Like most teams, much of the chatter surrounding the San Francisco 49ers this season has centered on the quarterback position. Unlike most teams, the 49ers discussion involves more than one quarterback.

Until Thursday, the conversation was between C.J. Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo. While Nick Mullens broke out in a big way this week there is not enough info that can be gathered from one game, especially against the Oakland Raiders, to statistically analyze his performance.

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For Beathard and Garoppolo there is enough data, if only barely. Neither has played enough to get a complete picture but some info can be gleaned by looking at the advanced statistics.

The traditional stats don't show much of a difference between Beathard and Garoppolo. Many know this already. Their completion percentages are within one percent, Beathard has a plus-one touchdown-interception ratio while Garoppolo has a plus-two, Garoppolo edges Beathard in traditional rating and Beathard edges Garoppolo in the newer QBR. These similarities led some to question how much better Garoppolo really is.

Those stats don't tell us much though. They are surface stats that can be misleading and not tell anything close to the full story. Good news is, there are much more advanced, better stats out there that tell more of the story. That story is of two very different quarterbacks.

Much of the criticism thrown at Beathard is his willingness to hold the ball and not attempt throws with tight windows. The NFL's Next Gen Stats back this up.

Beathard rarely threw deep and struggled when he did. Garropolo flipped the script from 2017. He did a lot of damage on deep throws prior to injury. Note: Beathard's chart doesn't include his start in week 8.


There are 39 quarterbacks who have attempted the 68 passes the NFL uses as the cutoff to qualify. In aggressiveness (definitions can be found here) Beathard ranks 23rd with 15.4 percent. Garoppolo, meanwhile, paces the league at 27 percent.

Aggressive throws aren't always a good thing and there is more to the equation for how willing a quarterback is to make the more difficult throws. Combining aggressiveness with air yard stats paints a pretty clear picture.

There are two types of air yards, completed and intended. In completed air yards (yards ball travels in air on completions only) Beathard averages an even 5.0 yards which ranks 32nd out of the 39 qualifying. It's even worse for intended air yards (yards ball travels in air on all attempts). Beathard comes in at 36th with 6.7 yards. Garoppolo? He's 7th in CAY at 6.7 and 12th in IAY at 8.9.

Here's some simpler stats to solidify how safe Beathard has played it. Just 7.1 percent of his throws have traveled 20 or more yards in the air compared to Garoppolo's 12.4 percent. For 10 or more air yards, Beathard is down at 26.6 percent. This is considerably lower than Garoppolo's 38.2 percent.

Beathard doesn't just throw deep infrequently. He throws deep poorly.

Last season, the big complaint lodged at Garoppolo was his poor performance of deep throws. This season, Beathard is the one who has not done well in this regard. He has attempted 12 passes of 20 or more yards. He's completed just one of those attempts while throwing three of his seven interceptions on these throws.

Add it all up and Beathard is indeed playing it safe with a lot of short throws. The criticism holds up. It gets worse.

Beathard has played it safe so frequently you'd think he would have a very good completion percentage. Next Gen gives Beathard the fifth highest expected completion percentage, a stat it compiles based on distance, coverage and a few other factors. Beathard's real completion percentage is 60.4. That's 7.5 percent lower than the 67.9 expected supplied by Next Gen. The difference of negative-7.5 is the 3rd worst in the NFL. Only the benched Tyrod Taylor and the rookie Josh Allen are worse.

The surface stats may be similar between Garoppolo and Beathard but delving deeper into the statistics shows two vastly different quarterbacks. One with potential who isn't afraid to let it fly and one with some serious red flags. Hopefully, Mullens proves to be more like the former.