Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

‘It’s still too early’ for Kyle Shanahan to predict a winner in the Nick Mullens vs. C.J. Beathard competition

Aug 5, 2019 at 1:00 PM--

Some fans might tell you that the backup quarterback competition between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard ended on November 1, 2018. That was the date Mullens, starting in place of an injured Beathard, went from a relative unknown to a ... less unknown NFL player after dismantling the Oakland Raiders defense in the final Battle of the Bay.

Mullens even got verified on Twitter. Not after the game, once the win became official, but while he was throwing passes and embarrassing Oakland defenders.

Many fans felt Mullens was clearly the better of the two backup quarterbacks. As the season progressed, a small segment of the Niner Faithful even suggested that maybe, just maybe, Mullens should be competing for the starting job this offseason, not the backup job.

I'm not touching that one.

Jimmy Garoppolo will start Week 1 if everything goes as planned. He will remain the starting quarterback unless he flops on an epic scale week in and week out or—gasp—something similar to last year happens. I'll stop there, for the sake of The Faithful.

Back on the topic of Mullens versus Beathard, once the season ended, the two started back on equal footing; a two-man race that was dead even. That might not seem fair. After all, Mullens' outings last year seemed much more inspiring than Beathard's. The two quarterbacks remain good friends despite being in a heated offseason competition, but once they hit the practice field, they are each working to prove themselves.

"Me and C.J. have been close for a long time, and we understand how the business works," Mullens said in June. "And we just know what to focus on. I say all the time, but on the door, it says, 'Focus on what you can control.' I've engrained that in my head. It's completely true."

Added Beathard, "Me and Nick are good friends off the field. I think our whole room is just a really good group of guys in general. We're all friends off the field. At the end of the day, it's (getting) out there and playing football, and doing the best you can do with your reps."

Kyle Shanahan still believes in Beathard, the quarterback he used a third-round pick on during his first-ever draft as a head coach. Players love Beathard. Just ask them, and they will deliver glowing reports on the third-year signal-caller.

Plus, competition makes everyone fight just a little harder. So here we are in August amid a backup quarterback battle.

Where are we in that competition? How is it shaking out so far? The 49ers coach isn't ready to declare a winner or even who is leading the race. There are still three more training camp practices and four preseason games to be had.

"It's still too early," Shanahan told reporters on Sunday. "I've got a lot of confidence in both of those guys. I feel I would be confident for either one of those guys to go in. I think it's a little bit tough because of the reps and some of the situations we're doing. We rotate it, I think, every day, so I don't even know which one is in with the twos and threes, and the two O-line and the three O-line, and the two O-line, three O-line receivers and stuff. It's all interchangeable."

Mullens and Beathard will get a good workload during the preseason, especially in the opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Garoppolo will not play in that game but is expected to play later during other exhibition matchups.

"They're both good players," Shanahan continued. "It's been pretty close, at least statically and from a talent standpoint. It'll be fun to have some games with those two also. I know they're tight, they're good friends, they both respect each other, but it's a very fun battle to watch."

Of course, if Garoppolo can stay healthy for 16 games (or more), then it doesn't matter who wins the backup quarterback job. That player likely won't see any meaningful snaps during the regular season anyway.


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