It's difficult to believe that San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary isn't grasping at straws with his decision to start Troy Smith at quarterback Sunday in London against the Denver Broncos. Coaches will often shake up their lineup if they believe it might squeeze a victory out of a losing season.
Singletary is trading one Smith for another and parking the Carr: Alex Smith will be out two or three weeks with a separated left shoulder, and Carr was clearly underwhelming in a 23-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. But Singletary hasn't been enamored with Carr since training camp, when he said at one point, "David Carr is a guy that I could grow to feel comfortable with."
So the job falls to Troy Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State who has started two games in his four-year career and hasn't taken a practice snap with the 49ers since he was signed on Sept. 6 after being released by the Baltimore Ravens.
Smith knows he's still new and that it might limit his ability to step forward and give the 49ers a sense of leadership, something they desperately need after starting 1-6. But leadership is what Singletary likes most about him.
"I would say that probably the No. 1 thing I like about him -- and it's a current theme with anyone that I talk to, whether it's here, whether it's Baltimore, whether it's Ohio State, whether it's former teammates -- is leadership," Singletary said. "That is his ability to get everybody on the same page."
But Smith concedes it won't come easily. In many ways, he's still finding his place on the team.
"You've got to respect your boundaries," he said. "I believe in that totally. I believe in not stepping on anybody's toes. I believe in fitting in, knowing and learning your niche and then making the best out of it. As far as you being a man, you learn how to reason with the guys and go along with the flow."
Smith, who has been working on the scout team since joining the team, is getting a crash course in the 49ers offense, although he preferred not to call it that. He's having to learn things quickly.
"I wouldn't say that it's a crash course," he said. "Throughout my career, this is what I've done, learned new offenses. They do a tremendous job here of getting guys in position to make plays, now I just have to go out and execute the offense.
"Throughout the course of the week, your preparation is what makes you comfortable with all the things you got going on. I continue to prepare like a madman because it's that important to me and my teammates."
And never more important than this week.