Desperately Seeking O'Sullivan: Where Is the Real J.T.O.?

Jay JamesonCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2008

The body watch is on! Consider this a quick memo to all 49ers players and personnel: Keep all long belts, ropes, razors, painkillers, and strong alcoholic products away from J.T. O'Sullivan.

It was only a matter of time before the 49ers and their quarterback would take a major step back.

Sunday's debacle in New Orleans was a glimpse into the immediate future for San Francisco (the defenses of the upcoming teams on the schedule are a lot more frightening than the Saints'). Not only was the loss ugly, the performance from J.T.O. was disheartening.

After three weeks of stellar play and an impressive start to the season, O'Sullivan managed to remind fans why he was a career backup.

It wasn't just the two costly interceptions thrown in the end zone, but also the consistently erratic play of the 49ers' signal caller that really hurt San Francisco's bid to start 3-1. Sunday's game in New Orleans is one San Francisco absolutely could have won.

Having praised O'Sullivan for his escapability and moxie to keep plays alive with his feet in previous articles, Sunday's contest was a chance to crush him for trying to make too much happen.

Granted, the 49ers' offensive line might be the worst in the league, but that shouldn't keep J.T.O. from throwing the ball away and living to play another down.

In addition to the pair of atrocious red-zone interceptions, O'Sullivan also fumbled—attempting to turn a dead play into a miracle—in 49ers territory. This led to the Saints' first touchdown. In effect, J.T.O. was really the Saints' top offensive player on Sunday.

Particulars and statistics aside, O'Sullivan's body language and mannerisms after the turnovers and short offensive series were not those of a quarterback meant to lead an NFL team.

Certainly his heart is not in question—he has shown time and again that he is a staunch competitor. However, a quarterback has to have a short memory. Even Brett Favre, one of the league's most boisterous quarterbacks, keeps his emotions in check after a turnover.

And that's where the body watch comes in.

To see a quarterback visibly shaken after his poor play is not altogether uncommon, but O'Sullivan really brings that drama to a whole new level.

Shot after shot of J.T.O. on the sideline had to leave fans wondering when trainers were going to bring him a box of tissues for his tears, some ice for his hot head, and a chaise lounge and notepad for general psychoanalysis.

It's one thing to have a bad game, but it'll be a whole new situation when O'Sullivan goes to sleep at night and wakes up in a cold sweat—nightmares of Charles Grant and the rest of the Saints' defensive line devouring him for lunch.

So again, this is a plea to anyone who will be around J.T.O. in the next 48 hours: Keep him calm and remind him that he's only started four games in the NFL and is bound to want a mulligan at some point.

Just try to tell him that his window of opportunity to remain in that position beyond this season will start closing fast with displays similar to Sunday.

If O'Sullivan starts next week's game with extra long wristbands and a turtleneck, most of the fans will know why. Hopefully though, for his mental sake, J.T.O. will revert back to the quarterback he was against Seattle and Detroit.

Yet, J.T. O'Sullivan probably isn't the only 49er that's going to suffer severe mental trauma Sunday night. The loss at New Orleans wasn't entirely his fault.

The offensive line was terrible, as per usual. The play calling of Mike Martz was awful—maybe mix in a screen on an over-pursuing defense. The coaching decisions of Mike Nolan—a challenge flag on a six-yard completion?—were laughable. And the defensive backs were consistently torched down the field for huge gains and momentum swings.

But that's not any excuse for J.T.O.'s performance.

The total O'Sullivan package—especially the poise that he showed in previous weeks—has to show up every week if the 49ers are going to have a chance to win the NFC West. He's the quarterback. He's directly accountable. He has to be better. He has to be tougher.

Never let them see you run, J.T.

49ers fans should have a lot more to worry about than whether or not their quarterback is going to be behind center next week.