After leading the San Francisco 49ers back into their game on Sunday against the Houston Texans, former No. 1 pick Alex Smith may have earned back his starting job at quarterback.
Though the Texans won 24-21, Smith entered after halftime with the 49ers down 21-0. Starter Shaun Hill struggled in the first half, completing 6-of-11 passes for just 45 yards and a 64.6 rating. At halftime head coach Mike Singletary told offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to make the switch to Smith.
Smith entered the game and quickly gave the 49ers offense a boost. He was 15-for-22 for 206 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He finished the day with a 118.6 rating.
In six games so far this season, Hill has struggled to a 79.6 rating and has thrown just five touchdown passes while completing only 56.1 percent of his passes. It’s not like the 49ers would be missing a whole lot if they benched Hill in favor of Smith.
Reports today are suggesting that Singletary did not immediately announce a full-time switch after Sunday’s game and that he’ll wait until later in the week to make it public.
What is also significant about Smith’s performance is that he finally found a way to get former first-round pick, and perennial fantasy disappointment, Vernon Davis involved in the offense. Davis finished the afternoon with seven catches for 93 yards and three touchdowns. Davis caught six of his passes from Smith and all three of his touchdowns. That was significant because everyone around the league knows Davis is an explosive player, but he’s never been able to consistently get the ball.
While Smith’s ability and attitude have certainly been questioned in the past, maybe sitting on the sidelines for a while has helped him figure the game out. He was never the most physically gifted quarterback, even on draft day in 2005, but maybe sitting on the sidelines and watching games has helped his mental development. He’s never going to be Joe Montana or John Elway – hell he’s not even ever going to be Eli Manning – but if he can be serviceable, the 49ers might be able to start winning some games. With Davis, Frank Gore and now Michael Crabtree, they have some nice pieces for a competent quarterback to make use of.
In his only full year as a starter in 2006, Smith was average at best. He completed 257-of-442 passes (58.1 percent) for 2,890 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He finished the season with a 74.8 rating.
Still, with the money Smith has been making to sit on the 49ers bench and the fact that San Francisco is currently 3-3, it’s about time to give the kid another shot. After all, he’s still just 25-years-old.
UNDERWHELMING UPDATE: Looks like Singletary has, in fact, named Smith the 49ers starting quarterback.