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Kyle Shanahan says 49ers' new starting QB C.J. Beathard has improved since last season

The 49ers desperately need C.J. Beathard to play well. How good is he based on statistics from last season?|

SANTA CLARA - The 49ers desperately need C.J. Beathard to play well. How good is he based on statistics from last season?

Beathard wasn’t merely bad. He was one of the worst starting quarterbacks the 49ers have had in the past 40 years.

Granted, he was a rookie. But he started five games, threw 224 passes and his quarterback rating was just 69.2. The only 49ers starting quarterback since 1981 who threw at least 100 passes and had a worse rating than Beathard was Ken Dorsey, whose rating was 62.4 in 2004.

Now, the 49ers need Beathard to save their season. Their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, tore his left ACL during the 49ers’ 38-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and is out for the year.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan believes Beathard is up to the ?challenge and has improved since last season. But Beathard didn’t show improvement during the preseason. He threw zero touchdown passes, one interception and his quarterback rating was 74.8. Subpar.

“I don’t like to sit and make excuses for guys,” Shanahan said Wednesday, “but I was happy with C.J. in the preseason. His stats weren’t very good. Of course, he’s got to take some responsibility for that, but I was never bothered.

“He had a great training camp in practice. The plays that he did have in the game, I didn’t think he had a ton of opportunities. Sometimes it just goes that way. Games don’t always tell the whole story. I know that’s what we’re judged off and those were the results, but football isn’t a one-on-one game. You’ve got to assess every single play and what’s going on.”

In other words, you have to look really, really close to see what Beathard does well.

The 49ers traded up into the third round last year to draft Beathard. He reportedly was the only draft-eligible quarterback Shanahan wanted in 2017.

“C.J. is very impressive,” Shanahan explained. “He’s very smart, he always knows the game plan inside and out, he works very hard, he is a thinker and he also is a reactor out there. He listens to everything the coach says. He does everything we ask. When you know the whys and you have experience, it’s a lot easier to improve.”

Shanahan’s offense is one of the most complicated in the NFL, and it takes most quarterbacks two seasons to get it down. Matt Ryan’s quarterback rating was 89 the first season he played for Shanahan. Back then, Shanahan was the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator. In Year 2, Ryan’s quarterback rating ballooned to 117.1.

“It’s Year 2 for me in this offense,” Beathard said. “With any extra time doing something, the better you get at it. I’m definitely understanding more of the whys, why certain things happen, why we think this guy will be open, why we attack certain things versus certain coverages.

“There’s nothing you can do to simulate those reps in practice. The only way you can do it is by going out there and actually getting those game-time reps.”

Those reps in 2017 were brutal. Not only did Beathard play poorly, he got sacked a whopping 19 times. Many of those sacks were his fault because he held the ball too long. He made himself a human piñata.

That experience would have broken lots of young quarterbacks’ spirits. For Beathard, the experience gave him confidence. “I know to never get down on myself in any situation in life,” he said. “I think that if I hadn’t played last year, it’d be a lot different situation at this point being my first game. I think I would be a lot more nervous.”

He didn’t seem nervous Wednesday. He answered questions in a calm, low voice and wore a backwards cap and a silver cross on his chest. He had on socks, but no shoes. The casual look.

“There’s a lot of people doubting us and counting us out,” Beathard said. “We’re excited and we’re ready to get rolling and win some games. I think we’ve got a lot better team than we did last year.”

Shanahan agreed with Beathard about the team. “I think it’s a lot better. Right when C.J. came in, we lost Pierre Garçon, which was tough because he was our main veteran out there. We had to play with a lot of younger guys, or guys who hadn’t had the experience. Those guys kind of grew throughout the year. They finished the year strong. They’ve come in better this year. We’ve added a couple new guys. So, I think he does have a better group.”

Beathard certainly will have a better running game. The 49ers offense ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards with 458. That ground attack will take pressure off the young quarterback.

“Our guys are pros,” Shanahan said. “They know how to handle this. We’ve got 13 games left in the season. There’s a long way to go. There’s no time to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s time to step it up and win some games.”

It’s time for Beathard to show he has improved. It’s Beathard time.

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