San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens has two starts under his belt, and following the team’s Week 11 bye, will get a start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. He had an all-time great debut two weeks ago, and followed it up with a mix of good and bad in almost guiding the 49ers to a second straight win. The start against the Bucs has been earned.
But how much longer will he remain the 49ers starter this season?
Jimmy Garoppolo is the future for the 49ers, but Mullens and C.J. Beathard are officially in a competition for the backup role. It would not be surprising to see the team try and move one of them this offseason, but with six games remaining, plenty about this narrative could change.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed Mullens performance against the Giants, and some of the positives that came out of the loss.
“I think it’s a positive experience. The guy’s played one game in his career. I know statistically that was the best start in NFL history. I mean, I think Nick did some real good things yesterday, too. It was a little bit more of a challenge in some circumstances. Had to play for four quarters. The Oakland game got out of hand pretty fast. Halfway through the third, it was a lot more relaxed. So, here he had to do it beginning to end. Did some good things at the beginning, did some good things at the end, and had some plays in the beginning he missed and some plays at the end he missed. What I liked about Nick is he never seemed rattled throughout the whole game, continued playing. He was great after the game. He was great watching film with him. I say it’s a good experience or step forward because I think he’ll get better from each experience he has.”
Shanahan was asked what Mullens did well that the average fan might not notice in the television broadcast.
“There were a number of plays where he got to different guys in his progression, avoided a number of sacks. There was one that I thought live that he should have got to a deeper guy from my view on the sidelines. And I got on him for it because I wanted a bigger pass. I thought it was there, he was open. He just sits there and listens and takes it. Then I watched the film, and if he would have gone for what I wanted, I think it would have been a sack and it would have been second-and-15. That’s stuff I like. He’s got a feel for that in the pocket, and I always want to be aggressive and go down the field and have bigger plays. But, not at the expense of risking a sack, and I think he’s done a good job with that.”
One of Shanahan’s favorite plays was the touchdown pass to Breida, in which Mullens had to quickly get through his progressions.
“[Breida] was last. That was a hell of a job. We had everyone going to one side. We snapped the ball really fast, trying to confuse them. Everyone went one way, and that was the way he was looking. Fortunately, Breida flashed across his face and he just felt it. It’s not something you’re thinking about much, it’s just a feel, and he saw him flash and he made the right decision because he was open, and made a good throw and Breida made a hell of a catch.”
The team returns to practice on Monday, at which point Mullens will continue in his role as the team’s starting quarterback. The 49ers travel to face a Bucs defense that ranks at the bottom of the league. That will be three straight starts against abysmal defenses. After that, things get much more interesting in assessing Mullens. The 49ers travel to Seattle, who Football Outsiders ranks 10th overall in defensive efficiency, and sixth against the pass. They then host Denver who currently rank fourth and third, respectively. That’s followed by a home game against Seattle, and then another home game against the Chicago Bears, who rank first and fourth, respectively.
It’s hard to know what the Los Angeles Rams will be playing for in Week 17, but before then, that’s four straight games against some of the best pass defenses in the league. Regardless of the playoff chase, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago should present a significant challenge to Mullens.
If he struggles, do the 49ers turn back to Beathard at some point? Say he is OK, but not great against the Bucs, and then struggles against Seattle and Denver. Do we see a move back to Beathard during a game or in advance of a game? I have a feeling we have not seen the last of C.J. Beathard, but what do you think? Here’s a poll for people to offer a prediction on how many of the final six games Nick Mullens starts. If you don’t see the poll, click here.
How many games will Nick Mullens start over the 49ers final six games?
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