With QB change, 49ers can open their playbook

Alex Smith (AP/Elaine Thompson)

Alex Smith climbs back in the saddle, giving the 49ers more chances to use their entire playbook. But coach Mike Singletary says the change in quarterbacks was also made because opponents had figured out Troy Smith.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – "Back in the saddle."

That's how Alex Smith put it Wednesday morning after learning he'd been reinstalled as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback this week. Troy Smith is out, Alex Smith is back in. Business as usual.

Coach Mike Singletary said his decision – and no doubt that of offensive coordinator Mike Johnson – was a matter of being able to expand the playbook from first page to last, something they couldn't do with Troy Smith. With Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks possibly meaning the end of the 49ers' playoff hopes, they had to make a change now.

"There really isn't anything other than the fact that at this time of the year, with the games we have left, it's a matter of being able to use the entire playbook," Singletary said. "Troy has been working his tail off and spending all the time he possibly could to get everything in. There's just not enough time in the day.

"I think right now we need everything that we could possibly have. Everything that we've run in the offseason and training camp, we need that. So Alex Smith gets the opportunity to do that."

It's an opportunity Smith says he's been preparing for since being injured almost seven weeks ago and then losing his job to Troy Smith after he was healthy enough to return.

But it wasn't just the fact that the 49ers can do more offensively with Alex Smith at quarterback. Singletary also indicated that defenses know a lot more about Troy Smith and that a change is necessary to keep teams uncertain.

"Troy playing those five games that he's been able to play, now there are more teams that understand, ‘This is what he does,'" Singletary said. "You kind of pigeon-holed him there and kind of hold the whole offense hostage, which is a situation you really don't want to be in. Troy, it's not fair to him, it's not fair to our offense. I just feel that right now, Alex knows it, he can do it, he's done it, and I want to give him the opportunity to do it right now."

Troy Smith wasn't signed until Sept. 6 after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens at the end of training camp. But he said he didn't feel limited by a lack of playing time in the 49ers offense.

"No," he said. "Obviously, through the course of Alex's career here, he's been able to do some good things, so I have an understanding as to why the decision was made. You know, coming in as late as I did and having to not only get to know your teammates but – I don't want to say cram with the playbook – but definitely it's challenging and trying times. But as a quarterback, every single assignment is going to be challenging and trying."

It's been that way for both Smiths. Alex Smith's career with the 49ers has been one of ups and downs, competitions, injuries and uncertainty. And when Singletary said this week that he was going with Alex Smith because he gives the team the best chance to win, Smith said he reacted like everyone else – how is this week different from last week?

"I didn't get into all the stuff from previous weeks, but it was definitely my first question," he said. "What's changed? That was definitely something that was on my mind, and he made it very clear that was his thinking -- that we're going into this game and I gave us the best opportunity."

Alex Smith said the differences between him and Troy Smith are pretty clear and that a willingness to take chances is something he should consider. He said he even addressed the subject with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.

"I guess I kind of thought, looking at the offense when I was in there and he was in there, I kind of thought different ends of the spectrum in that area," he said. "Much more of a controlled passing game when I was in there, taking completions, trying to do the long drives. With him, definitely much more shot-taking, throwing the ball downfield, play-action pass. It's something I talked to Mike about. The offense needs both."

NOTES: Singletary offered no insight into the departure of secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, who resigned Tuesday. "I just want to say that a personal issue came up and Johnnie is going to have to handle it in the best way possible," he said. "I wish him all the luck in the world. And Johnnie and I remain friends."

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