Alex Smith has already watched offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye get fired after San Francisco's awful start. So it's no surprise Smith still wasn't sure where he stood in Mike Singletary's eyes when arriving at 49ers headquarters Monday.
The quarterback is keeping his starting job for at least another week.
Singletary said he plans to evaluate Smith's status on a week-to-week basis from now on considering the team's 0-5 start and inconsistent offense. The coach contemplated a switch early in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's 27-24 loss to the Eagles, but Smith talked him out of it after backup David Carr had already taken a few steps onto the field.
"When I look at Alex, I'm convinced that there's something there that I feel that he can be a good quarterback," Singletary said Monday. "But it's up to him. You're always a work in progress, but at some point in time you have to grab hold of it and really come to that point to where you know, and everybody else around you, that this guy has arrived. ... I do believe that Alex Smith has all of the tools, all of the things that he needs to be that guy. I just need to see all of it."
Smith's response after the coach lashed into him persuaded Singletary to stay with the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick for this Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Smith threw two interceptions, one with the team driving in the final minute, and fumbled against the Eagles — accounting for three of the 49ers' five turnovers. He also led two late touchdown drives, going 12 of 16 for 123 yards over the final three series.
"It was something that needed to happen," Singletary said of calling out his quarterback and seeing his reaction. "I think it was something that his teammates needed to see."
Singletary and Smith met long after the game ended and Smith had a feeling he was still the No. 1 — but not totally convinced until he got to work Monday. Smith leads the NFL with nine interceptions.
"I was kind of unsure," Smith said. "You don't know what's going to happen overnight, if the thoughts were going to change or what. I was prepared for anything this morning."
San Francisco will now need to make history to reach the playoffs. No 0-5 team has bounced back to do so.
The Niners were the popular pick before the season to win the mediocre NFC West, but have underachieved and repeatedly beaten themselves.
Both tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore expressed their support of Smith, who was booed by the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park. Fans also chanted, "We want Carr!"
Davis was happy to hear Smith is still the guy.
"I'm all about it. I'm a big fan of Alex Smith," Davis said. "He's talented. He makes mistakes. His thing is he definitely has to learn from them. We don't have time to play around and just make careless mistakes. We've got to go. It's about that time."
There were no apparent hard feelings on Carr's part, even though Singletary didn't alert him that he'd changed his mind to stick with Smith.
The 49ers signed Carr — another former No. 1 pick — in March to be Smith's backup, and Singletary never expected him to compete for the top job.
"It really wasn't as big a deal for me to get ready and go in and then not to go again," Carr said. "I kind of stay ready to go in, so mentally I kind of prepare myself for that situation."
Smith let it go in the two late scoring drives Sunday, hitting Davis on a 7-yard TD and Gore on a 1-yard scoring strike. He looked more at ease in those final series than he has most of the season. Even Singletary acknowledged that Smith wasn't "pressing" for a change. This is the same quarterback Singletary promoted at halftime last Oct. 25 at Houston, benching then-starter Shaun Hill.
"There are times out there that I know that I play too cautious," Smith said. "I think that's when I find myself making those mistakes. It's funny. It's counterproductive. You'd think playing cautious would lead the other way, but in me, it always has. You see at times when I cut it loose and play more fearless and the results have always been better."
Nobody is pointing the blame at Smith. It's been problems on both sides of the ball and special teams that has San Francisco in a serious hole.
Team president Jed York hasn't lost any faith. He told ESPN, "We're going to win the division." Singletary and the players appreciate it.
The 49ers still have five games against the West, including two dates with the first-place Arizona Cardinals.
"It's felt like a whole season already, considering that we haven't won a game," All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis said. "It makes the days feel long, it makes the weeks feel long. In reality, we're 0-5, that's what it is. Reality, too, is that we have a chance to get this right. We're down, we're deep in a hole right now. It seems deeper than what it is. I think we're capable of getting out of it. I really do. I refuse to not believe in getting ourselves out of what we got ourselves into."