SF 49ers grades: Nick Mullens stinks it up vs. Washington in Week 14

Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by defensive end Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Football Team (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by defensive end Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Football Team (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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Kyle Shanahan, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

SF 49ers Special Teams, Coaching Grades vs. Washington

For whatever reason, Kyle Shanahan hasn’t settled on a return specialist. Wide receiver Trent Taylor was inactive, and Shanahan kept going back and forth between Brandon Aiyuk and fellow wideout Richie James.

Aiyuk is certainly more threatening and explosive, and there’s an understanding why Shanahan would want to keep one of his best offensive players fresh and healthy.

But with the offense scuffling, giving Aiyuk just one return is a bit puzzling.


Kicker Robbie Gould had a quiet day, needing to convert just one extra-point attempt with the SF 49ers converting the other touchdown PAT into a two-point score.

Out of the specialists, however, long-snapper Taybor Pepper running all the way down the field in the fourth quarter to be involved in downing the ball at Washington’s 1-yard line was a nice little story.

Perhaps that’s reason enough to give the Niners’ special teams unit a C-grade, since no one else made much of an impact at all.

D+. . . . COACHING

If we’re talking Robert Saleh only, San Francisco would get an A-grade with its coaching. The SF 49ers defense didn’t lose this ballgame, and it’s an easy argument to suggest this group gave the team its best chance to win on multiple occasions.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

So, for those looking to blame Saleh, go somewhere else.

Shanahan can get some passes here, particularly with the realization his offensive line isn’t very good and he’s without three of his best offensive playmakers: Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s also not on the head coach’s shoulders when Nick Mullens throws erratic passes or doesn’t feel the pressure within the pocket and endures a strip-sack fumble.

Yet that doesn’t excuse Shanahan from making some key mistakes during the game.

The Niners regularly failed to account for Chase Young, and it’s puzzling why Shanahan didn’t call for some added protection to guard against him.

On top of that, Mullens should have come out at halftime. Sure, C.J. Beathard is anything but an upgrade over Mullens. But shaking up the offense entering the third quarter was a key need, and Mullens wasn’t going to engineer a comeback.

Shanahan didn’t, though, and Mullens was forced to endure two more quarters where he showed why he’s nothing more than a third-string backup.

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And the SF 49ers played like a third-string team on Sunday, at least on offense.