As 49ers training camp is about to begin, everyone’s attention is focused on Jimmy Garoppolo. Here’s why second-year quarterback C.J. Beathard’s development might be more important.
The NFL is defined by its quarterbacks. Luckily, the San Francisco 49ers finally got one in Jimmy Garoppolo. The best teams, save the Jacksonville Jaguars, had at least one above-average signal-caller, and some even have two.
The point is, QBs have never been more highly valued.
And teams will do anything to acquire a QB they think can be elite. In order to finally acquire Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles made two separate trades in the 2016 NFL Draft. The first involved trading two players in their athletic prime, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso, plus the 13th overall pick for the eighth overall pick. The second trade with the Cleveland Browns saw the Eagles giving up the eighth overall pick, a third-and a fourth-round pick in that draft, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick.
In short, the Eagles gave up a ton to acquire Wentz.
But guess what? It was worth it for them. They now have a franchise quarterback who’s already won a Super Bowl. The Eagles also showed why having two capable quarterbacks is the best situation to be in. They managed to flip the backup quarterback, Sam Bradford, to the Vikings for a first-round pick. They essentially recouped the biggest loss of the Wentz trade. Then, this year, they handsomely paid Nick Foles, and he won the Super Bowl MVP after Wentz was injured late in the regular season.
If there’s one thing we should have learned, backup quarterbacks are one of the most valuable assets in the NFL. Teams droll over acquiring NFL talent that won’t have to be coached to the higher level of play. Bradford was worth a first-round pick. According to Cincinnati.com (h/t David Fucillo of Niners Nation), A.J. McCarron was going to be traded for a second and third rounder.
Garoppolo could have been traded for the fouth overall pick of the 2018 draft, until the 49ers stole him for the price of a second-round pick. Even former New England Patriots third-string QB, Jacoby Brissett, was traded for a former first-round pick. Any team that has a capable backup QB is sitting pretty.
That brings us to C.J. Beathard.
Last year was an interesting one, to say the least. Widely panned as a reach as a third-round pick, Beathard started as the third-string QB entering the 2017 preseason. Surprising many, he outplayed Matt Barkley and entered the season as the backup to Brian Hoyer.
After Hoyer struggled mightily to begin the season, Beathard entered midway to try to give the team a lift. He got the 49ers their first win but played like a rookie QB usually does, which is not very well. When Jimmy G finally started for the team, Beathard went back to being the backup.
If I had one word to define Beathard’s season, it would be “meh.” Beathard averaged just over 200 yards per game and had four touchdowns against six picks. It wasn’t all Beathard’s fault. The 49er offensive line was simply atrocious. But Beathard wasn’t that great himself. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 34th QB this year, which is right about where he played. He wasn’t really great, but he wasn’t terrible.
Like I said, “meh.”
What does the future now hold for Beathard? Well, with Garoppolo’s massive contract extension, Beathard doesn’t have a path to start with the 49ers. His only option is to continue to develop and eventually sign with another team or stay with the 49ers as a career backup. Either way, he has to get better.
Here’s why that’ll matter for the 49ers.