No doubt, the low-mark of the San Francisco 49ers home preseason game against the Denver Broncos was the 1st team offense’s inept way of doing much of anything. Most of this can be summed up in one gif. Cue the money shot:
Yep, that’s Brian Hoyer with a fumble that Mark Sanchez would cringe at. Bad. Just bad. Also just one game.
Despite the showing from the first team offense, the second team managed to score a touchdown. On their opening drive. With C.J. Beathard.
Quick recap: In Week 1 of the preseason, Beathard went 7 of 11 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. This was against the third stringers, so many were a bit skeptical. Given that he was a rookie and seeing his first batch of NFL action, it is quite impressive how he played. He wasn’t running scared in the pocket and when he did get slammed, you didn’t see him slow down.
I’ll bring up a good comparison: a former 49ers draft pick by the name of Giovanni Carmazzi. In the 2000 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Carmazzi in the 3rd round (coincidentally the same draft Tom Brady went in the 6th), and had high expectations to be “the guy.” Unfortunately, when the preseason rolled along, Carmazzi wasn’t exactly what the 49ers had hoped for and at best, fans assumed there was a lot of work to do. Carmazzi also took a beating in his first few appearances. Then-head coach Steve Mariucci spoke about Carmazzi’s sacks on the ESPN documentary “The Brady Six”:
“When you get out on the field and the other team wants to knock your head off, they got to be able to handle that mentally and emotionally. Some do, some will love it, and some that makes them very nervous and they lose some confidence.”
Carmazzi was released after two seasons. On the other hand, two games in and Beathard may be one of those guys who loves what Mariucci described (there was one play where he unloaded the ball knowing he was about to get slammed). He may be a backup like predictions say, or he may be the future.
But before anyone starts calling for him to start over Hoyer, he needs time. He needs to be learning how to diagnose defenses, make his reads, and work on his mechanics without the burden of being QB1 right away. I don’t need to remind everyone of Alex Smith prematurely coming into the NFL. For the nine games he played in his rookie season, Smith threw one touchdown pass to 11 interceptions. There’s just too much overload when you’re breaking habits, creating new ones, adapting to the speed, and then have to come in and start for a team. Smith needed work. Today, he’s a decent quarterback, but that took an offseason with Norv Turner to begin, and the later arrival of Jim Harbaugh to solidify. Last thing the team wants is someone working on fixing things whilst trying to win games for the 49ers are the same time.
You might be thinking, since Beathard came out of a more pro-offense at Iowa rather than a spread, he’d be fine. Just remember: Shanahan’s system isn’t easy, just ask Matt Ryan, an NFL veteran. The first year Shanahan was the offensive coordinator, the Falcons had a lot more struggles offensively. If Beathard can beat out Matt Barkley and yank the backup quarterback job, it at least shows some progression. Though if he starts, the 49ers are in big trouble for reasons mentioned above, but let’s not hope it comes to that. Let him sit on the sidelines to figure out everything before we have him standing in a huddle.
Hoyer has a good grasp of the system and had a bad game. Beathard has his own issues to deal with, namely being a rookie. Tape exists of Hoyer doing well in Shanahan’s system and that was one bad (preseason) game. No matter how dire the situation, Beathard needs a year with the clipboard.