Kyle Shanahan hasn’t dialed up a lot of quarterback-option runs since Robert Griffin III was his passer in Washington in 2013 and Johnny Manziel got into the Browns’ lineup in Cleveland in 2014.
He called two such plays for Matt Ryan in two seasons in Atlanta. “Two times too many,” he said Wednesday. And there were none for Brian Hoyer in the first five and a half 49ers games this year.
But rookie C.J. Beathard had a handful of read-option runs Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and finished with five carries, 30 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Why resurrect that play with Beathard, who isn’t particularly speedy and who had no read-options snaps the last two years at Iowa? Because the Cowboys weren’t expecting it.
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“As long as it plays out the right way, (the quarterback) can run and slide for 10 yards untouched,” Shanahan said. “Then when people know you’re doing it, now they have to account for the quarterback. That changes up systematically what defenses have to do. That’s why it’s always good to have that threat.”
There’s also a sense that Beathard can handle any new wrinkles that come his way.
Among the traits that have stood out to coaches and teammates in the rookie’s first game and a half as starter are his toughness, his composure and his desire to improve.
Like most teams, the 49ers dedicate Mondays to going over the film of the previous day’s game and dissecting everything that went right and wrong. Beathard, however, couldn’t wait that long following the team’s 40-10 loss to the Cowboys and was texting Shanahan that night.
“I could tell he was watching it a ton (Sunday) night, having a bunch of questions even before we got in,” Shanahan said. “It’s always fun when you can get with a guy and you feel you have a chance to help him get better. I enjoy meeting with him because he asks good questions and I think he learns from every rep that he gets.”
Said Beathard: “You can learn something from every play. Whether it’s a good play, a bad play, you’re always trying to get better. … That’s just how perfectionists are. You want to be perfect. You just want to do the best you can and get better at every step of the way.”
Teammates, meanwhile, have been impressed by Beathard’s temperament. He’s already been sacked seven times, two of them blind-side hits in which he’s been planted chest-first into the field. On every occasion he’s bounced back.
“I think he carries himself great,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “He carries himself like a vet. The stage isn’t too big for him. And you don’t see him shying away from anything. He’s not scared to let it rip out there. He’s a guy we all trust.”
Beathard said there were some read-option elements in Iowa’s offense during his sophomore season when he got into a few games. But there were none the past two years in the Hawkeyes’ traditional offense and he finished his senior season with minus-13 rushing yards.
He already has 44 for the 49ers and is ready for more.
“Any way we can give ourselves another opportunity to get yards, to get a first down,” he said. “I feel confident in myself to be able to run a little bit. I think it was good.”