Alex Smith

Troy Smith gets his shot with the 49ers

He’s not that tall, but he’s fast. But he isn’t that fast. He’s Troy Smith, former third-string quarterback turned starting QB for the San Francisco 49ers, who never seem to run out of ideas. Unfortunately, none of their ideas look very good after a full half of football. So what does this new QB mean for everyone’s favorite 1-6 team?

The Good

— The shorter of the Niners’ two quarterbacking Smiths possesses perhaps the most accurate arm on the team … as long as he can get his passes over the outstretched arms of opposing defensive linemen.

— He’s had a great college career at one of the premier programs in the nation, winning the Heisman Trophy his senior season.

— He’s hungry and totally unproven, but hasn’t been sacked into oblivion like David Carr.

— In high school and at Ohio State, Smith paired up frequently with 49ers receiver Ted Ginn, who’s at times looked like one of the more dynamic skill position guys the Niners have had in a while.

— Unlike David Carr,  Smith can raise his arm above his shoulder when passing and his helmet doesn’t look like it would be better suited for RoboCop or Ironman.

The Bad

— Third-string guys get very few reps in practice, and hadn’t taken one snap with the first team in practice until this week.

— This is the third quarterback that Mike Johnson has had to work with in five games, and even though Johnson was a Ravens coach while Smith was in Baltimore, he’s already said he’s going to have to scale down the playbook this week. Yay, more Frank Gore up the middle on first down!

— The Ravens were fine with letting Smith go after acquiring Marc Bulger.

— In his rookie year, the only year he’s had any real playing time, Smith fumbled 3 times (2 lost) in 4 games.

— Smith has gone from an organization that knew what it was doing to being installed as an emergency QB for a game taking place in London, for a team that really has no clue what it’s doing or what their plans are from week to week.

What to Expect

Nobody knows what to expect from the 49ers these days besides failure at this point, in new and jaw-dropping ways every week. However, cautious optimism isn’t completely insane. Troy Smith is a much better athlete than Carr, and considering Vernon Davis’ and Frank Gore’s reactions to Carr possibly replacing Alex Smith against the Eagles in a game where Alex performed terribly until Philadelphia went to a prevent-style defense, it’s reasonable to assume that the guys Troy would be throwing to would rather get in the huddle with Troy than Carr. And after watching Carr flounder against the Carolina Panthers, most fans would agree that if they never saw Carr play again it wouldn’t be a tragedy.

The key to Troy’s success in this contest — especially in light of Vernon Davis’ ankle injury (he’s listed as questionable) — is how well he works with the wideouts and Brian Westbrook, who probably can’t believe he joined a team where none of the quarterbacks can throw a decent screen pass. If Troy can actually perform this modern miracle, Westbrook might again find the will to live. Michael Crabtree should have more than one 100-yard game by now, Josh Morgan looked pretty good against Carolina, Dominique Ziegler is a steady option who’ll catch anything thrown his way, and clearly Troy Smith will know where Ginn is at all times.

If Smith can get the wideouts involved early against a Broncos defense that got torched by the mighty Raiders last Sunday, and maybe fit in a little Delanie Walker (who had a tremendous day on special teams in Carolina after coming back from his ankle injury), the 49ers might have something. Maybe even one of those win-type thingies. You know, as long as the defense doesn’t give up multiple touchdowns to Brandon Lloyd and their customary long, backbreaking drive at the end of the game.

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