It's the most important game the 49ers (5-9) have played in years, but coach Mike Singletary said Tuesday he's not ready to announce whether Alex Smith or Troy Smith will start against the Rams (6-8).
Why? "Because it's something I don't really want to announce right now," he said.
It sounds like a little gamesmanship – keep the Rams guessing – but Singletary denied that was his thinking. He'll reveal his decision later this week, he said, and left open the possibility that both Smiths will play. It's possible that if one struggles, the other will be inserted in relief pitcher style.
It could simply be that Singletary is looking for some type of pregame advantage in an effort to force the Rams to game plan for two quarterbacks, although he insisted that isn't the case.
"In all honesty, in terms of advantage, the only real advantage we can have is to go there and play well," he said. "All the other stuff is cat-and-mouse stuff. I just think it's important for us to prepare well and be ready to go."
Alex Smith is 1-1 in two starts since regaining his starting job Dec. 12 against the Seattle Seahawks. Troy Smith is 3-2 and beat the Rams in overtime Nov. 14. He threw for a career-high 356 yards in that game.
It's debatable whether the players agree with their coach's decision to consider switching quarterbacks. If Troy Smith starts, it will mark the fourth QB switch this season.
"Singletary calls the shots," said tight end Vernon Davis. "Whether we like it or not, we have to deal with it. I mean, I've never had a situation like that were we've had to use two quarterbacks in a game. But if you do it, there's nothing I can really say."
Singletary said both players will get first-team reps in practice this week, although he added, "I'm not going to really split the reps. I'm going to make sure each guy gets the appropriate reps."
Both Smiths have already been told which of them is starting. And Singletary knows. And presumably so does offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.
But they're the only ones. Everyone else can wait.