Kyle Shanahan not yet ready to declare Nick Mullens as new 49ers starter

SANTA CLARA - Quarterback Nick Mullens most likely will start for the 49ers a week from Monday against the New York Giants.

But it’s not yet official.

“The players have four days off,” head coach Kyle Shanahan explained Friday. “I don’t need to decide right now in front of you guys. I would like to do it in front of our players and the people it really affects.”

“You guys” are the media.

Shanahan will wait to announce his decision as a courtesy to the team, and to the quarterbacks competing for the starting job - Mullens and C.J. Beathard.

By waiting, Shanahan will also give the 49ers an advantage over the Giants. They have to prepare for both quarterbacks. The Giants won’t know until next week which quarterback they’ll face.

“It’s all about who gives us the best chance to win versus the Giants,” Shanahan said.

That would seem to be Mullens.

Beathard hasn’t won since Week 10 of his rookie season - almost a full year ago. His record as a starter is 1-9, and his quarterback rating this season is 81.8.

Mullens’ record is 1-0. He had one of the best debuts by a quarterback in NFL history Thursday night, when the 49ers beat the Raiders 34-3. Mullens threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating was 151.9.

“He was very efficient,” Shanahan said. “Made some big plays. Got to No. 2 in his progression. (Made) a couple of plays down in the red zone. Did a good job getting rid of the ball, changing his arm angle a number of times. And got us in and out of the huddle very efficiently.”

Granted, Mullens faced the Oakland Raiders, who may be the worst team in the NFL. They traded away their best player - defensive end Khalil Mack - before the season started. And now, the Raiders have the worst pass rush in the league. They’ve recorded only seven sacks this season. They never sacked Mullens Thursday night.

“I’m not going to take any credit away from Nick,” Shanahan said. “He did some really good things in that game, helped us have one of our better games of the year. Nick wasn’t just handing it off and protecting the lead. He made some plays that were one of the reasons we got that lead.”

Mullens, 23, played college football at Southern Mississippi, where Brett Favre went to school. Mullens broke all of Favre’s records, and threw for 11,994 yards and 87 touchdowns in four seasons.

The 49ers signed Mullens in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. He spent most of that season on the practice squad. The 49ers viewed him as a quarterback who could develop into a backup someday, maybe.

In 2017, the 49ers also traded up to take Beathard in the third round of the NFL draft. The 49ers viewed him, not Mullens, as a quarterback who could develop into a starter. Shanahan always had higher expectations for Beathard than Mullens. Shanahan called Beathard “the best quarterback in the building” just two weeks ago.

Mullens, who also works in the building, may change Shanahan’s mind.

“Nick’s not the tallest guy,” Shanahan said Friday. “He’s not the biggest guy. He had a great college career. He played in a spread offense, though, so you weren’t always seeing him under center. It was hard to envision how he would be. But the type of guy he was, the way he played within his offense, we knew he was a good football player.”

The 49ers list Mullens at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. He’s smaller than the average quarterback. He looks like a kid.

“He’s not the guy who walks in the locker room the first day and everyone’s like, ‘Who’s this guy who just came in?’” Shanahan said. “They probably thought it was our quarterback coach’s younger brother or something. He doesn’t mind. He’s not trying to be someone he’s not. He just goes to work and guys notice and then watch him play well. The way he acts, he’s himself all of the time. That’s what leaders do.”


Raheem Mostert had surgery on a broken forearm Friday afternoon. The 49ers placed him on the injured reserve list, ending his season.

Mostert rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown Thursday against the Raiders. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry the past four games.

“For the two years we’ve been here, Raheem has been one of the better special teams players in the league,” Shanahan said. “What he has done for us on offense just in these last weeks has been huge. He’s really taken a step up. He got his opportunity with some injuries and faced some adversity right away with a turnover, and he completely bounced back and made himself a hell of a back. It’s going to be a huge loss for us, but it’ll open up some opportunities for other people, just like some opportunities were opened up for him.”

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