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Singletary backs Smith as starter, Raye as offensive coordinator

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In 10 games as San Francisco's starting quarterback this season, Alex Smith earned himself the job going forward for the 49ers.

Coach Mike Singletary, speaking Monday on the heels of a disappointing 8-8 finish, said he saw "steady progress" from Smith and that he would remain the starter heading into the offseason. Yet Singletary didn't rule out signing another quarterback, either.

Singletary also gave a vote of confidence to Jimmy Raye, the team's seventh offensive coordinator in as many years. Singletary said Raye made the necessary adjustments after Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 out of Utah, took over for Shaun Hill at halftime Oct. 25 at Houston.

"I don't think it's a matter of another coordinator," Singletary said. "I think it's a matter of putting the pieces together, identifying exactly the offense that you're going to run, identifying the kind of offensive line that you need in order to run that. I think we have a lot of pieces in place. I just think it's a matter of getting all the pieces in the right places."

Singletary does have some concerns with offensive execution and the team's ability to convert big plays on third down. He will sit down with Raye and the other coaches this week as part of the evaluation process.

Smith threw for 2,350 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and was sacked 22 times. He completed 225 of his 372 passes.

"Alex Smith is the starting quarterback right now. If we sign a quarterback this offseason, we'll see where it goes," Singletary said. "But I don't want to get into, 'Well, we could sign a veteran quarterback who could become our No. 1,' I don't want to get into all of that."

Smith is looking forward to getting back to work now that he's comfortable in San Francisco's system. Players will be due to return to team headquarters sometime in mid-March for organized team activities.

Smith missed all of the 2008 campaign after re-injuring his surgically repaired throwing shoulder two days before the season opener.

"You have more familiarity. You're not starting with cadence and terminology, you're ahead of that," Smith said. "You get to more details that you can't get to in year one and you can jump straight into throwing routes and working on things that we can add into this offense. This offseason will be big because we're not starting from square one. I think there's a sense of urgency to take advantage of the time. A fundamental part is everyone being here and getting all that throwing in and taking advantage of that time."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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