San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith Starts as Team Remains in Denial

Tim PetersonCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2010

Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Singletary feel the pressure of 0-5
Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Singletary feel the pressure of 0-5Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In the constant search for his defining moment as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback, former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith is merely chasing ghosts (Montana and Young to be specific).

Or better yet, maybe it’s a misguided front office that doesn’t realize its master plan is burning to the ground—because without Alex Smith in the starting lineup, this Niners team is completely broken. No NFC West title, no playoffs and perhaps a huge off-season shakeup will be looming if the losing continues.

Most of the Niners' problems lie with Smith—he’s just not good enough to succeed at the NFL level.

His brilliant play has only been equaled by his mistakes and blunders—not to mention being saddled with a defense that can’t stop the run or pass consistently.

Then there’s that blowup on national television between Singletary and Smith. It rocked the foundation of the franchise and it could be the beginning of the end for both of them in San Francisco. However, to Smith’s credit, he was able take control of the situation and get back into Sunday’s game against the Eagles, throwing two late touchdowns in the 27-24 defeat.

In the aftermath of the Niners fifth straight faceplant, some curious comments have been made, starting with team president Jed York, who seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction to all of the bad press his team has endured over its horrendous start to the season.

His much publicized text message to ESPN’s Adam Schefter was both weird and unfathomable. “We’re going to win the division,” York said.

Yes, it smacks of desperation and foolishness. Not at all to be confused with something a smart front office leader would say, since no team has made the playoffs—in its current format— after starting the season 0-5.

York also said that Singletary’s job is safe for the remainder of the season. But what if the Raiders march into Candlestick Park Sunday afternoon and send the 49ers to a mind-blowing 0-6? You can bet the former ringleader of Chicago’s famed 46 defense may need to invest in some Teflon seating, because he could  be feeling the burn—if not from management, certainly from the fans.

The Niners faithful have voiced their opinion of Smith at QB. Reigning down boos whenever he makes the slightest miscue—and there’s been plenty to boo about—but Smith is a much better option than the clipboard carrying David Carr.

So where is the urgency with this franchise? The team is off to its worst start since 1979 and nobody has lost their job; it’s almost as if Singletary and 49ers can’t believe what has happened. The defense isn’t as good as they thought. Gore fumbles the ball too much and their quarterback leads the league in interceptions with nine (Smith also has a ridiculously low passer-rating of 71).

Of course the coach wanted to pull Smith in the second-half of Sunday’s loss, only to re-insert the sixth-year quarterback to see if the former Utah Ute had any intestinal fortitude.

“I really wanted to see what his response would be,” Singletary said in his post-game remarks. “A quarterback that has anything in him is going to have something to say about that.”

Some are arguing that the team should have followed the Raiders model of rebuilding. Al Davis’ instant upgraded came by way jettisoning the 300 pound, non-NFL quarterbacking thing called JaMarcus Russell. A no-brainer for Davis, and it would have been the same for San Francisco—if they had the guts to shoot for Donovan McNabb this past summer.

The Niners have to know by now that Smith is not going to be the franchise quarterback they so desperately wanted him to be. He’s had enough time to prove himself, and at best, he’s turned himself into a marginal quarterback.

One has to wonder if all the denial in the Bay Area is no longer wearing silver and black. The color of choice for this dreaded franchise-killing disease now seems to be dressed in burgundy and gold.