JT O'Sullivan will remain as the 49ers starting quarterback said head coach Mike Nolan on Monday.
Nolan indicated after the 29-17 loss to the Giants that he'd need to watch film and evaluate the play of his quarterback before he made any decisions, but after doing so, and talking with his coaching staff, Nolan endorsed O'Sullivan during his Monday press conference.
"JT gives us the best chance to win." "He makes plays; he gives us a great chance to move the ball. He's made great decisions. We do need to do - he needs to do a better job securing the football."
O'Sullivan's problems the last two weeks have manifested itself primarily in the fourth quarter. He fumbled once and threw two interceptions, including one for a touchdown to guarantee the Eagles a victory last week, and then fumbled three times in the fourth quarter against the Giants to stall the 49ers comeback attempts.
"It's just focus, detail. We have to work on it more in practice," said Nolan of O'Sullivan's problems fumbling. "Create drills in practice that involve that. As many snaps as he takes in practice, there's opportunity to work on it. We are not going to slap at his hands in practice with a drill and risk breaking a knuckle or a hand. That would be foolish. Some of it has to be attention to detail on his own in holding onto that ball."
O'Sullivan has lost the ball a league-high nine times, although only five of those fumbles have been recovered by the other team. Turnover ratio is usually the bottom line when it comes to wins and losses and in addition to his fumbles, O'Sullivan leads the league in interceptions with ten, in comparison to eight touchdowns.
But Nolan has often praised how well O'Sullivan takes coaching on his mistakes, and believes that his quarterback will progress and minimize his mistakes.
"I can only believe with development and coaching, which coaching is critical in this situation, that he will get better," said Nolan. "When we go to practice, we complete a lot of balls by our quarterback. That's a big sign. We don't turnover the ball much in practice, offensively. We need practice to go right into the game. We need to get the same thing accomplished."
While Nolan admitted that backup quarterback Shaun Hill might be the safer choice, the 49ers coaching staff still likes the rewards they can reap with O'Sullivan at the helm. With his strong arm and gunslinger mentality, O'Sullivan is second in the NFL to only Saints quarterback Drew Brees with pass plays over 20 yards.
"JTO I believe, has a better - he can deliver the ball vertically more often than Shaun can," said Nolan. "I don't want to take away from Shaun's abilities to help our football team. I would say Shaun is a safer choice at the time, but at the same time, when you are trying to get better and win, you need to score points, and the ball needs to get down the field more. JT has a better grasp of the offense. That's one of the larger areas as well. As evidenced in the game, if you take away the bad plays, and look at what he's done, he's very capable of producing, regularly and often. You can't dismiss those bad plays, and that's what we need to correct."
O'Sullivan has seen the bad plays on film over the last few weeks and understands what went wrong. The same is true on some missed opportunities that could have changed the last few losses into favorable outcomes, but the starting quarterback said on Monday that he'd prefer less talking about them, and more action.
"I do feel like it's close, but I also don't want to lean on that or use that as an excuse as to why we're not," said O'Sullivan. "I just feel like we can play better and I think everybody feels that. [We] just can't wait for the next opportunity to just want to do it. You just sit there…the empty rhetoric, eventually you just want to play better. That's where I'm at."
Notes: Nolan also said that WR Josh Morgan would continue to start opposite Isaac Bruce. Although several players were forced out of the game on Sunday, the 49ers don't expect any of the injuries to be lengthy. DE Ray McDonald and S Dashon Goldson suffered knee injuries and could miss some practice time this week, but all other injured players including S Michael Lewis and RS Allen Rossum are expected to be ready for Sunday's game against Seattle.