It's a question of leadership

49ers coach Mike Singletary says his views on Alex Smith and leadership were misconstrued. But he also praises Troy Smith as a get-in-your-face leader. Who will start Sunday? It's still anyone's guess.

Mike Singletary and Alex Smith are three seasons into their relationship, but it's clear they still don't see eye to eye on some topics. Like leadership.

On Monday, Smith said he and the San Francisco 49ers coach have different views on leadership, in part because Smith is a quarterback and Singletary was a middle linebacker. On Tuesday, Singletary did nothing to dispute their differing views but said he would choose a starting quarterback this week based who gives the team the best chance to win.

He also praised Troy Smith, who has risen from No. 3 to No. 1 quarterback in a matter of weeks, as a get-in-your face type of player who knows his way around a huddle.

"When you ask me, ‘What do I like about this kid,' as I do with all my players, I do my homework," Singletary said on his weekly radio show with KNBR 680. "I called (Ohio State coach) Jim Tressel, I called (Baltimore Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis, I called anybody who had anything to do with the kid. The first word they said was leadership. The kid's a leader. He'll get in your face, he'll take charge, he'll do all those things."

If that sounds like a Mike Singletary type of player, it's because it is. But Singletary stopped short of saying that Troy Smith will start Sunday's NFC West game against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park. He said that Alex Smith, who is rehabbing a separated left shoulder, is still being evaluated.

But given Alex Smith's injury and Singletary's praise of Troy Smith's leadership ability, it's a good bet the former Heisman Trophy winner will get another shot at quarterback for the 2-6 Niners.

The subject of leadership arose Monday when a reporter asked Alex Smith about comments made by Singletary to the CBS broadcast crew before the 49ers' game against the Denver Broncos in London. Singletary had noted the lack of offensive leadership in the first half of the season.

"My answer to that is that there's a lot of different forms of leadership," Alex Smith said. "It's funny, I think you're a good leader when you win and you're a bad leader when you lose, and that's how I feel. That's how it's always been. When you're winning, obviously your leadership works. If you're winning, it's working; if you're not, then it's put in question, especially at the quarterback position."

Singletary told KNBR that his comments to CBS were misconstrued and said he had spoken with Alex Smith on Monday about the subject.

"Alex and I have a relationship that extends beyond some of the comments that have been written or misconstrued in the paper," he said. "When you have an open line of communication with people, it eliminates a lot of the things you really need to talk about in terms of leadership. Alex knows exactly where I stand with him on leadership. He knows exactly how I feel about him as a quarterback. He knows that at the end of the day, who's going to be the quarterback? The guy that gives us the best chance to win. And that's as simple as that."

So who will start on Sunday? "Some time before the game, we'll know who the starter is going to be," Singletary said.

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