Doug Williams

Battle of the Backups Enters a New Phase for 49ers

With players now taking part in organized team activities, quarterbacks Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard will continue competition to earn primary backup role to Jimmy Garoppolo

C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens? For now, at least, it’s still to be determined which quarterback will win the No. 2 job behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers in 2019.

It’s possible that Niners fans will get a more clear picture after organized team activities (OTAs) that began this week, but it’s more likely the competition will continue through training camp that opens in July.

Beathard was Garoppolo’s primary backup in 2018, but Mullens had a strong showing late in the year.

In eight starts, Mullens had a 3-5 record and compiled a 90.8 quarterback rating, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,277 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while being sacked 17 times.

In five starts, Beathard had an 0-5 record and compiled an 81.8 quarterback rating, completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,252 yards, eight TDs and seven interceptions while being sacked 18 times.

Mullens showed more mobility than Beathard and had more success. Even when Beathard returned from the injury that opened the door for Mullens, Mullens held on to the starting role late in 2018.

So, perhaps, Mullens has the edge. He says he believes he proved "that I’m pretty good and can play in this league."

But, Mullens knows what he did last year doesn’t guarantee anything.

"It doesn’t matter what you did in the past," Mullens told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chroncle this week. "On the door it says, ‘What’s Important Now.’ And that’s what I’ve been focusing on and will continue to do every single day. What’s important now: I want to be best at QB drills we did with the coaches today. I embrace it. Competition brings out the best in people."

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan believes Beathard has a bigger arm and loves his composure and toughness. He’s not giving up on him, and wants to see the competition play out in OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

"I think you got two guys that have proven that they could definitely be backups in the league and they have shown that they are capable at times of playing like a starter," he said.  "Neither of them are finished products. I think both can still continue to get a lot better."

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