Troy Smith Is the Real Deal: Has Alex Smith Seen His Last Start As a 49er?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Quarterback Troy Smith #1 of San Francisco 49ers in action during the NFL International Series match between Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31, 2010 in London, England. This is the fourth occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Troy Smith marched the 49ers down the field and commanded an offense to an overtime victory against St. Louis. He was pummeled with adversity, having touchdowns called back and a slew of penalties thrown at him.

Smith appeared unshakable. Even with their backs against the wall, the 49ers rallied around Smith. He got the whole offense involved and took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. Frank Gore makes the play action lethal and Smith took advantage.

Winning in such spectacular fashion makes Smith a lock to take over the starting job permanently. He has already achieved victory twice in only two starts, a feat that has escaped Alex Smith, who has seven starts on the year and only one victory.

Troy Smith has an underrated arm. There were several instances where he was forced to rifle the ball into tight windows. Troy Smith also took complete control of the offense and looks poised. Although he holds onto the ball too long at times, he looks the part.

So where do the 49ers go from here? On one hand, you have a guy who was supposed to be Mr. Everything in Alex Smith. He was taken No. 1 overall. The franchise has invested years and years into Smith.

The 49ers have fired offensive coordinators and coaches and made life comfortable for Smith by surrounding him with weapons and taking competition away from the quarterback position. Aside from all that, Smith still struggles to succeed.

On the other hand, you have Troy Smith. Here is a guy who won the Heisman Trophy and played on a national stage consistently in college. Despite his success at the collegiate level, pro scouts picked him apart, saying he could not succeed at the professional level. It appears as though scouts are eating their words. Smith has had a lot of naysayers to this point and nobody has given him the keys to the franchise.

There are many similarities between this quarterback controversy and the Rob Johnson, Doug Flutie controversy. Johnson was supposed to be a lot of things, but never could measure up to his potential. Flutie, who is small in stature to say the least, was seen as a guy who shouldn't be the answer but always seemed to produce results.

The 49ers need to reward the guy who is getting it done. Until Troy Smith starts to waver, they can't pull him even if Alex Smith is healthy. You have to go with your hot hand, which is Troy Smith for the time being.

He has proven that he can win in close games and is not prone to game crushing mistakes that make Alex Smith such a liability.

The 49ers don't need to focus the offense around Troy Smith, but that was never their intention. Mike Singletary made it clear that he wanted to be a running football team since he began his reign as the head coach. Troy Smith needs to make smart decisions, put his team in a position to win and make plays when his number is called.

Alex Smith is a great character guy. His work ethic is phenomenal. There are 49er fans that take shots at Smith and point to him as the reason for the 49ers' demise. This isn't quite accurate. There are a lot of factors that go into what has caused the debacle the 49ers landed themselves in and Alex Smith is just one of those factors.

Smith has gone through a lot of adversity in his time with the 49ers, some of which most fans probably aren't even aware of. The 49ers should give Smith a contract extension. Even if he is a backup, he gives the offensive coordinator the entire playbook at his disposal. He also has a ton of game experience and knows the personnel. He just doesn't have what it takes to be the guy.

Troy Smith is going to regress. Eventually, he isn't going to hover around a 116 quarterback rating and have an empty interception column. Smith will face a difficult test next week when he takes on the Buccaneers should he get the start.

It is clear the stage is not too big for Troy Smith. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are all excelling with him under center. He is the type of quarterback that can succeed under a fiery Singletary, as his biggest strengths are in his presence and leadership qualities.

The 49ers might have scored by picking up Smith in the offseason, a move that was an afterthought until Smith got the nod for the Broncos game.

The 49ers send a message with who they deem the starter. If they go with Troy Smith, they are showing they care about results, regardless of where the production is coming from. For a franchise in desperate need of results, the 49ers have their hands tied in this one. It appears as though Alex Smith has seen his last snap as a starting 49er quarterback.

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