Alex Smith, back as the 49ers' starter, says he's a good quarterback.
"Absolutely," he said Wednesday. "I have the ability to make all the throws on the field. (I'm) athletic enough that I think I can make plays with my feet when I need to.
"I can handle I think any playbook out there, (any) adjustments you have to make. I think I can. Have I done that consistently? To be honest, no. That's what I need to do."
Time is running out -- for Smith and for the 49ers (4-8) -- to back up the words with deeds. A loss to the Seattle Seahawks (6-6) at Candlestick Park on Sunday would eliminate them from contention in the NFC West.
But a victory coupled with a loss by St. Louis (6-6) at New Orleans would leave them one game behind with three to play.
So the 49ers are putting their eggs in Smith's basket, perhaps for the last time. He is 17-30 in his career as a starter, including 1-6 this season.
Coach Mike Singletary reiterated Wednesday that Smith gives the 49ers "the best opportunity to win. And at this time of the year, that's what I'm going to do."
More specifically, Singletary said that playing Smith will allow the 49ers to dig deeper into their playbook. Troy Smith, who signed Sept. 6, was apparently limiting how much the 49ers could do, Singletary said.
"You can kind of hold the whole offense hostage, which is a situation you really don't want to be in," the coach said. "Troy, it's not fair to him. It's not fair to his offense."
That assessment surprised Troy Smith, who went 3-2 with an 80.2 rating as the 49ers' starter since Oct. 31. Within weeks of getting the job -- on Nov. 17 -- he said he knew "99.9 percent" of offensive coordinator Mike Johnson's playbook.
Still, Troy Smith was diplomatic about the demotion Wednesday.
"As a man and as a quarterback, I understand that decisions have to be made for the betterment of the team," he said. "There's nothing I can do about it but continue to prepare and get ready for Seattle."
In the three games since a 356-yard outburst against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 14, Troy Smith has yet to top 150 passing yards. His passer ratings were 51.5 vs. Tampa Bay, 61.7 against Arizona and 64.4 against Green Bay.
Still, even as he struggled, he still unleashed the occasional big play. His 38-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree helped kick-start the 49ers' 27-6 victory over Arizona.
Crabtree said he was unfazed by the quarterback change.
"I really don't know what's going on to tell you the truth," he said. "I'm just really worried about me and what I've got to do. If Alex is in there, we're just going to have to do the best we can do."
Is he surprised?
"At this point, I'm pretty much done with surprises," Crabtree said.
Alex Smith, who sustained a separation to his non-throwing shoulder Oct. 24, has been cleared to play since Nov. 14. He acknowledged it has been difficult to watch from the bench while healthy. He said it gives him a new appreciation for the professionalism of Shaun Hill, who lost his job to Alex Smith last season.
Observing Troy Smith from the sideline showed him some of the virtues of taking calculated risks. "(We're) at different ends of the spectrum, no question, in that area," Alex Smith said. "It's a much more controlled passing game when I was in there, taking completions, trying to do the long drives. With him, definitely there's much more shot-taking, throwing the ball downfield and play-action passes.
"Sometimes you have to do that."