It must have been the nostalgic English countryside that was inhaled by each and every player as they practiced and mingled in and around London, England in their stellar defeat of the Denver Broncos 24-16 as the English folk treated the 2010 San Francisco 49ers with almost utter royalty with their banners, flags and endless cheers for the designated international home team led by yet another quarterback named Smith. It was a long plane flight to London, England following our aggravating defeat to the Carolina Panthers on the Eastern Coast of the United States in retrospect. Mike Singletary and company were staring at a broken team with a record of (1-6) and their starting quarterback in Alex Smith on the injured list for 3-4 weeks because of a severe sprained shoulder incurred within the game.
That following a forgettable appearance starring second-tier quarterback David Carr who failed miserably in the final drive in the fourth quarter as he threw a costly interception that all but sealed the fate of the game. After a lot of thought and discussion with fellow coaches and friends within the league Mike Singletary knew that he had to make a drastic change in order to revive anything left in the tank within the soul of this team. He picked former Ohio State University quarterback Troy Smith in to study and replicate our playbook in a brief amount of time and to come out swinging with everything he had. The growing consensus was that David Carr just didn't have the character, charisma or the leadership to steer this team into the right direction. In fact Mike Singletary for the first time admitted openly that he felt there was a "great lack of leadership within the quarterback position," thus informing the team and the entire NFL that it did start with 2005 first round draft pick Alex Smith out of the University of Utah.
Troy Smith as all of you realize was the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, taking 86.7% of that year's first place votes, which by the way is a record. He was able to beat out then sophomore running back Darren McFadden (2nd) from Arkansas and senior quarterback Brady Quinn (3rd), from Notre Dame. Smith graduated from Ohio State in 2006 and entered the 2007 NFL Draft, despite winning the most prestigious collegiate award Smith's stock as a quarterback dropped considerably after the 41-14 loss to Florida in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
Smith's dream was to be drafted by his own state's Cleveland Browns but the Browns chose Brady Quinn as their future quarterback out of Notre Dame 22nd overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. It wasn't until Day #2 that Troy Smith was drafted and that was at the end of the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens He played sparingly behind Kyle Boller and then as he was getting ready to be named a starter in 2008, Smith came down with a rare case of tonsillitis. Rookie Joe Flacco was then named the Raven's starter and has remained that ever since. On September 6th, 2010 Troy Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers and became the third tier quarterback sending Nate Davis down to the practice squad.
As you watched this game you couldn't help but wonder when the training wheels were going to be made to come off with Troy as the game plan was to use a lot of Frank Gore which we did with 29 total carries for 118 total yards and averaging 4.1-yards per carry with a long burst of 21 total yards. Smith completed 12-of-19 passes for 196 total yards with one touchdown and zero turnovers. He threw a bomb of a throw which was a 38-yard reception to tight end Delanie Walker and ended the day with a 115.2 quarterback rating to boot.
Within that fourth quarter the training wheels did come off with Troy Smith running in a touchdown from one-yard out to score and connecting with Michael Crabtree on another with a 28-yard pass that put the score up to 17-10 over the Denver Broncos. His ability to survey the entire playing field and to make something happen Michael Vick-like with his feet was just unbelievable. There is no disguising the fact that Troy Smith is better suited to breaking out of the pocket and utilizing his feet when it is most necessary. His athletic abilities are genuinely more concise than Alex Smith's and his accuracy and anticipation of where his receivers are at all times seems to be a stark improvement as well.
When you look back on this game it is very distinct as to Troy Smith's ability to spread the ball amongst all his receivers, with tight end Delanie Walker being the most for a total of 85 yards and you have to appreciate that upon his very first start as a starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers he had no lost fumbles or any interceptions to speak of. The only pivotal interception that was made was by San Francisco 49er cornerback Shawntae Spencer that was picked off with just 45 seconds left in game regulation to seal the second victory of the season for the 49ers.
Alex Smith was seen standing alongside the sideline arm in sling dejected as he observed the ball skills and athletic showmanship that Troy presented throughout the game as well as leading by example by throwing his entire body into a block upon his opponent with little thought to his safety. He showed good command of the huddle and his offensive line played with crisp execution and created gaping holes for Frank Gore to run through. Troy never took a sack and he created positive yardage sometimes simply by being himself as he played the game like he had always been the starter all season long. The very notion that he has a degree of self-confidence in his abilities is something I feel was on display as this was something I always questioned with Alex as he struggled with inaccurate throws and showed in inability to get out of harms way when the play was breaking down all around him.
Now I am not saying that Troy Smith is the definitive future for us as our legitimate starting quarterback, but he has created an interesting new saga in the fact that he has shown more in a nutshell in overall quarterback skills than Alex has all season long. I am like so many of you intrigued to imagine that Troy is the best quarterback we have moving forward on the rest of the 2010 NFL season. I think he gives us a whole new dimension at this crucial position and he gives us the best chance at winning each and every game that is left on our regular season agenda.
The Alex Smith saga must come with its final curtain call and we must as an organization accept that what we did in 2005 was careless and assuming with then head coach Mike Nolan making most all the personnel decisions with little thought to anyone else's ideas at the time. Mike Singletary has to know that the leadership factor was in fact missing for most of Alex Smith's inconsistent NFL career and there comes a time where a mistake must be admitted to and a moving forward is to be commenced. Now is the time to move forward as Mike Singletary is playing for his legitimate future here as well in being a part of something that could in fact turn out to be a positive for everyone.
We still have something to play for this season. In a division where there are so many weaknesses we can reach the platform of being a .500 team with a mentality of tenacity and toughness like we've never seen. We could be sitting on a shocking secret with Troy Smith being just a fifth round draft pick to being one of the most respected in the league should his play equal that of what he did in London, England against the Denver Broncos. As much as I want to believe in Mike Singletary I still believe his allegiance to Alex cost him and this franchise a heck of a lot in being where we are present day. Now let the real Mr. Smith step forward.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.