San Francisco’s head coach Mike Singletary finally got fired after his 25-17 loss to the rejuvenated St. Louis Rams. He trusted Troy Smith to get the job done against the Rams. Unfortunately, Troy Smith struggled, completing only 36.8 percent of his passes, 1 touchdown, 1 interception with a bleak 62.0 quarterback rating. And then in the fourth quarter, Singletary switched to Alex Smith in hopes of salvaging the game. Smith performed somewhat better, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and a better 91.0 rating. However, this has been Singletary’s season that cost him his job in a nutshell — the quarterback controversy and the hard losses for the once-dominant San Francisco 49ers.
The quarterback controversy between Alex Smith and Troy Smith escalated the problem with 49ers early on in the season. With Alex Smith performing early on in the season, he was a participant in the five early losses to the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. In hindsight, four of the five teams that Alex Smith and the 49ers lost to are bound for the playoffs. They were quality opponents, and the 49ers kept the game within 3 points in three of five of these opponents.
The switch to Troy Smith mid-season was supposed to energize this offense. He did win over the Denver Broncos, the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals. But in each of his five successive performances, he played worse and worse. Case in point, from the time he played the Denver Broncos with a 115.2 quarterback rating, he fell to a mediocre 64.0 rating. Worse yet, he never scored beyond a single touchdown in each of those five games whereas Alex Smith scored at least two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, for the 49ers, Alex Smith is the better of the two quarterbacks and will most likely not return next season since his contract has expired.
With the 49ers 5-1o record to date, part of it was the stability of the quarterback situation, another part of it was game management and the last part were the injuries. Running back Frank Gore was never fully utilized, with running over 100+ yards in four of the 11 games that he played. He only scored a rushing touchdown in two games, one against the New Orleans Saints and the other against the Denver Broncos. Much like the Miami Dolphins with their under-utilization of their once-potent running back Ronnie Brown, the 49ers fell to the same running back malaise. Then Frank Gore broke his hip against the Arizona Cardinals and ultimately placed on injured reserve as Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon took over. Vernon Davis was their most successful weapon, and he had been fighting with injuries and quarterbacks. He was most successful under Alex Smith, and the last game with the Cardinals, it may be Alex’s last.
Mike Singletary led the San Francisco 49ers to a bottomless pit, through mismanagement of a potentially explosive team. However, switching quarterbacks, underuse of his players and dealing with injuries ultimately cost him his job.