For now, C.J. Beathard is on the sideline. Come Monday night against the New York Giants, Beathard will have a good view of Nick Mullens starting at quarterback instead of him.
Mullens, of course, earned it with an impressive performance in a lopsided win over the Raiders.
But 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that the quarterback position remains fluid. Mullens is still in his tryout period.
“C.J.’s story is not over,” Shanahan told reporters this week. “Someday, I don’t know when, he will get (another) opportunity. He has the ability, the toughness, the mind to be a very successful quarterback in this league.”
Mullens had an exceptional NFL debut, throwing for three touchdowns, 262 yards and a QB rating of 151.9. And, against a Giants defense that isn’t very good, it’s possible Mullens could have another strong game Monday.
It’s also possible, however, that the more opposing defensive coordinators see of Mullens, they’ll find ways to handle him. If that happens, then Beathard could be back on the field. Beathard is more phyiscally gifted than Mullens, with a stronger arm.
As Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat noted this week, Shanahan is a big fan of Mullens’ mind and work ethic, but has more faith in Beathard’s skills and his eventual ability to succeed, even comparing him to his former QB in Washington, Kirk Cousins, who got off to a bad start when he was put into the starting job but has grown to be among the NFL's best.
“Cousins, in his first nine games, do you know what his record was?” Shanahan asked.”It was 1-8 (actually, says Cohn, it was 2-7). He had 19 picks and 18 touchdowns. C.J. is 1-9. He has 13 picks. A lot of people gave up on Kirk because of how he started. C.J. started off well and went through a rough stretch. I think it is good for him to sit back and heal up and watch someone else do it.”
Mullens, meanwhile, knows his job is to put his splendid debut behind him and focus on the next game.
“I’m done reflecting on it, to be honest,” he said. “It’s time to get to the Giants, but it was a very cool moment and you just try to give it everything you have. And when your work pays off, it’s exciting.”
The 2-7 49ers are 3½-point favorites to beat the 1-7 Giants Monday night. Kickoff at Levi’s Stadium is set for 5:15.