SF 49ers should play Josh Rosen in season finale vs. Seahawks

SF 49ers quarterback Josh Rosen (2) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
SF 49ers quarterback Josh Rosen (2) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

6-9. Seahawks -6. 4:25 p.m. ET. Fox. Sunday, Jan. 3. 11-4. 36. 42

The SF 49ers ‘host’ the Seahawks to end the season. With the playoffs out of reach, the team should try to evaluate a newly signed Josh Rosen.

The end of the SF 49ers‘ 2020 season is nearly upon us, as the team will close out the year in Arizona hosting the NFC West division-leading Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium on Sunday.

The Niners are out of the playoffs, having been eliminated with their loss to the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to play for, including potentially spoiling their longtime rivals’ chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.

But there’s also something to be learned about the extensive list of upcoming free agents San Francisco has coming up this offseason. While many, such as left tackle Trent Williams and cornerback Jason Verrett, have already earned themselves strong consideration for contract extensions from the team, others have something left to prove.

One of those is one of the newest members of the SF 49ers, quarterback Josh Rosen, who was recently signed off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad after injuries to quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and then Nick Mullens, and the move of practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson to the COVID-19 list, left the team with just one quarterback on the roster, C.J. Beathard.

Rosen was in uniform last week against the Cardinals as a precaution, as there’s no way he knew enough of the playbook to viably run the offense except for in an emergency. And while head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is notoriously difficult to learn, now that Rosen has been with the team a little longer, it’s likely he’s grasped some of the intricacies, even if mastery would still be a long way off.

So with that in mind, Rosen should be given an opportunity to play on Sunday against the Seahawks, a game that matters more to Seattle than it does to San Francisco in terms of the win or loss outcome.

Sure, Beathard played effectively on Saturday, finishing 13-of-22 for 182 yards and three touchdowns and one lost fumble, but otherwise, he managed the offense as running back Jeff Wilson went off for 183 yards on 22 carries. The quarterback out of Iowa played within his limitations and mostly took care of the ball, something the SF 49ers haven’t been doing much of in recent weeks.

But the team knows what Beathard is, and hasn’t trusted him to be Garoppolo’s direct backup for two seasons now, and with Beathard scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, the likelihood is he gets to test the market.

Beathard will be 28 years old a month or so into next season, and it’s safe to say the former third-round draft pick doesn’t have a future in San Francisco.

Rosen, on the other hand, is a little more of an unknown.

A first-round pick just two years ago by the Cardinals, there was enough chatter around Rosen’s career at UCLA to wonder if he’d be the first quarterback off the board and not many batted an eye when Arizona took him with the 10th overall pick in 2018.

He struggled in his 14 games as a rookie, completing just 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards while tossing 14 interceptions against 11 touchdowns. Rosen was shipped to the Miami Dolphins after the Cardinals drafted their quarterback, Kyler Murray, first overall in 2019. Rosen then played in six contests in Miami, starting three, completing just 53.2 percent of his attempts for 567 yards, one touchdown, and five picks.

To be fair to Rosen, both the 2018 Cardinals and 2019 Dolphins were bad teams who won a combined eight games and lacked in talent all along their rosters, but these numbers don’t evoke a ton of hope that Rosen will ever be an NFL-caliber quarterback.

And the version of the SF 49ers that Rosen would be leading onto the field would certainly be a stripped-down one, too. Receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, running back Raheem Mostert, and left tackle Trent Williams will all miss Sunday’s game, meaning that if Rosen did play, he’d be doing so with a piecemeal squad.

Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get a shot to show what he can do.

This doesn’t mean he should necessarily start and finish the game. Beathard earned the right to maintain the de facto starter’s role with his performance last week. But what about a few scripted series in the second half, especially if the game is out of reach, to see if Rosen can execute Shanahan’s offense, even if it’s merely a taste?

A few possessions against a motivated Seahawks defense won’t tell you everything, but it could allow Rosen a little opportunity to showcase some of the talent that made the Cardinals draft him in the first round a few years ago.

Other than Garoppolo, the SF 49ers don’t have any quarterbacks signed past the end of this season on the roster. Rosen is not a long-term answer at quarterback, but in terms of raw talent, he would be the best backup Garoppolo has had since he arrived in San Francisco.

And Rosen, who will just turn 24 years old in February, is still young enough to grow as a player and be a viable backup option, no matter what the team chooses to do at the quarterback position heading into 2021.

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The situation isn’t perfect, but Rosen should be given the opportunity to play on Sunday in the season finale against the Seahawks.