By Adam Jacobi on August 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm
I wonder what C.J. Beathard's moustache tastes like.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


Mere days after being deemed permanently incapable of ever starting for an NFL team, C.J. Beathard looks poised to advance in the depth chart in his rookie year.

As has been noted here before, rookie 49ers TE George Kittle has impressed in the preseason, and will likely see plenty of playing time in 2017. His performance in practices has drawn numerous reports of praise, including this note from July 28, leading off the Press-Democrat's list of positive practice performers:

1. TE George Kittle. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer threw more passes (five) to Kittle than to any other player. Kittle seems to be Hoyer’s favorite target, probably because none of the Niners linebackers can cover the rookie tight end. During seven-on-seven drills, Kittle easily beat starting middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman with an out route. Kittle even beat a safety (Jaquiski Tartt) during the same drill. After practice, a reporter asked starting outside linebacker Malcolm Smith which tight end has stood out. Smith said, “Kittle has done a good job. He has shown a little bit of elusiveness.” Expect Kittle to be one of the Niners’ leading receivers this season.

Less generous, however, has been the coverage of C.J. Beathard's concurrent rookie campaign since minicamps started. From that exact same report, the very last line, under "THE NOT SO GOOD":

8. QB C.J. Beathard. The Niners third-round pick completed only three passes all morning. A couple of his passes bounced in front of receivers, and he struggled throwing spirals. Beathard does not have the arm strength to ever become a starting quarterback.

Let's run that last line back again.

Beathard does not have the arm strength to ever become a starting quarterback.

Beathard does not have the arm strength to ever become a starting quarterback.

Beathard does not have the arm strength to ever become a starting quarterback.

Beathard does not have the arm strength to ever become a starting quarterback.

Well! The franchise that has, in the last 20 years, featured such arm-strength luminaries as Steve Stenstrom, Ken Dorsey, Tim Rattay, Troy Smith, Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, could not possibly start C.J. Beathard, evidently. In that case, we suppose it's time to cut bait on this failed pick — NFL teams don't keep players around very long if they will never start — and just move on. Only makes sense.

So now that that's established, let's take a big, big drink of this here glass of water, flash forward a few days in coverage, and assume that broad pronouncement from earlier is still true...

Sacramento Bee:

The best throw may have come from rookie C.J. Beathard, who lofted a pass down the sideline to well-covered running back Matt Breida. Breida dove and caught the ball with Pita Taumoepenu (He's been asked to play strong-side linebacker this week) draped all over him. Beathard has gotten a little better with every practice, and Shanahan said he is pushing Matt Barkley for the No. 2 quarterback job.

“We evaluated both through OTAs, wanted to see if (Beathard) would be ready to run with the twos a little bit more in training camp and he earned that through our 10 OTA practices and the mini camps he earned that,” Shanahan said. “After we finish it all we go back and watch the tape and try to reevaluate it. We knew coming into training camp that it was what he had done at OTAs he earned the right to compete for that two spot”

San Francisco Gate:

After a rocky start to camp, perhaps not surprising for a rookie, third-round pick C.J. Beathard has strung together some solid practices. Beathard has been sharing second-team snaps with Matt Barkley, a four-year veteran who hasn’t done enough to distance himself in the competition.

“They’ve been competing,” Shanahan said. “I think they’ve had even reps. I think it’s a good battle for us. We’ve been looking at it every day and they’re going to make it tough on us.”


49ers camp observations: C.J. Beathard’s best practice shakes up 49ers QB situation

C.J. Beathard is having a slightly better training camp than Matt Barkley.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Beathard will start the season as Brian Hoyer’s backup, but the rookie third-round pick is steadily improving.

Leading the second-team offense against the first-team defense in an unscripted 11-on-11 scrimmage, Beathard drove the football down the field and Robbie Gould converted a field goal. On a third-down play, Beathard fired a strike to Blake Bell in the middle of the field to keep the drive alive. A couple of dump-off passes to Kyle Juszczyk and a big run by Kapri Bibbs, and all of a sudden the first-team defense was winded.

CSN Bay Area:

“He really works at it,” Shanahan said. “He really grinds. He has a question for everything. He wants to know what you want him to do, but he also wants to know why. You can sit there and talk ball with him forever. That’s, to me, what allows him to have a chance to be good right away because he prepares the right way. So, when he goes out there, if you prepare the right way and you work at it, then you’re usually not as wide-eyed because you’re not overwhelmed with it.”

Beathard appears to have placed himself into position to complete with veteran Matt Barkley for the 49ers’ backup position behind no-questions-asked starter Brian Hoyer. Beathard seems to be a step ahead of most rookies.

So just to recap: Beathard's making impressive throws, he's better than most rookies, he's outperforming fourth-year QB (and, uh, starter of six games last year) Matt Barkley, and his coach (who most recently coached Matt Ryan) is gushing about his approach to the game. These reports are precisely *one week* after we were told Beathard's throws suck and he'll never start.

Now, yes, there's no direct contradiction between the first report and C.J.'s renaissance. Nobody's suggesting he's about to beat out Brian Hoyer, and becoming A Starting Quarterback is a long process with varying sets of standards of success and this and that. The jockeying between #3 and #2 on the depth chart is usually of little consequence, and as the KNBR article noted, Barkley's still more likely to take snaps if Hoyer goes down even if he's worse than Beathard since he's a veteran and it's demonstrably less than ideal to get your QB prospect adjusted to the NFL by throwing to a substandard receiving corps behind a substandard offensive line.

That all said, it sure sounds like the 49ers would be genuinely disappointed if, in 2019, C.J. Beathard *has not* won the starting quarterback role. You don't take the "chess, not checkers" approach with backups if you don't have them written into your future plans. 

To a broader point: there's a wide, wide lane of truth between "C.J. Beathard's throws can't get to his receivers and he is never going to start" and "C.J. Beathard is one of the best rookie QBs in a long time," and our guess is that his career will drive comfortably down that lane.

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