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O'Sullivan setting improbable pace

9/26/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers plan to retire Steve Young's jersey number at their Week 5 game against New England. Young posted a triple-digit passer rating for six seasons as a starter. His best season, 1994, ended with a Super Bowl victory.

Given the 49ers' success in the passing game this season, I peeked at Young's career stats to see how current starter J.T. O'Sullivan might compare on the stat sheet. I know it's early and I know it's silly comparing a three-game starter with a Hall of Famer -- sillier, even, than thinking a free-agent castoff might beat out a No. 1 overall draft choice.

Mostly I was curious to see if Young ever averaged 9.4 yards per attempt, same as O'Sullivan is averaging through three games. Young never hit 9.4. He came close (9.02) while starting 10 games in 1991.

As noted in the mailbag, Tom Brady never topped even 8 yards an attempt until last season. Young averaged between 8.1 and 9.02 six times as a starter. Young's averages reflected great yards-after-catch totals. The current 49ers offense features more downfield throws requiring seven-man protections and slower-developing routes.

O'Sullivan is on pace to complete 267 of 400 passes (66.8 percent) for 3,760 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. His rating is 104.6.

Young put up very similar numbers during the 1997 season. He completed 241 of 356 passes (67.7 percent) for 3,029 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. His rating was 104.7.

O'Sullivan's statistics are out of whack through three games. He's on pace to finish with 69 sacks and 75 rushing attempts. Young never took more than 36 sacks in a season. Young finished only one season (1992) with more than 70 rushing attempts.