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Thoughts on 49ers' switch to Alex Smith

Alex Smith slipped past Troy Smith in my weekly NFC West quarterback rankings earlier Monday.

The San Francisco 49ers' coaching staff apparently felt similarly. Troy Smith, though preferable to Alex Smith in some ways, wasn't efficient enough to keep the offense moving. Alex Smith is expected to start against Seattle in Week 14, a game the 49ers must win to keep alive their playoff hopes.

My take from Monday morning on Alex Smith:

Alex Smith didn't even play Sunday, but his relative success in the red zone seemed appealing after watching the 49ers struggle badly in that area during their defeat at Green Bay. Alex Smith has eight TDs and no INTs with a 124.4 rating in the red zone this season. Troy Smith hasn't fared as well in that area of the field. Troy Smith has made more big plays, bypassing the red zone altogether, but his inefficiency comes at a price.

And my take on Troy Smith from the same item:

Good NFL quarterbacks generally complete at least 60 percent of their passes these days. Troy Smith completed 40 percent against the Packers. He did connect on a few big plays, notably a 66-yard TD strike to Vernon Davis. The big-play ability is what separates Troy Smith from Alex Smith at this point. The 49ers were becoming more efficient on third down when Alex Smith was the quarterback, however. San Francisco converted 21 of 42 (.500) third-down chances in the final three full games Alex Smith played before suffering a shoulder injury. The team has converted 18 of 61 chances (.295) in five full games with Troy Smith.

I'm not offering a ringing endorsement for Alex Smith as the 49ers' starter against Seattle in Week 14. I'm not sure which quarterback Seattle would rather see. The Seahawks presumably aren't panicking over the thought of facing Alex Smith in a big game. The 49ers converted just once in 15 third-down chances when Alex Smith was quarterback for their 31-6 defeat at Seattle in Week 1. Troy Smith has the better starting record (3-2 vs. 1-6). If Alex Smith falters, we could certainly see Troy Smith under center once again.

It's probably fitting in some ways for Alex Smith to start an elimination game for the 49ers. Coach Mike Singletary's support for Alex Smith has come to define his tenure as head coach in some ways. If the 49ers are going to suffer playoff elimination -- or keep alive their season -- they might as well give it a shot with the quarterback they drafted first overall in 2005.