SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Mike Singletary marched up to the podium Monday morning and delivered the news everyone had been waiting to hear.
"As of right now," the San Francisco 49ers coach said, "Smith will be the starter."
Laugher all around. But it was really anticlimactic: Troy Smith is the starting quarterback, although only on a week-to-week basis, Singletary said. Alex Smith, the starter for the first seven games, has been cleared to play but will sit for now.
"I'm going to go with the guy that's winning right now," Singletary said. "I'm going to go with the hot hand. I'm going to go with the guy that's made the difference the past two weeks."
That would be Troy Smith, who is 2-0 as a starter after the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 23-20 in overtime Sunday. Smith threw for 356 yards, the most by a 49er quarterback since Tim Rattay threw for 417 in 2004, and had no interceptions. The 49ers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Alex Smith missed the past two games because of a separated left shoulder he suffered Oct. 24 at Carolina, a 23-20 loss that dropped the Niners' record to 1-6. After watching Troy Smith rally the team from a fourth-quarter deficit Sunday and make a succession of deep passes, he said he was prepared for the worst.
"Not surprised," Alex Smith said. "I was definitely was ready for anything. He's played well the last two weeks and we've won."
But all was not perfect. The 49ers were 0 for 11 on third downs, they had three apparent touchdowns called back because of penalties, and Troy Smith had his coach sweating on the sideline because of his improvisational skills and the five sacks he absorbed.
"I like it when it works," Singletary said. "And when it doesn't, you go ‘whoa.' It's just a matter of continuing to work with Troy right now and trying to weed out all the bad habits we can."
Even Smith, who signed with the team Sept. 6 after being released by the Baltimore Ravens, realizes he can't survive all the time throwing under pressure and into double coverage. But it's hard to argue with his results: He hasn't thrown an interception in two games and Sunday had 10 pass completions of 15 or more yards.
"I don't know what he's talking about," Smith said of his coach, "but I know the things I'm going to work on. I definitely have to get better at decision-making. As a quarterback, that's your livelihood. The decisions you make pretty much dictate the game, whether you're going to control it or the other team is."
When it comes to control, Alex Smith knows he has none – at least not now.
"As secure as you want to feel about your job, you've got to play well to keep it," he said. "Obviously, I've got a new role on the team and I'll be ready for it."