Kitna sings the praises of Martz, O'Sullivan

They are now working for the enemy, but Detroit QB Jon Kitna has nothing but good things to say about Mike Martz and J.T. O'Sullivan, both of whom Kitna worked with closely last year with the Lions. Kitna called Martz "brilliant" and a "father figure," and said O'Sullivan is "a dynamic thrower of the football." Here, Kitna talks 49ers and Lions and goes into detail about his two former comrades.

Q: What can you guys take out of the game last week when you come back and then whatever happened in the final six minutes. What can you guys take from that game?
Kitna:
I think the first thing [is] it's really happened the first two weeks. We've gotten down 21-nothing, you haven't seen any sense of panic or anything from the in itself. Mental toughness to get back into the game, but then again, we've got to learn and finish games and right now we're not doing that yet.

Q: How much has the offense changed there with Jim Colleto as coordinator?
Kitna:
We've just kind of scaled back a lot of the things that we've done. We're doing a lot of the same concepts just not quite as much of it and so, I think that's been the biggest change.

Q: Is the terminology of the basic offense still the same?
Kitna:
Yeah, pretty much the same stuff. Yes. A little more of the run game terminology that Jim is used to but in terms of the passing game, it's pretty much the same stuff.

Q: What in your mind is the reason why the offense failed under Mike Martz, or did it even fail?
Kitna:
I guess there were a lot of different reasons to why we haven't been successful the last couple of years. I don't know if you could call it a failure, I'm not sure what the offense was ranked before Mike got here but I know that the two years that he was here, we were in the top half of the league in the passing game, we were in the top ten in the league. I think you look at it as what was it like before he got here and then what was it like the two years he was here and what is it still. Right now were trying to figure out how to be more of a balanced offense. That was the thing for us. Last year, I think that you look at the games that we won. Six of the seven games that we won, we were a very balanced offense. We ran the ball for over 120 yards, I believe [in] six of the seven wins. But if you look at our losses and the games got out of hand really fast; 21 -28 point leads late in the second quarter type of thing and that's hard on anybody. I don't know that we can call it a failure, I just think that with this team as a whole we have to get better than we have been the last two years and now this year.

Q: It sort of seems ironic that you guys are trying to establish the run game. When you look at the stats, you guys have thrown way more than 50 percent [or] double half of the amounts of runs this season so do you think it's a matter of how the game starts out and how it goes?
Kitna:
Yeah, I think that's how this league is. I mean, if you get down 21 to nothing, you might be able to run it but it gets pretty difficult to get back into a football game. We had to score points early in the football game to not get down 21 to nothing.

Q: Can you give us a sense of what it was like to play under Mike Martz for the last couple of years there? Can you describe your relationship with him and how it was to play for him?
Kitna:
I think, first of all, speaking [of] the relationship side of things, I think Coach Martz was as close to a father figure as I've had in this game. Now, I grew up with my father so I don't need another dad, it's not something I'm seeking. He always treated me like a man from the first day that I met him on my free-agent visit here, to the last game we played together against Green Bay last year. He treated me like a man, he always told me the truth, he always told me what he didn't like what I was doing, he always told when he felt that I was doing the right thing or when things just weren't working out. He was always kind of a father figure that way and in terms of working for him, I feel like I've played for some pretty good coaches: Mike Holmgren, Bob Gradkowski, I've had some good quarterback coaches in this league but I learned more football in those two years with Mike [Martz] and it's probably a set of circumstances really more than anything. But he's so brilliant in terms of how to understand the quarterback position and how to attack defenses. So, in terms of that, that's still something that I work with right now, the disciplines that he taught in the two years that I was with him.

Q: It sounds as if you're disappointed that he left last year:
Kitna:
No, I'm not disappointed. I think both sides were ready for a part. I think Mike [Martz] wanted to move on and the team wanted to move on. I think that it was one of those things that it just had to be done. We needed to have more cohesion here and Mike [Martz] wanted to move on elsewhere. I think that was more just kind of a mutual agreement really than anything. I mean, I'm not disappointed. That's how this league is, it changes a lot. I haven't had the same coaches in three years ever in my career. That's just how it happens.

Q: The quarterback in the Martz offense is going to get [sacked]. I'm wondering how you dealt with that over your three years?
Kitna:
Again, like I always said, the last two years every time that question came up, was I'll take a few more hits or having to get hit more often if it means that you're going to have chances at bigger plays. But again, that's a philosophy that Mike employs. He wants to get that ball in that 20 to 30 yard passing range and right now we're doing a different philosophy and were not getting hit as much. Everything can work is just a matter of whatever your system is, whatever your philosophy you have everybody buying into it.

Q: What did you see from J.T. O'Sullivan as he was behind you on the depth chart last season that made you think that he could become a starting productive quarterback in the NFL?
Kitna:
I think the first thing is his approach to the game. He was always serious about [it]. He approached it like a starter, he didn't start last year at all, he approached it like that [and] he knew the game plan in and out. I think he really likes the style [of] offense that Mike runs. On top of that, I think that he one of the best pure throwers of the football that I've seen. He can throw it from any angle, he doesn't have to have his feet set, he doesn't have to have the perfect pocket [or] anything like that and he gets it out fast. That's the thing that I noticed from him and he's somebody that when we did talk about things that, a lot like my situation, were your really looking to get the right opportunity and now he has it and I think he's played well the first couple of weeks obviously. He is a dynamic thrower of the football.

Q: Jon, do you stay in contact with J.T. [O'Sullivan]?
Kitna:
J.T. [O'Sullivan] and I have texted each other. A couple of different times I texted him and congratulated him when he got the job and when he first signed there, congratulated on getting the opportunity to continue working in the same system and stuff. And after the week one game, [I] just texted him to continue on what he was doing.

Q: Did it surprise you at all that when Mike Martz ended up with the 49ers that [J.T.] O'Sullivan came here as well?
Kitna:
No…It did surprise me, but I didn't really think about it a lot. But when I knew that they basically had two quarterbacks on their roster I thought that J.T. would be a good fit there for Mike in terms of teaching the offense and all that stuff. I thought that it was kind of a no-brainer really.

Q: Are you guys cut from the same cloth? I know Mike Martz described [Kitna and O'Sullivan] as fiery, your demeanors are unlike any quarterback that he's had in the past. Do you see a little bit of yourself in J.T. [O'Sullivan]? Or should I say, do you think he's like you in that sense?
Kitna:
I think we're very similar. I think that both of us, like I said, came into this league without much opportunity, not [being] the highly touted guys or anything like that. Having to go through the World League and fight your way from being cut and never really being the guys or anything like that. So, you kind of carry a little chip on your shoulder. But in terms of competitiveness, Yeah, I think that we're a lot alike and that is we expect so much of ourselves that we certainly demand the same thing from others around us and that's where that competitiveness comes out.

Q: I would think that two guys a lot alike like you guys in the meeting room might some. Did you guys ever have any run-ins?
Kitna:
No, there was no clash because I think that's the kind of situation that Mike presents us in the room [which] is: the starter, is the starter and there is no controversy and the starter is the guys who is going to play until he shows that he can't do what Mike wants him to do. And so, there was never a look over your shoulder thing, we got along great. I think that Mike promotes that.

Q: Jon, is there something that you can point to as the main factor [as to] what went wrong last year when you guys got off to such a great start?
Kitna:
I think the main factor was we didn't do the things that we were doing since Mike got here from day one. We weren't executing the simple things. We had mental errors on plays that you shouldn't have mental errors on and it broke our momentum in the second half of the season and we had a chance to put a strangle-hold on things and ride the wave of momentum, we had mental errors that took us out of it. To me that's the main thing that goes back to professionalism and doing your job Monday through Saturday, not just on Sunday.

Q: You talked about getting hit in the [Mike] Martz system and J.T. [O'Sullivan] already facing that. He's been sacked 12 times already, eight times last week. And I'm just wondering, does that end up taking a toll on you as the season wears on and [was] that ever a factor for you under Martz?
Kitna:
I mean, you're going to get hit. You just deal with it, you learn how to get yourself ready to go and I started 16 games two years in a row. So I think that's enough said there.

Q: How would you describe [J.T. O'Sullivan's] release?
Kitna:
I don't know how to describe it except for I've never been around a person that can throw the ball as firmly and as accurately as he can with as quick of a release. He looks like he's in a situation where he'd be lucky to get a five yard throw off and he can uncork a 20 yard throw with some velocity on it, and that's pretty amazing really. There are just not a lot of guys that have ever played this game that can throw like that and I don't know where he learned it and where he got it from but I think that it pretty amazing really.

Q: Given all that Jon, how do you account for the fact that you've been to so many different places but really never got a shot?
Kitna: It's just the way that you come into the league and the situation that you get put into. I mean, when you're a late-round draft pick or an undrafted guy…You look at Tom Brady, would Tom Brady ever have gotten a shot if New England's Drew Bledsoe not gotten hurt? Probably not. He's probably going to go down as probably one of the top five quarterbacks of all time but he probably wouldn't have gotten that shot if Drew [Bledsoe] hadn't gotten hurt. And so, it's all about opportunity when you're a late-round or undrafted guy and so, he's bided his time and I know last year he wasn't even sure [saying] ‘do I even want to keep playing?' He's got the opportunity and now he's taking advantage. When you're a late round guy or an undrafted guy, if and when that opportunity comes, it's probably the only one that you're going to get so you better be ready to take advantage of it. And that's the problem, most guys aren't ready.

Q: Martz said he first got a look at J.T. when J.T. was playing in NFL Europe. How valuable was NFL Europe to you in getting your start in the league?
Kitna:
Well for me because I came from an NAIA school, I had 205 pound defensive ends and 220 pound tackles. So when I got in the league you feel like you can play football, but you're not sure you even belong. So for me to go after my first year and go over to the world league and play against…yeah, it's not NFL starter talent, but it's certainly above Division I talent. And so what it taught me was ‘OK, I can play at this level, I can do all the things that I thought I could do, but now I've proved it. I proved it to myself and I proved it to the coaches. And that's where I got my start; when they saw that I could go over there and perform in that environment.



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