SANTA CLARA — For the 49ers’ starters, Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers will be the most forgettable night of the season. The starters won’t even play.
But for the backups, Thursday will be the night their careers end or survive — perhaps their final opportunity to show they belong in the NFL. The exhibition finale is their Super Bowl.
With that in mind, here are five backups to watch closely Thursday night.
1. QB C.J. Beathard
The 49ers took a leap of faith when they traded up for Beathard in the third round of the 2017 draft. Most draft experts considered Beathard a late-round prospect who lacked traits to become a starting quarterback. Only Kyle Shanahan saw Beathard as a future quality starter.
“Every time C.J.’s in there, you’ve got a chance for a big play,” Shanahan said last week. “He loves the big play.”
So far, the experts were right about Beathard. In two seasons, he has started 10 games, his quarterback rating is just 74.6 and his win-loss record is 1-9.
“The numbers aren’t great, but we have a lot of faith in C.J.,” general manager John Lynch said on KNBR Wednesday morning.
Faith is good, but Beathard needs to give the 49ers a legitimate reason to justify their faith Thursday night. He needs to make a case for keeping a third quarterback on the roster. Needs a big performance against the Chargers. Because Nick Mullens, the 49ers’ other backup quarterback, has outplayed Beathard. Mullens’ record is 3-5 — the 49ers know they can win with him. They don’t know they can win with Beathard. They may not need him anymore. No leap of faith required.
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