When the Saints selected J.T. O'Sullivan in the sixth round of the 2002 draft, it came with little fanfare. Just a camp arm. But O'Sullivan beat out former Panthers starter Jeff Lewis in training camp and has been holding clipboards every fall for the Saints since. Of course, there was that stint in NFL Europe 2004 where he proclaimed all the way to the World Bowl that he was a legitimate player.
Still not much recognition for former California-Davis standout. Most news releases indicated that the Saints traded "a second round pick and a backup quarterback." But O'Sullivan doesn't mind. He's getting a new opportunity (and a new jersey number, 7) to play in the NFL, a one-of-a-kind opportunity when you consider he will be learning behind one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Brett Favre. While O'Sullivan may be buried four-deep on the depth chart for now, behind Favre, Doug Pederson, and Craig Nall, he won't be for long.
Brett Favre hasn't done much to quell the annual rumors of his retirement, and his recent concussion in Week 4 might limit him in Week 5. Primary backup Doug Pederson, who won the #2 top by default after Tim Couch busted his way off the training camp roster and Craig Nall failed to step up, is out up to six weeks with a rib injury. O'Sullivan had better be studying his new playbook. Saints GM Mickey Loomis doesn't think that Favre's injury had much to do with the suddenness of the trade, but its hard to deny that the Packers are suddenly in desperate need of healthy passers.
The Saints-Packers preseason game didn't show O'Sullivan's best side. He completed 7/20 passes for 132 yards, two interceptions and was sacked twice. He did complete a 70-yard touchdown bomb to rookie Devery Henderson, but without that big play O'Sullivan was merely 6/19 for 62 yards.
But O'Sullivan was overall the Saints' preseason MVP, easily, and became a fan favorite with his playmaking ability, especially when he was scrambling with his surprisingly quick feet. While no one is anointing O'Sullivan the starter yet, the fact comes to mind that Rams starter Marc Bulger and Panthers starter Jake Delhomme are products of the same school, run by Mike McCarthy and Mike Sheppard.
"I think J.T.'s going to be a good quarterback in the league," Jim Haslett said Monday afternoon. Haslett lamented losing O'Sullivan, a fiery team player and a confident leader during his preseason playing time. But the coach raised a valid point- as a restricted free agent in offseason 2005, O'Sullivan would likely have been signed up by a team like the Packers looking for a young promising potential starter. With Aaron Brooks and Todd Bouman locked into long term contracts, the Saints would not have been in the place to match an offer to O'Sullivan, and would have received only sixth round pick for him in exchange.
Barring injury, O'Sullivan would have continued his clipboard-holding ways for New Orleans before leaving in the offseason. For the current administration, using O'Sullivan to bring in a potential standout at a critical position is a no-brainer.
Despite the promise of the trade and the common sense it makes for the Saints to acquire McKenzie, hovering over the whole affair is the specter that the team is letting go yet another productive young quarterback.