Liotta: Picking O'Sullivan took courage 

I’m thinking this Mike Nolan is cagey like a fox.

The way I see the 49ers’ preseason is that Nolan brought two quarterbacks to the table, and Mike Martz brought one. Not only that, but Nolan brought the two highest-paid quarterbacks to this preseason party. Martz brought the afterthought.
And the Niners go into the 2008 season with Martz’s quarterback — J.T. O’Sullivan — as the starter.

It’s either a courageous decision or one that signifies the 49ers are as desperate as any team in the NFL.
I’m going with courageous. But I’m not discounting desperate.

Nolan is a realist. He knows he has to win this season. And I’m thinking he’s smart enough to know that he has to push aside his ego, push aside his public image and go with the best he’s got. And, apparently, that’s O’Sullivan.

I don’t think John (or Jed) York care how Nolan does it. Or who the quarterback is when he does it. So it comes down to Nolan making a has-to-win decision. And Nolan was smart enough to go with O’Sullivan.

“He’s got very good command of the offense and played well in [the first] three preseason games. ... He played with consistency and we moved the ball well as a unit,’’ Nolan said after making the decision.

O’Sullivan played that position best this preseason, and that’s an easy angle to go with. If a coach has the ability to push everything else aside — including his own ego — it sets the stage for every conversation the coaching staff has with a player the rest of the year.

Play better, and you’ll play. That’s motivation right there. The 49ers need to come into this season hungry for victories. And this is the kind of decision that can foster that attitude.

This team needs everybody pointing forward, pulling together and thinking that winning is everything. The decision to go with O’Sullivan could help that along. Actually, I think this 49ers team is one that will surprise a few people if it stays healthy. The football department has spent three years assembling the roster. There really haven’t been that many “What are they thinking?” moments. And it figures they’ll give teams more trouble than expected.

The key guy — in my opinion — is tight end Vernon Davis. He needs to be more involved than the 52 catches he racked up last year.
I’ve been a huge fan of DeShaun Foster, all the way back to his UCLA days. And giving Frank Gore the opportunity to take a breather will only make him better.

If the decision to go with O’Sullivan truly was one of courage — and he really can play — this offense will give the 49ers the chance to surprise some people.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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