One of the biggest differences between the San Francisco 49ers 2018 and 2019 seasons was the quarterback position. During the former, Kyle Shanahan relied on a pair of backups for the majority of the season. During the latter, he had his starter. Having a starter allows you to call your entire playbook. There is a difference in what you can call on 3rd & 9 when Jimmy Garoppolo is on the field compared to when C.J. Beathard is on the field. We’ve seen arguments all offseason debating “quarterback wins” and the win/loss record when Garoppolo is on the field.
Some media members have painted the picture that the roster has been unchanged save the quarterback, and many 49ers fans have taken that argument and ran with it. It’s nowhere near as simple as that, but the fact remains that you need to have a legitimate QB in this league to win.
Pro Football Focus went through and ranked each team’s backup quarterback situation, and the Niners came in at No. 9:
Mullens started eight games in 2018, averaging a robust 8.3 yards per attempt while throwing for 284 yards per game. His turnover and sack totals were less ideal, although the former undrafted QB did enough to reportedly garner “multiple” trade offers leading up to the 2020 draft.
Beathard’s performance in Kyle Shanahan’s QB-friendly scheme was much worse than Mullens. At this point, Beathard’s claim to fame is helping feed Carlos Hyde an egregious 88 targets during the 2017 season.
Rutter received a laughable $279 signing bonus for signing on with the 49ers. The 2019 Division-III national champion is unlikely to make the final roster.
This season will mark Mullens’ third year with Shanahan in San Francisco. There’s a real chance that he’s a #good QB. The only rookie-signal callers (minimum eight starts) to average more adjusted yards per attempt than Mullens since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger: Dak Prescott, Robert Griffin, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Dan Marino.
I was excited to see how close (or far off) Rutter was from Beathard talent-wise. I wanted to see how Rutter adjusted to the speed of the NFL. So much for that. I don’t know how good he would have been, but I feel like Rutter would have been exciting during the preseason.
Ideally, we don’t see any of these three on the football field during the regular season unless it’s garbage time. My question is, what do the 49ers do at quarterback after this year, and I’m not talking about Jimmy G? Beathard will be an unrestricted free agent, which means his time is likely up. Mullens will be a restricted free agent, but unless the 49ers place a second-round tender on him, another team would claim Mullens. Could we see a situation similar to Matt Breida where the 49ers place a tender on Mullens and eventually trade him for a late Day 3 pick? That would be a win for San Francisco.