San Francisco 49ers: C.J. Beathard is No. 2 QB, now what?

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 19: C.J. Beathard
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 19: C.J. Beathard /

San Francisco 49ers C.J. Beathard is the team’s No. 2 quarterback now that they have released Matt Barkley, but what does that mean going forward?

As I predicted almost three months ago, rookie C.J. Beathard beat out one of the backup quarterbacks prior to the start of the regular season. The San Francisco 49ers have released Matt Barkley, who was projected to be the team’s backup to the team’s starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.

For now, Hoyer remains the presumed starter. While not unheard of, it would be extremely rare to see an NFL head coach place a third-round quarterback as their team’s starter.

If you need an example of a quarterback that has done that, look no further than Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. No, I am not saying that Beathard is the next Russell Wilson; I am simply providing an example of a third-rounder making that sort of leap from expected benchwarmer-to-sudden starter.

Still, coming out of the preseason, Beathard has outplayed both Hoyer and Barkley. Need proof? Check out the team’s passing statistics here. Still, beating out the likes of Barkley is not exactly lighting the NFL world on fire. It is, however, a hugely positive sign that Beathard’s development into a future NFL starter is progressing well.

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Barkley has been in the league for several years while Beathard has played four preseason games and yet that was enough for the coaching staff to make the call. Beathard has shown enough in college for the team to trade up and get him. Now, through four preseason games, he has shown enough to be the team’s No. 2 guy.

At this point, the question every fan should be asking themselves is, when is Beathard going to take the reins from Hoyer?

When the 49ers traded up to get Beathard, they put themselves on a timeline. They told the entire football world that they saw something in Beathard. Next season, they will be faced with premier quarterback talent from the college ranks and from the potential free agency of Washington Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins. Will they select a premier talent and completely forget they traded up to get the current rookie out of Iowa.?

It is possible that they see Beathard as a career backup — but if they did, why draft him in the third round and why trade up to get him? That is simply weird. Absurd. Nonsensical.

The 49ers see more from their rookie, but they also don’t want to place insurmountable pressure on him. I predict that Hoyer will enter as the team’s starting quarterback. Hoyer will guide and mentor the young gunslinger. Eventually, though, Hoyer will do Hoyer-like things and head coach Kyle Shanahan will hold a press conference in which he will inform the faithful that the rookie will start Week 12 to evaluate his potential as an NFL starter.

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Will Beathard be the next Joe Montana? Who knows, but the 49ers need to figure out what they have in the young man sooner or later. Next season, they will be facing down the likes of USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

The San Francisco 49ers’ strategy at that position needs to be crystal clear.