Is it time for the 49ers to bench Alex Smith?

San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Troy Smith (L), David Carr (C) and Alex Smith carry pink towels to promote the breast cancer awareness campaign during pre-game warmups before their NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Atlanta, Georgia, October 3, 2010.   REUTERS/David Tulis  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL HEALTH)

49er fans once again have had about all they can take when it comes to the play of Alex Smith.

Following yet another rough performance by his starting quarterback in a 16-14 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary said that he never thought about pulling Smith during the game. Why would he? Smith killed two potential scoring drives with interceptions, but coaches don’t make it a habit to pull their starting quarterbacks when their team has the lead. And up until the final seven seconds, the Niners had the lead the entire time.

But while the thought didn’t cross his mind on Sunday, I wonder if Singletary is considering making a quarterback change now. Smith hasn’t been dreadful, but the bottom line is that he isn’t making enough plays in the vertical passing game – or enough plays period. The situation in Atlanta was set up perfectly for him: he had a 14-0 lead, a solid game plan under new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson and a defense that was holding the Falcons to field goals instead of touchdowns. All Smith had to do was keep the chains moving, protect the football and allow the Falcons to kill themselves with dumb mistakes.

But once again, he failed to do that and now San Fran is 0-4 after many pundits (this one included) projected them to win the NFC West. Given how bad the division is, that goal can still be attained but not if Smith continues to play as poorly as he has.

The problem is that Singletary has options at quarterback, but they’re not very good. We’ve all witnessed David Carr’s handy work and Nate Davis is still incredibly raw. The wild card is Troy Smith, whom the Niners signed a month ago after the Ravens dumped him. But he’s coming off a brutal preseason and doesn’t have the accuracy or decision-making to be a starter at this juncture. Despite Smith’s play, he still gives the 49ers the best chance of winning at the moment (however long that is) and Singletary may have no choice but to stick with him.

Then again, why continue to do something if it isn’t working? If Smith can’t produce under Johnson, then Carr, Troy Smith or Davis should get an opportunity. The Niners can’t continue to be derailed by inconsistency at the quarterback position or else this season is about to get longer than it already has been.

It’s now or never, Alex Smith.

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