C.J. Beathard leaves 49ers with hard-to-swallow legacy

Quarterback C.J. Beathard #3 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Quarterback C.J. Beathard #3 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ first quarterback drafted under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, C.J. Beathard, is off to the Jaguars, per reports, leaving behind a tough legacy.

The San Francisco 49ers trading up into the back end of Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft to grab former Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was quite the reach.

It was at the time, considering most draft pundits viewed Beathard as a fifth- or even sixth-round prospect, at best. And four years later, looking back at the Beathard selection makes things even a bit tougher to process.

Beathard is off to join new head coach Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars in NFL free agency, as reported on Wednesday by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

The top-drafting Jaguars have their own questions to answer this offseason, including what to do with their former starter, Gardner Minshew, while Beathard is eventually pegged for holding the clipboard behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, widely speculated to be picked by Jacksonville at No. 1 overall this April.

Yet Niners fans don’t need to worry about that, aside from potentially wishing Beathard the best of luck with his new ventures.

C.J. Beathard highlights all kinds of ‘what if?’ questions for 49ers

Rumor has it Beathard was the only quarterback head coach Kyle Shanahan wanted in the 2017 draft. Shanahan’s plan, of course, was to wait it out that year with Beathard and veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, then grabbing now-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency the following offseason.

Except the 2017 trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo changed all that.

Hoyer’s early flameouts in 2017 prompted Beathard to plug the gap between the two others, and it was painfully clear Beathard wasn’t anywhere close to doing so. The dearth of offensive talent San Francisco had in its first rebuild year under Shanahan was apparent, and Beathard was proverbially “tossed into the flame” far too soon.

And those issues, such as poor pocket presence and a lack of consistent accuracy, continued to dog Beathard in each one of his seasons where he saw the field.

C.J. Beathard Passing Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 3/24/2021.

While quarterback wins is generally a shortsighted stat, Beathard’s two over 12 starts say pretty much everything one needs to know.

Beathard’s toughness on the field, even if it largely resulted from his own lack of pocket awareness, will never overcome the fact he, not quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, was the first quarterback the Shanahan regime selected in the NFL Draft. Along with now-Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Solomon Thomas, Beathard will remain a painful reminder why the bulk of the 49ers’ 2017 draft class ended up flaming out aside from, perhaps, nose tackle D.J. Jones and Beathard’s former teammate at Iowa, All-Pro tight end George Kittle.

Kittle was one of the first to congratulate Beathard on his new team:

That does carry some merit. If anything, Beathard earned the respect of the locker room during his four-year tenure, which will certainly assist in overcoming much of the criticism he faced from the fanbase.

Particularly when he exited the field late in 2017 against the Seattle Seahawks, giving way to an ovation of cheers for Garoppolo when the latter stepped in for his first snaps for San Francisco.

The tragic and premature death of Beathard’s brother in 2019 also brought him closer to his teammates, too. But as far as on-the-field efforts went, Beathard certainly falls into that category of draft picks the 49ers would like to have back.

And in the wake of all the quarterbacking questions the Niners have faced since, Beathard likely won’t be looked up favorably for his time in San Francisco anytime soon.

Hopefully, at least for his sake, he can change that reputation in Jacksonville.

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