Of all the potential 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, it is safe to say Brian Hoyer is towards the bottom of them. He has limited arm strength and is nothing more than a serviceable game manager. Hoyer can steady a stacked ship for the time being until another captain comes along and elevates it to the next level. Backup Matt Barkley is not that impressive either. He will probably never start consistently for a team in his career.
One of the bright spots for the 49ers in the two preseason games has been third-string rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. So far, he leads the team in completion percentage (60.9%), yards (211), passing touchdowns (3), and passer rating (130.6). In fact, he is the only Niner to throw a touchdown so far during the preseason and his passer rating is far higher than Matt Barkley who is second at 89.4. He is also second in yards per attempt at a stellar 9.2, slightly behind Barkley’s 9.4.
Yes, Beathard is not playing against starters while Hoyer is despite his struggles. We cannot ignore that. However, Hoyer still has looked lackluster and Barkley has looked mediocre. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan should reward the rookie with a start in week 3 against the Vikings not just for his exceptional play, but more to see what he would look like against starters. Shanahan knows what he is going to get from Hoyer and Barkley. It is still unknown what Beathard can do against real talent.
So why not start him Week 4 vs the Chargers? That is because starters barely play Week 4. They usually play one series and that is it. In Week 3, the starters play about the entire first quarter. This will be enough reps to see where Beathard is at this point in his development.
Now, this does not necessarily mean Beathard will be the starter Week 1 of the regular season. Unless he balls out against a very good Viking defense this week, Hoyer will still probably be the starter and probably should be for now. In fact, he would probably start Week 4 anyways and play the first series and be done.
The preseason is the time to experiment and throw feces against the wall to see what sticks. Shanahan is an aggressive play-caller so let us hope that translates to his substitutions. The Niners lose nothing by doing this. It is simply a one-time thing to see how Beathard measures up against starters. After all, preseason games are basically glorified scrimmages. With seven years on his contract, Shanahan should look to build towards the future and see if Beathard can be a part of that.