The last couple of years I have touted the Niners heavily at this time of year. That has only partly been a good thing. Two years ago I felt like a genius as they went 6-3 ATS down the stretch and looked like a real team on the rise. They rewarded my faith last year by going 5-11 ATS and looking like a team that could only be improved by folding. I’m too smart to fall for this team again, but I can’t help myself completely, so I will still pay close attention to this team I wish I didn’t like. Because of that, I am particularly intrigued by the ascension of J.T. O’Sullivan, the game one starter for the team.
O’Sullivan is the definition of a journeyman. He was drafted in 2002, and the Niners are his eighth team. He played his college ball in Division II at UC Davis. He was solid at that level for what it’s worth, and he set a record with six touchdowns in a single playoff game.
O’Sullivan came into the preseason as the third man on the depth chart behind Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. He had one big advantage, though – Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator, and O’Sullivan had played with him in Detroit last year. That familiarity was enough to get him a chance, and he made the most of it. He has been clearly the best quarterback in camp. Though some of that is because both Smith and Hill seem incapable of sustained good play, O’Sullivan certainly deserves some credit.
I’m not at all optimistic about this team, and I doubt that O’Sullivan will stay behind center all season (especially given how expensive Smith is as a backup), but I think O’Sullivan has a better chance than many would give him credit for of making an impressive impact. Here are three good reasons why I think so.
1. Europe – NFL Europe obviously didn’t prove to be the fast track to NFL success for players. Still, I think that O’Sullivan deserves some credit for what he did over there. He sspent two different seasons in Germany – 2004 and 2007. The first time he led his team to the championship, and he repeated the feat in 2007 while being named offensive MVP. That doesn’t mean that he will be MVP here, but it does show that the guy does have some game, and he knows how to win if he is given a chance.
2. Martz – Martz obviously likes the guy, or O’Sullivan wouldn’t have had the chance to get where he is now. Martz has his share of issues, but he obviously has the ability to make a quarterback productive, and he isn’t afraid to run with an unconventional QB if he likes him. O’Sullivan won’t be the next Kurt Warner – largely because he doesn’t have the talent surrounding him that Warner did in St. Louis – but Martz could give us something worth watching.
3. Fate – Sooner or later the Niners deserve a break, don’t they? They screwed up by getting rid of Jeff Garcia, but they have paid for that by now, so maybe this is the first sign of hope for a pretty hopeless team. For the sake of his job, Mike Nolan sure hopes so.