Allow me for a moment to step back up onto my soapbox.
J.T. O'Sullivan is the greatest San Francisco quarterback since...Since...Well, he's better than Cody Pickett and Ken Dorsey. He's better than Tim Rattay. Maybe even better than Elvis Grbac. Maybe.
Okay, my feet are going back on the ground.
Look, 2-1 and a tie for first place in the NFC West isn't that great three weeks into the regular season. But, there may well be reason to think that there a lot of good things—and some surprises—on the horizon for the 49ers.
Sunday's thrashing of the hopelessly hapless Detroit Lions is actually nothing to scoff at. A win is a win is a win. And with a ridiculously difficult stretch in the schedule upcoming for San Francisco, they'll take the win, and not apologize for it.
Something else they shouldn't apologize for is the play of J.T. O'Sullivan.
Fine; on the surface, his numbers on Sunday weren't exactly ultra impressive. But that's the beauty of O'Sullivan and what he brings to this version of Mike Martz' offense.
J.T.O. doesn't have to ga-ga on the stat sheet to help the 49ers. He has to control the ball, manage the offense, complete the high percentage slant patterns, feed Frank Gore, and keep his receivers happy with the occasional—but sexy—deep pass.
Funny thing about the guy—he does all of that. And a whole lot more.
Traditionally, quarterbacks who play in Martz' system aren't exactly mobile. They're pocket passers who have some guts. There's no doubt O'Sullivan has the guts of his predecessors, but he also has the athletic ability and the presence to keep plays alive and give his receivers a chance to get open and make plays.
The offense is primarily based on timing and precision. What makes J.T.O. so good for this team is his mental toughness and escapability.
Face it. The 49ers have a sub-par at best offensive line. The "Tough Sack" does his receivers a service by moving around in the pocket, rather than resemble Kitna, Warner, or Bulger as statues within the tackle box.
Sunday was no exception. O'Sullivan continually moved outside the hashes and made tough throws on the run to receivers breaking away from their defenders.
Listen, it helps to have a runner like Frank Gore in the backfield. He keeps defenses honest. But the escapability of J.T.O. forces a defense to at least honor the threat of him breaking the pocket and picking up first downs with his feet.
Far be it from me to say that the 49ers are a playoff contender—although in a previous article there are some allusions to that idea. Yet, you can't help but root for the thought of another great story at the quarterback spot in a Mike Martz offense.
With a trip to the Superdome looming, and a battle with an angry and high powered Saints offense, O'Sullivan has a chance to throw up some huge numbers. But better than the stats would be a tally in the win column.
New Orleans gives up a lot of points and a lot of yards. If the 49ers defense can get the high octane Saints off the field, the 49ers will be in good shape with the ball in O'Sullivan's hands.
It's probably not fair to levy the success and failure of the 49ers squarely on the shoulders of O'Sullivan, but that's what being a leader in the NFL is all about. He's got to continue to step-up and impress the rest of the league.
In him and with him, San Francisco has the chance to be the biggest surprise early in the 2008 season.
Just leave it to J.T.O. to keep making those special things happen.
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