San Francisco 49ers  

 

Smith keep 49ers' QB job, but it's on week-to-week basis

  • By Associated Press
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Alex Smith already has seen offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye fired after the San Francisco 49ers' awful start. So it's no surprise that Smith still wasn't sure where he stood in coach Mike Singletary's eyes when he arrived at team headquarters Monday.

The quarterback is keeping his starting job for at least another week.

Singletary said he plans to evaluate Smith's status on a week-to-week basis, considering the 49ers' 0-5 start and inconsistent offense. The coach contemplated a switch early in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's 27-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but Smith talked him out of it after backup quarterback David Carr already had taken a few steps onto the field.

"When I look at Alex, I'm convinced that there's something there that I feel that he can be a good quarterback," Singletary said Monday. "But it's up to him. You're always a work in progress, but at some point in time, you have to grab hold of it and really come to that point to where you know, and everybody else around you, that this guy has arrived. ... I do believe that Alex Smith has all of the tools, all of the things that he needs to be that guy. I just need to see all of it."

Smith's response after the coach lashed into him persuaded Singletary to stay with the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick for this Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Smith threw two interceptions, one with the team driving in the final minute, and fumbled against the Eagles -- accounting for three of the 49ers' five turnovers. He also led two late touchdown drives, completing 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards over the final three series.

"It was something that needed to happen," Singletary said of calling out his quarterback and seeing his reaction. "I think it was something that his teammates needed to see."

Singletary and Smith met long after the game ended, and the quarterback had a feeling he was still the No. 1 -- but not completely convinced until he came to work Monday.

"I was kind of unsure," said Smith, who leads the NFL with nine interceptions. "You don't know what's going to happen overnight, if the thoughts were going to change or what. I was prepared for anything this morning."

San Francisco will need to make history to reach the playoffs. No team that has started 0-5 has ever done so.

The 49ers were the popular preseason pick to win the NFC West, but they have underachieved and repeatedly beaten themselves.

Tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore expressed their support of Smith, who was booed by the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park. Fans also chanted, "We want Carr!"

Davis was happy to hear that Smith is still the guy.

"I'm all about it. I'm a big fan of Alex Smith," Davis said. "He's talented. He makes mistakes. His thing is he definitely has to learn from them. We don't have time to play around and just make careless mistakes. We've got to go. It's about that time."

Apparently, there weren't any hard feelings on Carr's part, although Singletary didn't alert him that he'd changed his mind to stick with Smith.

The 49ers signed Carr -- another former No. 1 pick -- in March to be Smith's backup, and Singletary never expected him to compete for the top job.

"It really wasn't as big a deal for me to get ready and go in and then not to go again," Carr said. "I kind of stay ready to go in, so mentally I kind of prepare myself for that situation."

Smith let it go in the two late scoring drives Sunday, hitting Davis on a 7-yard TD pass and Gore on a 1-yard scoring strike. Smith looked more at ease in those final series than he has most of the season. Even Singletary acknowledged that the quarterback wasn't "pressing" for a change.

"There are times out there that I know that I play too cautious," said Smith, whom Singletary promoted at halftime last Oct. 25 at Houston, benching then-starter Shaun Hill. "I think that's when I find myself making those mistakes. It's funny. It's counterproductive. You'd think playing cautious would lead the other way, but in me, it always has (been troublesome). You see at times when I cut it loose and play more fearless, and the results have always been better."

Nobody is pointing the blame at Smith. Problems on both sides of the ball and special teams have San Francisco in a serious hole.

Team president Jed York hasn't lost any faith. He told ESPN: "We're going to win the division." Singletary and the players appreciate it.

The 49ers still have five games against NFC West opponents, including two dates with the first-place Arizona Cardinals (3-2).

"It's felt like a whole season already, considering that we haven't won a game," All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis said. "It makes the days feel long, it makes the weeks feel long. In reality, we're 0-5, that's what it is. Reality, too, is that we have a chance to get this right. We're down, we're deep in a hole right now. It seems deeper than what it is. I think we're capable of getting out of it. I really do.

"I refuse to not believe in getting ourselves out of what we got ourselves into."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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