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Troy Smith played the best complete game by a 49ers quarterback this season. He wasn't perfect, by any stretch. Some of his throws were inaccurate. Denver has an atrocious pass defense, ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive DVOA by Football Outsiders. And if Brian Dawkins picks off the prayer... um I mean throw... that Smith launched to Delanie Walker, we might all be singing a different tune.
When it counted, Troy Smith did the things that a starting quarterback should do. He made the right reads, allowed the receivers to continue running after the catch with well placed throws, and he created opportunities when the play broke down.
You can read his stats in various locations so I wont repeat them here. There were two things that really impressed me about Smith that the stats will not show. He commanded a team that needed some leadership and he has some definite physical tools.
Singletary is right when he says that the team has no offensive leadership. Sing himself is too much of an emotional roller coaster and he wouldn't be able to provide much offensive guidance anyway. The supposed leader, Alex Smith, had to be convinced to fight a benching against the Eagles.
So what did Troy Smith do? He calmed the huddle down and provided a bit of calm through chaos. According to Joe Staley in an interview on 107.7 with Lamont and Tonelli, Smith was getting yelled at from the sideline by multiple people due to a personnel mix-up. People are yelling and screaming and Smith looks at the huddle and says something like, "I've got a really simple solution to all this..." and looks to the Referee and calls a timeout. He inputs pressure, spits out calm, and allows the rest of his team to just play.
He is also not afraid to tell people what they need to be doing. Smith had three days of practice with the starters and yet he still forcefully corrected Frank Gore on his alignment on a play in the third quarter. Sure, it may seem like small detail, but thus far the 49ers are used to a quarterback who needed a full year in a system before he started being vocal about assignments.
Coupled with leadership, Smith put his physical tools on display against the Broncos. He is the most athletic quarterback on the roster and he proved that on a couple of plays. On one of those plays, Smith rolled out to his left and saw Jason Hunter bearing down on him. Smith stopped mid-roll, pump faked then took off and hit Crabtree with a good ball to the left sideline. The ability to be crafty in that situation as well as stop and go, allowed Smith to keep a potentially broken play alive.
Smith has a faster release than I was expecting and he throws the ball with velocity. The tight spirals he was throwing around the field surprised me. He was able to his quick slants with seemingly little effort, and his touchdown pass to Crabtree was the right read (albeit the only downfield patter on the play) and Smith got the ball to the sideline quick enough to take advantage of Crabtree's move on the cornerback.
So let's give credit where it's due. I think Sing should still be fired after the season, but he made the right call in going with Troy Smith as opposed to David Carr. It was Singletary's best coaching decision this season. Which should also give you a glimpse into why I think he deserves the boot at season's end.
But Smith really capitalized on his opportunity. At this point, the 49ers have nothing to lose by riding the hot hand. Keep starting Tory Smith and, if he is able to deliver (which I think he will be) the 49ers might actually make a late season push into respectability.