© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the past two years, the most common descriptor of C.J. Beathard has been “tough.” He earned that reputation as he got crunched throughout five weeks of starting duties as a rookie in 2017.
Kyle Shanahan takes it a step farther, stating Beathard is “abnormally tough.”
“I have been around a lot of tough quarterbacks, and I put CJ over all of them, so it’s just abnormal,” Shanahan told KNBR Friday morning. “I think that’s why I think people talk about it so much.”
But the 49ers head coach doesn’t view “toughness” as Beathard’s defining trait. Shanahan pointed out that if it was, Beathard would make a great coach because he wouldn’t have enough skill to make an NFL career. That’s certainly not the case with Beathard, the presumed 49ers starting quarterback for the rest of the 2018 season, as Jimmy Garoppolo recovers from a torn ACL suffered in his left knee in Week 3.
Last week, in San Francisco’s 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Beathard’s toughness was on full display in his first start of 2018. He was sacked just once, but he took several hits, including three roughing the passer penalties, and was helped off the field after getting the wind knocked out of him. Beathard played very well, completing 23 of 37 passing attempts for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. One interception came on a perfectly thrown ball to tight end Garrett Celek, who dropped it, and the Chargers scooped it.
Beathard got the ball out quicker than he did last year. He hit tight end George Kittle in stride for an 82-yard touchdown, the biggest NFL play of the year. When a play broke down, Beathard found yardage by scrambling.
All of those skills attracted Beathard to Shanahan when he was selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“C.J. is a very talented quarterback,” Shanahan said Friday. “He can make every throw, he can do it from different angles, he has a very strong arm. He throws a very good deep ball, (and) he’s extremely intelligent. He can get a game plan down as fast as anyone I have been around. He sees the field, can progress through progressions. C.J. has the ability to be a starter in this league.”
Last year, Beathard was put into some situations Shanahan “wish he wouldn’t have” been. Beathard inherited the starting duties for an 0-6 team. He led the 49ers to their first win in Week 10 before taking a backseat to Garoppolo two weeks later.
One year later, Beathard finds himself in a similarly challenging position. Last Sunday, he lost both of his starting offensive tackles for varying amounts of time, and both “X” receivers, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, were injured. Yet Beathard hung in there, which is no surprise, and produced a debut more promising than his collective 2017 performance. It made sense, considering his elevated comfort, grasp of the system, and improved supporting cast.
Shanahan was pleased with Beathard’s Week 4 performance at Los Angeles.
“I thought he came into last game and showed a ton of improvement,” Shanahan said. “Just a huge step he has taken since the year before. C.J. was one of the reasons I believe we had a chance to win that game.”
Listen to the Murph & Mac podcast below. To hear Shanahan talk about Beathard, skip to the eight-minute mark.