Nick Mullens

George Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach

George Kittle's secret to Kyle Shanahan's wife gets back to 49ers coach

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Kyle Shanahan escaped to Cabo San Lucas shortly after the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to get away from it all.

Shanahan ended up “randomly” spending time with 49ers players George Kittle, Nick Mullens, Trent Taylor and Levine Toilolo, who also went to Mexico for a vacation and some golf.

"I think we broke a record," Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We played like nine holes in five hours."

Kittle, an All-Pro tight end, is in line for a massive contract extension this offseason. This is the first time he can renegotiate a new contract after coming to the 49ers as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.

The next time Kittle steps on the field with the 49ers, he is expected to have a new deal that will make him the highest-paid tight end in the league.

He might have given away some of his negotiating power while confiding in Mandy Shanahan, Kyle’s wife.

“He told my wife how much he liked it here (with the 49ers),” Shanahan said. “He even told my wife to promise not to tell me until after he signs. She told me. She’s my wife.”

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Kittle made base salaries of $465,000, $555,000 and $645,000 in his first three NFL seasons. His salary is scheduled to increase to $2.144 million in 2020 with a performance bonus. His next contract is expected to worth more than $12 million per season.

Kittle was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time last season. He caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. In 2018, Kittle set the NFL single-season record for a tight end with 1,377 receiving yards.

49ers roster analysis: Quarterbacks in good shape entering 2020 season

49ers roster analysis: Quarterbacks in good shape entering 2020 season

This is the first installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Monday, a look at the 49ers’ quarterback position.

Under contract (signed through)

-Jimmy Garoppolo (2022)
-C.J. Beathard (2020)

Expiring contract

-Nick Mullens

As an exclusive-rights free agent, Mullens has no outside negotiating power. The 49ers retain his rights with a qualifying offer, but they could also look to sign him this offseason to a multi-year contract.

What needs to happen

The 49ers kept three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster last season because they believed the third quarterback held more value than a backup player at another position. That strategy did not cost the 49ers.

Despite keeping an extra quarterback, the 49ers were still able to bring back the top players they cut at the end of training camp when they needed them. Those players included running back Jeff Wilson, safety Marcell Harris, linebacker Elijah Lee and defensive lineman Damontre Moore.

This offseason, the 49ers will again be open-minded about the possibility of trading a quarterback. Beathard is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season, so it is unlikely the 49ers will be able to keep all three quarterbacks beyond this year.

The 49ers can also be expected to sign a fourth quarterback for the offseason program and training camp. They are likely to pick up an undrafted rookie who could have a shot at the practice squad if the 49ers deal away one of their QBs.

Expectations

Garoppolo threw for the fourth-most yards in franchise history in 2019. He was particularly impressive over the final 10 games of the regular season, when he achieved passer ratings of 110-or-better seven times.

Garoppolo started 19 games, including the postseason. In the Super Bowl, he completed 18 of his first 21 pass attempts. But in the final 10 minutes, he went 2 of 10 for 24 yards with an interception and a sack. The 49ers let a 10-point fourth-quarter lead get away in a 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Afterward, Shanahan backed Garoppolo.

Garoppolo had never before started more than five games in a season before 2019. He should be even better in 2020 with a great knowledge of coach Kyle Shanahan’s system and the valuable experience he gained.

Overall, Garoppolo threw 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. A reasonable expectation is that he cuts his interception total in half for the 2020 season.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

Mullens won the backup job last year over Beathard. Despite not attempting a pass, Mullens believes he made improvements behind the scenes that will be apparent the next time he gets a chance.

The 49ers should feel good about their quarterback situation entering the season, and there is no reason for the 49ers to make any significant move at this position.

49ers' Nick Mullens improving by watching Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Brees

49ers' Nick Mullens improving by watching Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Brees

SANTA CLARA -- When the 2018 season concluded, 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens established himself within some elite company.

Mullens started the second half of the season and averaged 285 passing yards per game. He finished last season with momentum, ranking fourth all-time in passing yards through eight games behind Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.

Although more than a year has gone by without Mullens starting another NFL game, he believes he is now a better player.

“I just feel -- not like a veteran -- but I feel like I’ve been in it for a while,” Mullens told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I feel very comfortable, just being able to take in all the information and handle information, being able to process and know where to go with the ball.

“I don’t feel like a new guy anymore. So that’s cool to be able to just know the offense, command the offense, connect with your teammates and do a lot of different things you might not feel comfortable doing when you’re the new guy.”

Mullens won the backup job at the end of training camp over C.J. Beathard, but he has yet to throw a pass this season behind Jimmy Garoppolo. Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Dante Pettis are the only 49ers other than Garoppolo to attempt passes this season.

Mullens entered the NFL in 2017 as an undrafted rookie from Southern Mississippi. He was cut at the beginning of his first two seasons but remained with the 49ers’ practice squad.

After Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, Mullens was promoted to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Beathard. After Beathard struggled while taking a physical punishment, Mullens got his chance in the middle of the season.

He was prepared for his opportunity, and never gave coach Kyle Shanahan any reason to take him out of the lineup.

Mullens, known as a detailed worker, takes the same approach to be ready for his next opportunity, he said. He has a specific process he goes through at the beginning of every week.

“You tell yourself every week, ‘You’re starting this week; prepare like you’re the starter,’” Mullens said. “So I have a pretty detailed and specific routine, just playing the game in my mind and seeing what’s going to happen and walking through plays.

“That’s the biggest part because you don’t get reps. So you have to walk through the plays in your mind and physically to be able to feel what it’s going to feel like on game day. So you’re always staying ready and doing as much as you can to prepare.”

Three weeks ago, Reggie Bush posted a video on social media of his former New Orleans Saints teammate Drew Brees in an otherwise empty practice facility walking through some plays. Mullens said he does something very similar.

“That video is pretty cool,” Mullens said. “It shows why he’s been great for so long. I think that’s something quarterbacks try to do is see things before they happen. Drew has been the best at that.”

Mullens added, “I’m trying to get used to what each play is going to feel like and going through your progressions and really just being able to step in and command the offense whenever that time comes.”

Mullens stands next to 49ers quarterbacks coach Shane Day on the sideline during games. Day tells the backup quarterbacks to "play the play as much as you can in your head.” Mullens will know Shanahan's play call and what the progression is designed to be against certain defenses. Then, he will read the defense in real time and visualize where he would be going with the football.

Mullens provides Garoppolo with as much assistance as possible. And just watching Garoppolo this season has been beneficial for Mullens, he said.

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo connects with 49ers fan for souvenir from Seahawks win]

Garoppolo started all 16 games this season and put together one of the best statistical seasons in club history. His 69.1 completion percentage was third all-time among those with 10 or more starts in franchise history. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards, ranking behind only Jeff Garcia and Steve Young (twice) among 49ers quarterbacks.

“He’s so consistent,” Mullens said of Garoppolo. “The best quarterbacks and football players are consistent. And he’s just consistently making big-time plays and handling big environments. The Saints and Seahawks are his most two efficient games and that’s in the two hardest environments.

“He thrives off the big moment, and that’s what you look for in a quarterback. So it’s awesome, and I’ve learned a lot from observing him and seeing how to be consistent as a quarterback.”