J.T. O'Sullivan started the last three preseason games at quarterback and will now remain the team's regular season starter. Head coach Mike Nolan broke the news to his three quarterbacks early Friday and then made the announcement in an afternoon conference call with reporters.
"The determining factor was that JT had the better command of the three," said Nolan. "He played with consistency and we moved the ball well as a unit. We scored points and he did the things that are important for that position.
"He's played well in all three preseason games and now it's time to get ready for the season."
Nolan said that it was a unanimous decision among himself, general manager Scot McCloughan, offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner to go with O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan started all three of the 49ers preseason games including last night's game against the Chicago Bears. His 7 of 8 completions for 126 yards and a 37-yard touchdown strike to Jason Hill built a 13-10 early second quarter lead for the 49ers.
Shaun Hill and Alex Smith began camp sharing reps with the first-team, but about a week into things, the coaching staff began to grant increasingly more
opportunities to the off-season free agent acquisition.
"This is not a case of Shaun or Alex not playing well," said Nolan. "This is a case of J.T. O'Sullivan performing very well."
Nolan said that Smith will be the second-string quarterback with Hill serving as the third.
O'Sullivan, a former sixth-round pick by the Saints in 2002 out of UC-Davis has spent time with several NFL teams including the Packers, the Vikings, the Patriots.
He had a leg up on Hill and Smith in terms of understanding the Martz' offense, after playing for the 49ers coordinator last season in Detroit.
"J.T. was as he normally is," said Nolan of sharing the news with O'Sullivan. "He was just listening to what I had to say. But, I could tell he was pleased with the decision."
Nolan said that Smith – a shoe-in starter the last three seasons since being selected as the overall pick in 2005 – was disappointed, but optimistic.
"Alex and Shaun both handled it as well as you could because all three want to be the starter," said Nolan. "He was very upbeat and positive in our meeting today. He's optimistic about his possibilities of being a good quarterback."
There has been no discussion to release or trade Smith, and Nolan said that any perception that this decision translates to Smith being a bust would be an incorrect assumption.
"If that's the perception, that would be wrong," said Nolan. "Because, I think he's getting better and better right now. He needs consistency and continuity which we all do and he's getting that right now. He's getting a very detailed offense from a very detailed oriented coach and I think he performs well in that environment. I just don't believe that's accurate to say that about Alex. I've got a lot of confidence in Alex and I think he's matured a lot this year."
Nolan wasn't certain about how much work O'Sullivan will get in the final preseason game. He indicated the first-team offense would play less than a quarter, but that he would like to get O'Sullivan a little more work with a few of the receivers who have been out in Arnaz Battle, Ashley Lelie and Bryant Johnson. Nolan expects to have at least two of those three receivers back for the final exhibition game.
Starting right guard David Baas is expected to return to practice on Saturday. Baas tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights this off-season. He had surgery the week of the NFL Draft and has been on the PUP list since camp began.
Nolan did not have an update on starting left guard Adam Snyder, who sprained his ankle in Tuesday's practice.
Running back Michael Robinson could also return to work this week after having his knee scoped early in camp.
Return specialist Allen Rossum suffered a chest contusion in the game, but Nolan thinks he'll have him back by San Diego.