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The case for sticking with C.J. Beathard the rest of the 2018 season

The situation’s a mess, but the 49ers can get some answers about C.J. Beathard over the final 13 games.

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The San Francisco 49ers suffered a potentially devastating blow on Sunday, losing Jimmy Garoppolo to what is believe to be a torn ACL. Once confirmed, the injury would end his season, and leave the 49ers hoping he can get healthy in time for the starting of 2019 training camp.

After Garoppolo went down, backup quarterback C.J. Beathard entered the game for one snap. He appeared to throw a fourth and goal touchdown pass to George Kittle, only to have it negated due to a bogus offensive pass interference call on Kyle Juszczyk. The 49ers kicked a field goal and the offense never returned to the field.

After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan and several players on the roster expressed confidence in and support for Beathard as the 49ers starting quarterback. They saw him take some lumps in five starts and a half of relief and stand tall during a rough time for the team. The 49ers got their first win of the season during his time, but lost the other four starts. It was not pretty football, but they had reached the point where Brian Hoyer was not going to offer enough of a look to the future — and Jimmy Garoppolo was eventually set to replace him.

Now that Garoppolo is done for the year, plenty have raised the question of adding a quarterback outside the organization. Colin Kaepernick is a regularly mentioned name, but also we have heard some people throw Jay Cutler out there. He would appear to be plenty busy with “Very Cavallari,” but even without his newfound reality show stardom, playing out the string with Beathard makes the most sense given the state of this team.

We might as well first address the Colin Kaepernick elephant in the room. I think he would be a general upgrade, but Kyle Shanahan has seemingly made it clear he does not think Kaepernick is a fit for what he wants to do. We can debate this till the end of time, but it seems all but certain the 49ers will not be signing Kaepernick.

Tim Kawakami took a look at some of the various options out there the team could consider. People are talking about Nick Foles, Matt Schaub, Tyrod Taylor, and a host of others. And yet, at this point in the 49ers rebuilding process, rolling with Beathard makes the most sense.

I don’t doubt there are plenty who think we already know everything we need to know about C.J. Beathard. Last year, he came on in the middle of the year, and while he proved he could take a hit, he was not exactly overly impressive. But that was also the earliest stages of the 49ers rebuilding process. He now has a second offseason under his belt with Kyle Shanahan, and the 49ers have added talent on the offensive side of the ball.

The 49ers were a fringe playoff contender at best heading into this season, and with the inconsistencies of the defense through the first three weeks, fringe might have been a generous term. Without Jimmy Garoppolo, this is not a playoff team. Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick or Tyrod Taylor offer a veteran presence, but it’s hard to see them being a sufficient enough option with a shaky defense to turn this team into a clear playoff contender.

The 49ers don’t know what Garoppolo will look like when he returns to the field. He could turn out fine and this ends up being a year-long speed bump en route to a great career. It could also end up being a major turning point in his career. We don’t know at this point. We do know the 49ers need to further figure out what C.J. Beathard brings to the table. He likely has 13 games in front of him with an upgraded offensive line and upgraded pass catching options.

If Beathard shows sufficient improvement from last year, the 49ers will know they’re in great shape with a solid backup quarterback behind a quarterback coming off a potentially devastating knee injury. If he struggles, the 49ers will know they likely need to upgrade their backup quarterback position behind a quarterback coming off a potentially devastating knee injury. Ask the Philadelphia Eagles about the importance of that.

It’s not an ideal situation by any means, but it provides a chance for the 49ers to get at least one clear answer out of this mess. Players recover from knee injuries a lot better than in the past, but there are no certainties with it. Getting a firm answer as to what C.J. Beathard provides in year two of his career offers some value in an otherwise ugly situation.