Kyle Shanahan has explained why he kept Nick Mullens in the 49ers' loss to the Washington Football Team on Sunday, but there’s even more evidence why the head coach likely won't make a change at quarterback.
In the third quarter of the 49ers’ 23-15 loss to Washington, Shanahan considered making the switch to QB C.J. Beathard. While the Iowa product was warming up, Mullens put together an 11-play scoring drive that convinced Shanahan to keep him in.
Mullens has had his struggles. With a 2-5 record as a starter in 2020, and a 5-10 career record, Shanahan has seen the undrafted free agent gain confidence in his offensive system. After three seasons with the 49ers, Mullens knows the ins and outs of Shanahan’s system.
"Nick's a smart guy,” Shanahan said. “He’s very accountable. I think I'm pretty hard on him, but he's harder on himself. He sees it, probably knows the answer because he watches on his own before I get to him and then he hears it from me.
“Nick's great with that stuff, but the game's just not about knowing. It's hard out there and you've got to play well and he didn't play his best. I know he missed some open throws and stuff, but it also was compounded when you're not throwing your best and then you also have nine drops to go with it.”
Mullens has appeared in 18 games in his three NFL seasons and has a 64.9 percent completion rate. On his 366 completions, he has racked up 4,495 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He has been sacked 34 times for 255 yards and has fumbled the ball seven times -- five fumbles were committed this season.
While Mullens has nearly 4,500 yards passing, his receivers have helped him with that statistic. He's tied for the league lead in average yards after completion (6.2) with Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers. But his 3.6 air yards per completion is ranked 26th in the league.
Beathard has appeared in 16 games over his four seasons with the 49ers, but has not started a game since 2018. He has a 1-9 record as a starter and a 57.5 career completion percentage. Beathard also has as many touchdowns (13) as he does interceptions (13).
In fewer than five starts, Beathard has shown a lack of awareness in the pocket having been sacked 40 times for 326 yards.
After Jimmy Garoppolo was placed on injured reserve in early November, the 49ers signed Josh Johnson to the practice squad. While there are some pundits who believe the journeyman quarterback should be given a chance under center, his stats suggest otherwise.
Johnson has a 1-7 career record as an NFL starter. In his 33 appearances as a quarterback, he has a 55.2 completion percentage and has thrown eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He has been sacked 26 times for 166 yards.
There always is a possibility that Shanahan makes a change with who is under center over the next three games, but until Garoppolo is available, Mullens statistically is the best bet for the 49ers to have a chance at a win.