Just a few weeks ago, C.J. Beathard was in learning mode, asking questions of veteran Brian Hoyer about the 49ers’ dense playbook and expansive play calls.
Now Beathard suddenly is in the role of the old-hand, dispensing the same sort of tips and advice Hoyer gave him to newcomer Jimmy Garoppolo.
The trade that sent Garoppolo to San Francisco on Tuesday turned the 49ers quarterback room upside down. Hoyer was cut and signed by one of his former teams, the New England Patriots.
Garoppolo is now viewed as the 49ers quarterback of the future.
He takes over the placeholder role that Hoyer was in to start the season. The rookie will start Sunday’s game against the Cardinals and likely the following contest against the New York Giants.
“Just stay positive and keep working,” Beathard said. “Just keep doing what I do, working hard and doing my best.”
Beathard didn’t fare well in the 2 1/2 games he’s played. He’s completed a little more than half his passes and has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a score.
But he’s also dealt with dismal conditions, including a steady rain in Philadelphia, the disappearance of his offensive line – it was missing three members by the end of Sunday’s game – and an injury to Pierre Garcon that kept the 49ers’ top receiver out for much of the second half of the Eagles game.
Despite those obstacles, Beathard has exhibited toughness and resolve and has shown the one thing Kyle Shanahan holds most dear when it comes to quarterbacks: a willingness to remain in the pocket while keeping his eyes trained downfield.
“I have a lot of confidence in C.J.,” said Shanahan, adding that he spoke with Beathard when the trade occurred. “By no means has everything been perfect these last two and a half weeks that he’s played, but I’ve been excited about a lot of things that he has done. He has had some bumps in the road like first-time players will have and like a lot of veterans have, but I think C.J. has shown a lot of things that we’re excited about.”
Beathard admitted being “a little socked” about the trade, not so much over how it would affect him but because trades of that magnitude are so rare in the NFL. He said he appreciated Shanahan reaching out to him but said he didn’t need to be assuaged.
“I talked to Kyle and he told me a lot of positive stuff,” Beathard said. “He’s still confident in what I’ve been doing and it had nothing to do with my first two starts. It’s just an opportunity. Jimmy is a real good quarterback, too. It’s just an opportunity to up the competition level and stuff like that.”
Still, it’s clear how the 49ers view their two quarterbacks at this stage.
During a Tuesday news conference to introduce Garoppolo, Shanahan said, “We brought him here because we want him to be the quarterback of the future.” Added general manager John Lynch: “We believe very much that Jimmy is going to be our quarterback of the future.”
In order to hold onto Garoppolo, a pending free agent, the team will have to sign him to an extension or use the transition or franchise tag, the latter of which would cost $23 million. Beathard, a late third-round pick this year, is due to earn a base salary of $625,000 next season.
Perhaps Beathard can find consolation in the story of another Shanahan quarterback, Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick who was eclipsed as a rookie by a more high-profile passer, Robert Griffin III.
Five years later, Cousins is a starter and is poised to become one the highest, if not the highest, paid players in the NFL.