Starting the season, the San Francisco 49ers were heavy favorites to win the NFC West, knowing they were the only team in the division who did have a change of Quarterback or Head Coach.
After their week one loss to the Seattle Seahawks, former offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was given the blame for issues in communication considering play calling. Coming off of a close loss to the defending champion New Orleans Saints, the 49ers had high expectations to get their first win over the Kansas City Chiefs. However, after another dreadful performance by the offense, Head Coach Mike Singletary made a decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, replacing him with quarterback coach Mike Johnson, who had many ideas of how to make the 49ers offense more vertical. With only small improvement shown in the 14-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, fingers were once again pointed at Quarterback Alex Smith once again, after he failed to throw more than one touchdown pass for the second straight week.
Already 0-4, the 49ers hosted Philadelphia, desperate for their first win. Quarterback Alex Smith and Head Coach Mike Singletary were under heavy pressure with their jobs at stake. After a hot opening drive ending in a touchdown pass, the 49ers were held to only three points in the first half. With frustration already built by a struggling running game, Alex Smith, after being booed by the crowd at Candlestick Park, was given his last chance to perform.
The 49ers got the ball at mid field in the middle of the fourth quarter, and Alex Smith rolled out to escape the blitz, and fumbled the ball, resulting in a touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles, making the deficit 14 points. Mike Singletary reportedly challenged Alex Smith to do something about the disappointing turnover. In the next offensive possession, Alex Smith threw three straight incompletions, leading to quarterback controversy, as back up Quarterback David Carr began to warm up on the field, and lining up with the offense, before being removed from the field by Smith.
After Singletary had a pep talk with 2010 Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis, and after acknowledging Smith’s extreme self-confidence, Singletary felt convinced to keep Alex Smith in as the starting quarterback. Although Alex Smith drove down the field and connected with Vernon Davis for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to three, it wasn’t enough as Smith threw an interception costing the 49ers their fifth loss.
Prior to the loss putting the 49ers at 0-5, the blame game began. Knowing the running game has been non-existent, and Alex Smith has more interceptions than touchdowns this season, it’s been an ongoing debate of who is primarily responsible for the 49ers losing start to the season.
Many are placing the blame on Quarterback Alex Smith, who has failed to come through, despite his impressive showcase in his only 11 starts last season. Smith finished 2009 with a QB rating of 81.5, and currently has a rating of 71.6, with six touchdowns and nine interceptions in five games this season. Considering Smith is a six year veteran, the continuous turnovers and mistakes are inexcusable at this point. Many have given up on Smith to be the face of the franchise.
However, Singletary has confirmed Smith as the week six starter against the Raiders, and Smith’s job status will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. If Smith performs at a satisfactory level the rest of the season, he could save Mike Singletary’s job from being taken, although many believe it should already be gone.
It’s easy to expect Singletary to be under just as much pressure as Smith, but team president/owner Jed York has continued to stand behind Singletary despite his major lack of production, after giving the 49ers their first non losing season since 2002, by finishing 8-8 in 2009.
York told NBC Bay Area he has no intention of firing Mike Singletary this season, and currently has no candidates in line to replace him. However, Singletary has seemed to have lost the locker room, and will need a miracle to turn this season around. Even more importantly, he needs to earn his player’s trust.
One of Singletary’s main intentions was a strong and physical running game, which only averages 77.8 yards per game this season (30th in NFL). He has proved to be a solid disciplinary coach, but his judgments are questionable, considering the 49ers are winless with arguably one of the most talented teams in the NFC.
Although the 49ers are off to a dreadful start, they are only three games behind the division leading Arizona Cardinals. With York keeping confidence in Singletary, and Smith remaining as starting quarterback, all the 49ers organization can do is play it out, and hope to see a quick turnaround.