:
"In general, my biggest concern right now is just the communication factor and we'll get that solved this week. We'll get that solved today as a matter of fact. In terms of the communication, I think that there are a few things there that we can do a lot better and I didn't know really that it was that much of an issue, the communication factor, and you know that it's just a small thing, getting the guys in there, in the huddle and having them understand whose talking, whose not, and who's giving the information from the sideline and going from there. And so, one of the things that I sat in on one of the defensive meetings this morning it's just a matter of bringing clarity to what we're doing because we are too good of defense. When I look at our defense, we're a good defense, with the opportunity to be a great defense. But right now, because of the communication factor particularly in the last couple of games, and the way those games have gone you get guys starting to do their own thing. Guys starting to think they heard this so that's when you really have to communicate very well to make sure that guys don't start doing their own thing. So, we just have to get on one page and kind of relax and settle down and let's go from there."
On whether there is a problem in logistics with LB Patrick Willis and his radio helmet:
"Maybe, we may have to take a look at that.'
On what jumped out at him after seeing WR Michael Crabtree on film after yesterday's game:
"Nothing jumped out at me that I didn't see yesterday. It was very evident yesterday, I just wanted to see it on film just like when you see a good movie. You want to see it again. But, I saw him yesterday and I made sure that I talked to him this morning and let him know that all of the hard work that he did while he wasn't here, it showed. All of the studying that he did while he wasn't here, it showed. So it was good to see."
On whether or not he was surprised to see how many total plays Crabtree was in comparison to all the receivers on the team:
"No, again he told me how much he was working and I heard from some other sources outside of the building on how hard he was working and all the route running that he was doing every day. I knew that he wasn't in football shape, but if he was doing what they were telling me he was doing, what they saw him doing, then I knew that he was going to be in pretty good shape. I didn't think about the other things, but I would say that I was a little bit surprised that he was able to go on all of those plays. But I thought for certain, maybe 30-40 plays, but to basically go the whole game, that's pretty impressive. "
On using more of a three receiver formation with Alex Smith going forward:
"We're going to do whatever we need to do win. Three receiver, four receiver, five receiver, I don't care. We're going to do whatever we need to do to win. But we're going to run the ball."