PHOENIX — Coach Kyle Shanahan knows Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback atop the 49ers’ depth chart.
After that, it’s a coin flip — literally.
“We’ll rotate C.J. (Beathard) and Nick (Mullens) with the twos,” Shanahan said at the NFL owners meeting.
Shanahan said he does not consider either reserve in the lead to serve as Garoppolo’s backup this season. In fact, he said he is prepared to dole out the initial practice snaps of the offseason program in random order.
“(We’ll) flip a coin the first day,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers have kept two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster the past two seasons under Shanahan. But they could be tempted to keep all three around this season.
Statistically, Mullens out-produced Beathard last season, as the 49ers won three of his eight starts to finish the season. The 49ers were winless in the five games Beathard started.
Mullens completed 176 of 274 pass attempts (64.2 percent), averaged 8.3 yards per pass attempt, and threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 90.9 passer rating. He also was sacked once every 17.1 dropbacks.
“Nick kind of came out of nowhere this year from being on the practice squad to being a starter for us as long as he was,” Shanahan said. “(I) never went into the year expecting that because you don’t go into the year expecting guys to get hurt. But Nick got his opportunity and he didn’t let it go back. We’re real excited with him, proud of how he played.”
Garoppolo sustained a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 against Kansas City. Beathard took over and started until a thumb injury and other bumps and bruises forced him out of the lineup in Week 9 against the Raiders.
Beathard completed 102 of 169 attempts (60.4 percent), averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, and threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions for a passer rating of 81.8. He was sacked once every 10.4 dropbacks.
Beathard was chosen late in the third round of the 2017 draft, while Mullens hooked on with the 49ers that same year as an undrafted rookie.
“I think you got two guys that have proven that they could definitely be backups in this league and they have shown that they are capable at times of playing like a starter,” Shanahan said. “Neither of them are finished products. I think both can still continue to get a lot better.”
Through eight starts, Mullens ranks fourth all-time with 2,277 passing yards – behind only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. In Mullens’ first start, he threw for 262 yards with a near-perfect 151.9 rating against the Raiders.
“When CJ took a step back, he was pretty beat up,” Shanahan said. “He went into that San Diego game, they had a very good pass rush. I think we lost three O-linemen in that game. We lost our receivers in that game and he played at a very high level versus the Chargers.
“But he got banged up a lot in that game. He had a few setbacks in practice but his body never really recovered and then we sat him for the Oakland game because he was hurt the most. I think his body healed up. It’s something he needed to do and it would have been nice for him to get back in after a few weeks, but Nick was playing too well.”