One of the more talked about parts of the San Francisco 49ers loss to the Chicago Bears was the ending. On fourth and four, Nick Mullens start running around the sidelines and had a clear, easy path to the first down marker. Instead of getting the necessary yardage and running out of bounds, Mullens instead went for it all and tossed it to Marquise Goodwin, which fell incomplete.
It was an obvious mistake by a young quarterback. The down, distance, and time remaining are three things a quarterback must always be aware of, and in that situation, unless if the guy is wide open (which Goodwin was not), a matter of seconds remain in the game, you need to show better awareness.
It’s part of Mullens’ growing process and Kyle Shanahan doesn’t need to ride him over the mistake. In his conference call on Monday, the question came up over how Shanahan handles communicating the mistake to Mullens and Shanahan came up with what may be the best description from a coach to a quarterback in some time:
“We’ll watch it together so we’ll go over it. You don’t have to rehash it very hard when you’re dealing with a smart, honest dude who keeps it real and will admit it to you. Nick knows what he missed. By the time he came to the sidelines when I asked him, he already knew. Again, that’s just part of playing the position and it’s tough.”
Smart, honest dude. Forget intangibles or making all the throws. What I look for in my quarterbacks is if they are smart, honest, dudes. And that is a description every quarterback should fall into. If I can call them that, they are starters! In all seriousness, accountability is huge for a quarterback and a leader. If Mullens already knows what he did wrong, he doesn’t need to be reliving the mistake with Shanahan. Instead, Shanahan will be watching film with him and Mullens will know what to do for next time. You also don’t want a quarterback pointing the finger or not shouldering the blame, Mullens hasn’t done that either—which is good. There’s only so much you can learn practicing and being a backup, you need game-day experience. I was looking to see if Mullens had encountered this situation in college, but was unable to find any scenarios. If anyone finds film of him in this same situation back in college, please let me know.
All of these small things are infuriating for fans, but it’s best he gets them out of the way now, so when something is really on the line, like a playoff spot, Mullens has the experience to do the right thing next time. Take your lumps, Mullens. Coach ‘em up, Shanahan.