SANTA CLARA (AP) — After opening the season with six straight losses, the San Francisco 49ers have turned over the reins of the offense to rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Beathard’s performance over these next 10 weeks could play a big part in determining whether the rebuilding 49ers view Beathard as a foundation piece of if they decide they need to target another quarterback in free agency or with a high draft pick next year.
“I’m not looking that far ahead,” Beathard said Wednesday. “Right now my focus is on today’s practice and geared toward beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”
Beathard had a promising debut in relief of ineffective starter Brian Hoyer in last week’s 26-24 loss at Washington. That earned Beathard a shot at the starting role for the 49ers (0-6) beginning Sunday at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
First-year coach Kyle Shanahan said he wants to see whether Beathard shows enough potential for the team to want to build around him.
“By no means do you have to be one of those top five guys,” Shanahan said. “But you have to show the ability that you can build things around a person who gives you the chance no matter what type of defense you go against, that he’s got the ability to make those throws, he’s got the ability to make some off-schedule plays and he’s the type of person who can handle all the stuff that goes with it.”
Shanahan has had strong belief in Beathard, saying he was the one quarterback he targeted in the draft where he was taken in the third round by San Francisco.
Beathard beat out veteran Matt Barkley for the backup job behind solid play in the preseason and has only gotten better on the practice field the past few weeks.
That led to the decision to pull Hoyer in the second quarter last week with San Francisco trailing 17-0. Beathard led a comeback attempt that fell just short when the Niners couldn’t get into range for a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the loss to Washington.
Beathard finished 19 for 36 for 245 yards and one touchdown. His only interception came on his desperation final pass with San Francisco looking to convert on fourth-and-20.
Beathard said he will have the same type of approach this week as the starter as he did as the backup.
“I just think I don’t get too high or too low in any situation,” he said. “I just try to stay pretty mellow because I know the game of football. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You never want to get too mad when you have a bad play or too high when you have a good one. It’s all about staying mellow and staying the same through all of it.”
The biggest change will be getting a full week of practice with the starters so he can build a stronger rapport with receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin.
Beathard has been preparing for this moment for years. The grandson of Super Bowl winning executive Bobby Beathard started 28 games in college at Iowa and came to the NFL more prepared to play early because of his experience in a pro-style offense.
“I don’t think it’s too big for him,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s used to having it and I think he’s just going to go about it like he’s gone about every other day throughout his career.”
NOTES: Rookie LB Reuben Foster and teammate Ray-Ray Armstrong were nearly the victims of an armed robbery attempt after being out late Sunday night at a club in San Francisco. “It was a scary moment for my family and for the organization,” Foster said. “I’m truly sorry to the organization and the fans that I concerned them. But you can live and you learn.” ... DL Ronald Blair, who has been on IR all season with a hand injury, returned to practice. He can be activated to the roster in two weeks. ... The 49ers signed CB Greg Mabin and TE Cole Wick to the practice squad and released DB Jarnor Jones from the practice squad.