Can a quarterback with zero career starts in six years save a head coach's job? That's what league observers are pondering with the expected announcement of
O'Sullivan, a sixth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2002, has apparently beaten out incumbents
"It's not a surprising development," said an NFC scout. "O'Sullivan is a smart, athletic and talented player. He may get a little careless with the ball, but he has all of the tools to be a starter in our league."
Although O'Sullivan's numbers have not been spectacular during the preseason (13 of 25 for 225 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions), the 49ers' offense looks better under his guidance. His surprising surge up the depth chart is due to his knowledge of offensive coordinator
"Martz's offense requires the ball to come out on time because quarterbacks are instructed to throw the ball to a spot," said an NFC scout. "If there is any indecision in the quarterback's mind, the timing of the route will be thrown off, and it will lead to incomplete passes or interceptions."
After spending a season working under Martz in Detroit as
"He [O'Sullivan] is a pretty bright guy," said an NFC scout. "He entered the league as a bit of a gunslinger, but he has toned down his game and become a more complete player."
But there are still major questions surrounding the insertion of O'Sullivan in the starting lineup. He has 26 career pass attempts in five games. While inexperience doesn't mean that O'Sullivan is destined to fail, the fact that he is currently with his eighth franchise (Saints, Packers, Vikings, Patriots, Bears, Panthers, Lions and 49ers) is a little disturbing. The NFL's lack of quality quarterbacks has been well documented, so it is quite surprising that one of those franchises was not able to identify O'Sullivan's potential as a future starter. In fact, the quarterback-hungry Bears declined to bring O'Sullivan to training camp after watching him win NFL Europa's Offensive Co-MVP award while guiding the Frankfurt Galaxy to the World Bowl in 2007. (O'Sullivan posted a league-leading 103.1 passer rating while completing 160 of 235 passes for 1,997 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.)
However, 49ers' followers should not be discouraged by O'Sullivan taking the reins of the offense. Martz transformed unheralded
With his job on the line, Mike Nolan can only hope that Martz has discovered another hidden gem.
After laboring through an injury-plagued rookie season, Lions receiver
"He is an absolute freak on the field," said an NFC scout. "It's so rare to find a guy with his combination of size, speed and skills."
While Johnson didn't make the sudden impact most predicted, that he finished the season with 48 receptions for 756 yards and four touchdowns in 10 starts (second among all rookies) is impressive considering he played the majority of the season with a nagging back injury. But bolstered by a return to good health, Johnson has been a dominant player during the preseason (seven receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown), and appears ready to become a key playmaker opposite Pro Bowl wideout
"I think he's making that leap that you see second-year players make from their first year," teammate
New offensive coordinator
"He is beginning to come into his own," said an NFC scout. "I don't think that it would surprise anyone to see him wind up in the Pro Bowl this season."
The Falcons finally granted veteran receiver
"He's definitely not the player he was in his prime," said an AFC personnel director. "He still has some straight-line speed, but he is no longer explosive and is unable to get separation from defenders on a consistent basis."
Despite that assessment, Horn and his representatives believe there is a market for a 36-year old receiver, who hasn't played a full season in three years. They cite Jacksonville, Seattle, Tennessee and Dallas as possible destinations.
"Joe has been so productive," Horn's agent,
While it is true that there are several teams with a need for a solid complementary receiver, Horn is a No. 4 receiver at this stage, and a team is unlikely to pay significant money to a receiver clearly on the downside of his career. Though the Falcons are on the hook for Horn's $2.5 million salary this season, teams are not likely to make an immediate play for Horn. With the first cutdown day less than a week away, teams will scour the waiver wire for younger veterans before thinking about signing Horn.
"All teams would like to add a veteran to mentor their young guys," said an NFC personnel director. "But you hope that player still has some upside and ability. I'm not sure that [Joe] brings those things to the table at this point."
Horn desperately wanted a chance to play for a contender, but time will tell if he has talked his way out of the best situation for him.