Mike Martz has said in the past that J.T. O'Sullivan compares favorably to his past pupils. He's got the quick release of Marc Bulger. He's got bull's-eye-accuracy like Kurt Warner. And he's got the fiery temperament of Jon Kitna, whom the 49ers will be facing on Sunday. Kitna agreed wholeheartedly that he and O'Sullivan, his teammate last year in Detroit, were kindred spirits:
"I think we're very similar," he said on a conference call this morning. "I think both of us came into this league without a lot of opportunity. ... You kind of carry a little chip on your shoulder. We expect so much of ourselves that we demand a lot from the guys around us."
But Kitna said there was never a problem having two tightly wound guys in the same meeting room. Under Martz, the starter was the unquestioned leader until Martz said otherwise. "It was never a look-over-your-shoulder thing. We got along great. I think Mike created that."
It's obvious that Kitna was very impressed with O'Sullivan, especially with the way O'Sullivan is able to get rid of the ball quickly downfield. "He'll be in a situation where it looks like he'd be lucky to get a five-yard throw as quickly as it comes out and he gets off a 20-yard throw with velocity," he said.
What's even more obvious is the admiration Kitna has for Martz. Kitna called Martz "as close to a father figure as I've had in this game. He always tgreated me like a man. He always told me the truth."
Kitna certainly took his lumps while under Martz. In two seasons, the Detroit quarterbacks were sacked 127 times, one of them a monster shot on Kitna by blitzing 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer. Kitna said the Martz philosophy places reward over risk. "I'll take a few more hits if it means you're going to have a chance at bigger plays," he said. Kitna also said that while he absorbed a lot of hits, they rarely knocked him out of games. "I started 16 games two years in a row. I think there's enough said there," he said. It should be noted that Martz's previous student, Bulger, missed 11 starts due to injury while playing under Martz.
While Martz was in Detroit, there was a sense that he quickly abandoned the running game in favor of gaudy passing statistics. After he left, the Lions vowed to return to a more conservative, run-oriented offense. But Detroit has fallen behind - by three touchdowns - in both games so far, and consequently the statistics are lopsided. The Lions have attempted 78 passes vs. 33 runs and they have 508 passing yards to 111 on the ground. Kitna said the same issues were at play last year. In the games the Lions won, they were balanced. In the ones they lost, they fell behind early and were forced to pass. "If you get down 21-0, you might be able to run the ball, but it's difficult to get back in the game," he said.
Isaac Bruce and his foundation have donated $5,000 to the Salvation Army to assist with disaster relief efforts caused by Hurricane Ike.
-- Matt Barrows