The 49ers are winless, and this season is no longer about this season. It’s about the future and learning lessons.
Kyle Shanahan might have learned a huge one with his quarterback situation. He hand-picked Brian Hoyer because he knew Hoyer would stay in the pocket and run the offense just like Shanahan drew it up. However, what we saw was a quarterback who never figured out how to handle pressure and that glaring weakness ultimately made him ineffective.
When rookie C.J. Beathard entered, he immediately began moving in the pocket to find second and third options. On the fifth pass of his career, Beathard thought he had tight end George Kittle and started to throw to him. He then stopped his motion and the clock in his head started to blare. Beathhard moved off his spot, gathered, and then fired a pass to the other side of the field that was behind an receiver Trent Taylor.
Even though Beathard missed his target, the play proved Beathard has an internal clock, proved that he keeps his attention on his receivers, and proved that he moves to create time to find second and third receivers.
In today’s NFL, when defensive lines are far ahead talent wise than the offensive lines trying to block them, the ability to move is essential to quarterbacking success. Shanahan said repeatedly that he doesn’t want a running quarterback. They are too unpredictable, too impromptu, and consequently, they can’t run the offense Shanahan installs for them.
But a stationary quarterback simply can’t survive behind most NFL offensive lines. During a long touchdown drive, a quarterback will need to created play or two on his own to get a first down.
Hoyer couldn’t do that. But in the brief window we saw Beathard, he created yards that weren’t there. The play of the game, a 45-yard touchdown strike to Aldrick Robinson, was the perfect example. Beathard fearlessness scampered up to the line of scrimmage while the Redskins lost their coverage, and he found Robinson all alone.
As his college roommate at Iowa George Kittle said, Beathard is a play maker, and the team’s best plays as an offense might be Beathard winging the ball off the wrong foot while being chased. Shanahan may now recognize this.
It’s understandable that Shanahan would want a quarterback he could control and who could run the offense, because Shanahan is brilliant at creating a game plan. But in the current environment, he has to allow for a mobile quarterback to make something up on his own.
Now Shanahan has to encourage that attribute in his new quarterback, but that will mean relinquishing his control as a game planner and a creator of offense. It’s an essential lesson he needs to learn.