San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens put together another impressive day in the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos. He completed 20 of 33 passes (60.6 percent completion), netting 332 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The day gives him the second-best passer rating of his career with a 102.1. It’s a good number to build off when he had a 95.1 last week against the Seattle Seahawks.
Needless to say, the 49ers backup quarterback competition will be the competition to watch in 2019 training camp. Kyle Shanahan said that both he and C.J. Beathard will be battling for that No. 2 spot behind Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason if things didn’t change. Unless Mullens were to absolutely tank it in his final three games, it seems a bit far fetched to not think that’s the direction the team goes, unless a lucrative trade were to present itself.
This is a great chance for Mullens, who has the ability to really show some stuff on film in his final three games to separate himself from Beathard going into 2019. In his post-game press conference Mullens indicated he wasn’t thinking towards next year, as his job has always been on the line.
“I’ve been fighting for a job since the day I got here. No matter what, that won’t change. Really, just try to work hard with whatever my role is with the team. I’m going to help the team, whatever my role is, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, and I’m lucky and honored to do that. “
If Mullens were to win the backup job, C.J. Beathard most likely will play musical chairs with the roster, being waived and re-signed as weeks go on through the season, not unlike Tom Savage in 2018—unless another team were to pick him up off waivers. Because of Beathard’s accrued seasons, he is not eligible for the practice squad in 2019. If the 49ers wanted to keep him as their number three, they’d have to burn a roster spot or do the duck-duck-goose game mentioned above of releases and resigns.
If Mullens were to not win the backup job, he would in theory be eligible to return to the practice squad, but given his performance, I doubt he’d make it that far. He’s shown a lot as a capable backup in his limited time that a quarterback-needy team could and would snatch him for their roster.
Then again, perhaps there is something more lucrative for the 49ers instead of putting their two backups against each other to hold a clipboard. Maybe the 49ers are aware a team may need not just a backup quarterback but a starting quarterback and elect to move Mullens in a trade (with Mullens’ salary in 2019 being dirt cheap, this isn’t out of the question). This is not out of the realm of possibility given Mullens’ solid five games thus far. He has completed 63.8 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 93.5 and QBR of 63.1. That number is slightly skewed since it factors in Mullens’ blowout performance against the Raiders (151.9), a number he hasn’t gotten near since. But he is coming off his best rating of the season.
That is asking a lot. The 49ers will look at film of the end of the season and the backup quarterback job will be alive and well in 2019.