Troy Smith Starting for 49ers vs. Rams Over Alex Smith: A Tale of Two Smiths

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst INovember 8, 2010

Troy Smith is being given another start, in  the biggest game of his pro career thus far.
Troy Smith is being given another start, in the biggest game of his pro career thus far.Warren Little/Getty Images

Troy Smith is all but guaranteed a start against the St. Louis Rams next week.

Put it this way: while searching for 'Alex Smith Injury,' the first choices were 'Alex Smith interception' and 'Alex Smith intentional grounding.'

Alex Smith's injury is being called a shoulder sprain, but might be worse. Many fans have seen this as a blessing in disguise. Given David Carr's performance in relief of the injured Alex Smith against Carolina, Mike Singletary's hand was forced to start the third-string quarterback.

Troy crammed hard, and led San Francisco to its second win of the season against the Denver Broncos in a 49ers "home game" that was played at Wembley Stadium—5,300 miles away in London, England.

While posting a 115.2 passer rating, 196 yards and a touchdown rushing and passing; he began his record as a 49er to 1-0. That's 1-0 on a 2-6 team, let me reiterate. Troy did in one game what it took Alex six games to accomplish with San Francisco this year: win one.

Beyond the numbers, Troy shows attributes that just might fit with Mike Singletary's (rather unpopular) vision of what the 49ers offense will be.

Quick and precise footwork help him deliver sound and subtle hand-offs, which should lead to successful play action. Sixth-sense like awareness can help him buy time and escape dangerous pressure. And with a reasonably strong arm, Troy can make safeties back off the line and out of the box. Yes, I think Troy Smith can play quarterback well under center.

Remember when the 49ers picked up Troy at the beginning of the season? A lot of fans believed it was a mistake to cut Nate Davis in order to bring him in. No one's saying Troy is going to make the Pro Bowl anytime soon, but I think they've calmed down a little with the "mistake" talk. It's safe to say the 49ers coaching staff saw something they liked in Troy Smith.

Alex Smith played his college ball at Utah under Urban Meyer in a spread passing offense. We know now exactly how that translated to playing for a rebuilding team bent on running a smash-mouth style of offense. Alex never did quite make the transition.

Troy, on the other hand, played his college ball at Ohio State, where a conservative, run-based  offense is the tradition. Considering that TS won the Heisman for the Buckeyes, we can assume he understands this type of football.

Alex has more prototypical quarterback size at 6'4", and 217 pounds, but it's been said his high metabolism makes it difficult to keep the weight on. Troy is basically an even six-feet tall.

Alex's size may allow him to read over the line better and he gives a center a slightly larger target in the gun, but Troy's smaller stride and quicker feet make him a much more elusive target.

Troy was selected with the 175th pick of the 2007 draft. Quarterbacks from later rounds often surprise folks, as they find they must work very hard to get a starting job, and play the game with a certain chip on their shoulder.

Alex was selected first overall in 2005 draft, which pretty much assured him he would start in the NFL from the get go.

Alex is a couple months older than Troy, but Troy played more years in college. Alex finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2004; Troy won the award in 2006.

I'm still not on board with the idea that Alex Smith is a bad quarterback, but I do think he is not right for the 49ers as they are presently set up. Since Alex''s selection, there was minimal effort to get him the protection and weapons necessary to succeed. Sure they found him an outstanding runner to hand the ball to in Frank Gore, but that wasn't where his talents were.

I maintain that Alex will be good elsewhere. In all probability it will be on a team with a spread offense, and a good offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, where he can backup a veteran for a year or so before taking over.

Troy Smith could very well be the future of the 49ers at quarterback, and might single-handedly find himself responsible for saving Mike Singletary's job.

With Arizona and Seattle losing this weekend while the Rams and 49ers were idle, they are somehow only two games out of first with five division games to go. Troy Smith is looking at his big break, if he can continue to rally the team back into contention; if he can't, the bench could always use more warming, and there are more youngsters (like Nate Davis) that could use a shot at the regular season.

Mathematical elimination took a step backwards for the 49ers Sunday, and if they still have any ambition of winning their division, it starts next Sunday at Candlestick Park, with another win by Troy (not Alex) Smith.