Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan on Nick Mullens: ‘He gives us a chance to win, but we’ve got to play better around him’

Nov 28, 2020 at 12:35 PM--

Quarterback Nick Mullens hasn't been thrown into the best situation. He has taken over an injury-ravaged San Francisco 49ers roster that is just now starting to get some of its key players back. Yet, it remains far from full-strength.

With Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined with a high-ankle sprain until at least Week 15, it's Mullens at the helm of the 49ers offense for now. He has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,390 yards with six touchdowns through six games and four starts this season. The quarterback has also thrown six interceptions and posted a passer rating of over 90.0 just twice.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan can't deny that Mullens has been up and down this season. Not all of it is his fault, though. The quarterback has been dealt a difficult hand. In one game against the Green Bay Packers, his injury- and COVID-diminished wide receiver group was almost unrecognizable, pieced together using practice squad players just to field an offense.

"I think at some games, he's played at a very high level, especially that first game, the Giants game," Shanahan told reporters this past week. "You can't play much better than he did that game. I thought he did some real good things in the New Orleans game, too.

"But there's a lot of games, you go into the Green Bay game and stuff like that and a number of others, and this week is going to be tough too."

The 49ers have six players remaining on the reserve/COVID-19 list who won't play in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams. That includes impressive rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk and left tackle Trent Williams.

"Anytime you put a quarterback in there who's hasn't had two weeks in a row with the same group of receivers," Shanahan continued, "whether, it was Jimmy at first, it was us in training camp, and now it's been Nick every week, and the same thing with the running backs and the O-line. So, I think that's been a huge challenge for Nick, and it would be for C.J. (Beathard) if he gets in, and it was for Jimmy.

"So, I think it's a little unfair to judge the quarterbacks a hundred percent on how they've been each game in terms of stats and the score and things like that. I try to just watch the situations they're in, what I think they're capable of doing, and I think Nick has played like Nick.

"I think he's been a really solid guy for us. He gives us a chance to win, but we've got to play better around him in order for him to play to his full ability. We've got to have a chance to play better around him with getting a little bit more continuity here in the last six games."

Mullens has no shortage of confidence. He also knows aspects of his game need to improve if he's to guide the 49ers through the next handful of games. The team's playoff chances are slim but are still there.

Mullens was asked this past week to assess his play this season.

"I think it, for me, if I protect the football, I think I'm a pretty darn good quarterback, and that's really what matters most," Mullens responded. "And so, I'd like to improve on that after these past couple of games, but other than that, just stick to my reads, stick to my progressions, be accurate. I've had some good plays, had some bad plays, but you just keep working along and continue to work and execute at a high level."

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