Singletary ties his fate to Troy Smith

In their most important game in eight seasons, the 49ers will go with Troy Smith, who wasn't on the roster in training camp and has a limited knowledge of the playbook. But it doesn't mean Alex Smith won't play Sunday against the Rams.

With one simple acknowledgement, Mike Singletary shoveled a little more chaos into an already chaotic San Francisco 49ers season.

Asked Thursday if Troy Smith will be the team's starting quarterback Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, Singletary said, "Yes."

And just like that, Singletary put his fate – and the 49ers' season – in the hands of a quarterback who wasn't on the roster in training camp, who had only two previous starts in three NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and who, according to Singletary, has a limited knowledge of the playbook.

"It's kind of the same thing I've talked about all year," Singletary said. "I feel that Troy has certain strengths, as well as Alex. And I think the way it works out, we could possibly use them both. That's kind of the way it is right now."

In other words, it's possible both will play – and possible that Alex Smith might be used in certain game situations.

Such as?

"The game will dictate it," Singletary said. "I want you to understand this: I'm not trying to be snobbish, I'm not trying to be – I'm just telling you what I can tell you. The game will dictate it. Depending on the situation in the game, depending on what they're trying to do, if we can take advantage of what they're doing, that kind of situation."

Alex Smith has a career 4-1 record against the Rams, but Troy Smith threw for 356 yards against them in a 23-20 overtime victory Nov. 14. Alex Smith started the season 1-6, injured his left shoulder Oct. 24 and then lost his job when Troy Smith won back-to-game games in relief. Troy Smith went 3-2 but was replaced by Alex because, as Singletary explained, the team wanted to expand the playbook.

Now, Singletary has apparently determined that a reduced playbook – and a less experienced quarterback -- is preferable on the eve of the 49ers' most important game since 2002.

"The most important thing for me coming into the season was to make sure I gave Alex every opportunity I possibly could to succeed," Singletary said. "I did not impede that in any way. And it's worked out the way it's worked out, and you know, you can say yes, you're disappointed, and you can say a lot of different things, but the bottom line is, it is what it is right now, and you move forward. But I know the information that I need to know."

Troy Smith, who completed fewer than half his passes in his last two starts, said he understands the magnitude of Sunday's game. To keep their hopes of winning the NFC West alive, the 49ers must win and hope the Seattle Seahawks lose one of their two remaining games. Lose, and their season is over.

"Huge, huge," Troy said. "For any player to be able to play in a game of this magnitude, have a chance to showcase his talents and be a part of something special, it's going to be pretty big for all of us."

News of the team's third quarterback switch this season had already been reported by the time Singletary made his announcement. The only person who didn't seem to know Wednesday was offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, who said he was told to get both QBs ready. But while Johnson was conceding he didn't know the starter,'s Jason LaCanfora was tweeting that it would be Troy Smith.

"Mike Johnson and I talked earlier this week," Singletary said, "and the thing that I told not only Mike Johnson but all of the coaches is, ‘Guys, we're going to prepare both guys. So there is no definite, Troy is the guy, that's it. We're going to prepare both guys. I'll let you know at some point when it's a definite this is the guy and it's unequivocally that's it.' But in all of our coaches, as well as our players, I communicated with all of them early on."

None of that really matters anymore. What matters is that Troy Smith will start on Sunday, Alex Smith might also play, and if either of them sinks, they'll probably take Singletary with them.