A couple weeks into the season, back when fans were cautiously optimistic that this was the year Mike Nolan finally found an offense, new offensive coordinator Mike Martz declared that J.T. O'Sullivan could be the best quarterback he ever coached.
It was at that moment, I suspect, that the grim reality of the situation was no longer obscured by things like "hopes" or "dreams." No, naturally, Nolan was fired a month later, Mike Singletary took over the interim gig, and the 49ers continued their losing ways. To Singletary's credit, however, he had the good sense to bench O'Sullivan, Martz's crazy ideas be damned.
Shaun Hill, the same guy who many figured was the leading candidate for the gig in the spring, was promoted, and while he doesn't conjure images of Montana or Young, he's also not O'Sullivan. It's a start. In fact, he's done so well, Martz is admittedly shocked.
"His decisions are quick," Martz said of [Hill]. "He doesn't hang on to the ball. ... There's no hesitation. That's why I'm a little surprised. ... You've got to really know what we're doing to do that. So he's further along in that regard than I would have expected him to be."
I think this says more about Martz's ability to evaluate talent than it does about Hill's abilities. Remember, Martz was the guy who thought verbal beatdowns was the best way to separate the mentally tough from everybody else. Yeah, that blew up in his face. It's just too bad Nolan didn't have the chutzpah to speak up (while he still had the job, anyway).
I have no idea if Martz was ever close to benching O'Sullivan -- he was leading the league in picks when Singletary saved him from himself -- but the idea of trotting him out there week after painstaking week is a testament to Martz's stubbornness.
And while that's a great quality to have in, say, a short-yardage back, it doesn't translate quite as well to an NFL coach.
Don't Let the Glasses Fool You: Mike Martz Isn't That Smart originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Sun, 23 Nov 2008 09:45:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.