Maybe yours was a Joe Montana jersey, or perhaps you wore the silver and black No. 12 of Ken Stabler. Regardless of what color or number you chose, from the moment you pulled that jersey on for a game of tackle in the backyard, or for two-hand touch in the street out front, you would always pretend to be an NFL QB, right? We all did.
Well what if you had that option now? Given the two following scenarios, which NFL quarterback would you rather be?
Your first choice would be to be the 2005 first-round draft pick of a legendary franchise, following a stellar career at a school in the glamorous Pac-10 conference in which you were first-team all-league, and an honorable mention All-American. You’d be taking over as the starting QB of a talented team coming off a 13-3 season that culminated in a trip to the NFC championship game, and your head coach would be unwavering in his commitment to you as his starter.
Your second option would be as a 2002 sixth-round pick of a perennial league doormat, following a relatively invisible career at a small Division II school. You would have bounced around between seven different teams in six seasons before landing on your current roster, and you’d be taking over as the starting QB of a last-place team that finished 5-11 in 2007. Taking over, that is, if the coin lands in your favor as your coach chooses between you and two other marginally talented guys.
You’d rather be J.T. O’Sullivan.
Aaron Rodgers, the unquestioned starting quarterback in Green Bay, met up with O’Sullivan in Saturday’s preseason game between the Packers and Niners, and played like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. O’Sullivan, facing trial-under-center for Mike Nolan’s 49ers, played like a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain. He was loose, he was comfortable, and most importantly — he was good.
And for the moment, anyway, he looks like he’s in a better position than either one of the first-round picks who shared the field with him Saturday, including Rodgers and teammate Alex Smith.
O’Sullivan came into training camp as the third quarterback of this team. Nolan announced to everyone who would listen that there would be an open competition for the QB job, but surely that meant that Shaun Hill would be given a legitimate chance to take the job away from Smith, the top overall pick in the 2005 draft.
“O’Sullivan?” most observers asked. “Come on. Let’s be serious.”
Well, O’Sullivan was serious against the Packers, going 8 of 17 for 154 yards and a 59-yard touchdown pass, along with one interception, in the Niners’ 34-6 win. The numbers were solid, but it was the manner in which the journeyman QB carried himself and his offense, which has given him a strong leg-up in what truly has been, contrary to popular opinion, a three-man competition.
Meanwhile, Rodgers tried valiantly to pick himself up off the deck (he was sacked four times) and prove to Packers fans that coach Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay front office did the right thing in standing behind him as their current and future leader. The Everest in front of Rodgers, however, may be impossible to climb.
Rodgers was a modest 9 of 18 for 58 yards in his second preseason start. There were a couple of dropped balls that didn’t help, but the former Cal star may be squeezing the ball a little tighter than even he is likely to admit.
The Brett Favre saga so enthralled America that his first major interview upon returning was not on ESPN — but on Fox News Channel — and it has fixed an almost nuclear spotlight on Rodgers. For some, he’s going to have to win three Super Bowls in one season in order to justify the team’s decision to send Saint Brett to New York. Here’s hoping Rodgers proves to be everything his bosses expect him to be, and that his is a story for the ages. But right now, all things considered, J.T. O’Sullivan’s jersey looks a lot more comfortable.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.