I don’t know where to start.
So I’ll start here.
This is what we know.
J.T. O’Sullivan was named the starter for last night’s game against the Bears and will be the starting quarterback during the regular season. (No, it hasn’t been announced yet.)
O’Sullivan was the Detroit Lion’s third-string quarterback last year.
Mike Nolan is coaching for his job.
Mike Martz is going to stab Nolan in the back in the hope that Nolan is fired so that he can take over next year.
(Whoops, I don’t know that. Nor have I ever heard anything to ever suggest that. That’s crazy talk!)
Mike Nolan has made a mistake. By starting J.T. O’Sullivan the first three games of the preseason, he has assured us that neither Alex Smith nor Shaun Hill would win the job. O’Sullivan played well last night (so did Smith, despite Joe Buck openly campaigning against him), and he looks like a starter. By all accounts, he’s outplayed Smith, so the decision to start him would not be not far off, on the surface.
The problem is that, although O’Sullivan may be the best option right now, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the best option by Week Five, or down the stretch. I don’t think O’Sullivan can lead a team to the playoffs, and if the 49ers can’t make the playoffs, Nolan is going to lose his job.
They are not a playoff team currently, and in order to become one, a number of things need to fall in place:
The defense needs a pass rush.
The offensive line needs to improve over last year.
Vernon Davis needs to become consistent.
Josh Morgan (or Bryant Johnson, or Jason Hill) needs to play well enough to be considered a legitimate NFL starting receiver.
The quarterback needs to be better then J.T. O’Sullivan...
Mike Nolan is going to lose his job. Seven or eight wins will not save him. Mike Holmgren is coming home, and Nolan needs a playoff birth to keep him out.
O’Sullivan is not leading the team to the playoffs.
Shaun Hill is out of the picture.
That leaves Alex Smith.
It’s fitting. When Nolan drafted him No. 1, he anointed Smith as the future of the franchise. It hasn’t worked out that well.
We all know the excuses as to why he hasn’t produced.
But if he doesn’t make it this year, he won’t be a 49er next year. He looks like a bust, but with quarterbacks, it’s hard to know. The 49ers picked up Patriot bust Jim Plunkett back in the '70s. He wasn’t any good. A few years later, he won two Super Bowls with the Raiders. In the '80s they picked up Tampa Bay bust Steve Young. Nobody really remembers Young as a bust anymore, do they?
My point is that you never really know with quarterbacks. Although I don’t think Smith is the answer, I know he can’t be written off just yet.
J.T. O’Sullivan isn’t the answer for any pro team playing outside of Canada.
Alex Smith probably isn’t either, but if Smith plays, the franchise will know where they stand with him.