Martz, not Nolan, is Calling the Shots on Offense
August 17, 2008 at 4:36 PM
Mike Martz is already making his presence known for the 49ers. He is giving the team a much needed shot of adrenaline at the quarterback position and the wide receiver position - both positions that need to improve if the 49ers are ever to be relevant again in the NFL.
JT O'Sullivan seems to be pulling a Michael Phelps and leaving the competition behind. He is getting the majority of the first team reps and is started both preseason games thus far. Nolan seems to backpedal whenever possible, saying that this is still a competition. O'Sullivan, though, plays Martz football. He has a quick release, knows the offense, and is not afraid to take some (often bonehead) chances.
In short, he adds some dynamo to the quarterback position. Frankly, this is why Smith is not going to succeed with the 49ers. He is just too cerebral on the field. Against the Packers yesterday, after DeSean Foster's touchdown run in the second quarter, O'Sullivan ran towards him from about 8 yards away on the right side of the field to help Foster up and celebrate. It's that kind of leadership that wins over players and ultimately wins games.
Smith is going though some tough times. His best friend recently committed suicide and the fact that he played in a game a day after he spoke at his friend's funeral speaks towards his toughness. Even toughness, though, is lost on teammates when there is little fire backing the toughness.
One can understand Nolan's reluctance to announce that O'Sullivan in the starter. He would be admitting that the cornerstone of his 49ers is no better than a journeyman quarterback. Mike Nolan is merely buying Smith time to try and win the job back from the clutches of O'Sullivan. Martz, though, has made his opinion clear.
The emergence of Josh Morgan is also very un-Nolan like. Morgan is fulfilling his end of the bargain, staying healthy and learning his assignments. Unlike seasons past, the door seems to be open for rookie players to bust though.
From David Bass to Jason Hill, the 49ers have seemed to hold young players in the wings until Nolan plays the role of Captain Obvious and makes the change. Measure this approach next to that of the New York Giants, a team that regularly played eight rookies on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Despite early season growing pains, Coughlin stuck with the rookies and it payed off in the second half of the big dance.
This is not to say that by playing rookies the 49ers will win a Super Bowl. However, a coach needs to be able to take risks since without them, there is little reward. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but an onside kick to open the second half does not stamp someone a risk taker.
The one current shared in the emergence of Morgan and O'Sullivan is Martz. Martz is not afraid to bench the 54 million dollar quarterback, nor is he afraid to give snaps to a rookie wide receiver. Martz, to a fault, is a risk taker. It's what he is known for and at this point, it's what the 49ers need. To this point, the status quo was not working.
O'Sullivan will look more like Rex Grossman than Steve Young, and Morgan will probably miss an assignment or ten as the season goes on. With Martz at the helm of the offense, though, the 49ers will be in games they shouldn't be. They will scare some teams not because of the offensive powerhouse, but because the 49ers will no longer be an afterthought - the equivalent of a bye week for opposing defenses.
Martz's risk taking is going to polarize fans, people will hate it and love it depending on the outcome of the games. Perhaps, though, the suit-and-tie 49ers just need a little flair to help build their team.
*Really, what is with Bay Area preseason broadcast teams? The Raiders broadcast team of Greg Papa and Tom Flores were as polished as a piece of poop. They make Dennis O'Donnell look good - and that's saying something. Among their many mix-ups were calling defensive end Isaac Sopoaga (SOAP-oh-AHH-gah) "soap-oh-GO-ah," JT O'Sullivan was just "JT Sullivan" and Kwame Harris was just "Kwam." Really, you get PAID for this? The 49ers even provide you with a pronunciation guide.
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