SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ backup quarterback can relate to how Jimmy Garoppolo felt when he filled the role of the No. 2 with the New England Patriots.
That’s because C.J. Beathard feels the same way.
And, furthermore, if you’re a quarterback in the NFL and you don’t believe you are the best player on your team, he said you might be in the wrong line of work.
“I think Jimmy is a great quarterback, but what I think he meant by that is it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to have that mindset,” Beathard told NBC Sports Bay Area.
“I’d say the same thing. I think I’m better than Tom Brady. In my head, that’s how I feel, and that’s how he should feel, and that’s how everybody should feel. If you don’t feel that way, I don’t think you’re in the right business or playing the right position.”
Garoppolo recently raised some eyebrows in an interview with Bleacher Report, saying his thought about Tom Brady when he went to the Patriots was, "I'm better than this dude."
Beathard was a third-round draft pick of the 49ers last year. He was the sixth quarterback selected behind Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Davis Webb. In Beathard's mind, the teams that selected those quarterbacks got it wrong.
San Francisco 49ers
“I felt last year that I was the best quarterback in the draft,” Beathard said. “There were all those guys were ahead of me, but I felt I was better than them. That’s the mindset you have to have as a quarterback.”
If Beathard thought he was better than Brian Hoyer, the veteran quarterback who opened last season as the starter, he was correct -- or, at least, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan eventually agreed with him. Beathard replaced Hoyer in the sixth game of the season and started the next five games before Garoppolo took over.
Garoppolo and the 49ers negotiated a five-year, $137.5 million contract in the offseason. That means Beathard is more than likely locked into backup duty for the remaining three years of his contract. But that is not Beathard’s mindset as he begins his second NFL training camp.
“I’m a play away,” Beathard said. “You know how the NFL is. It’s crazy. Guys are getting hurt. You never know. God forbid something happens to Jimmy, but you never know when or if something might happen. That’s why you got to be ready and prepare as if you are the starter.”
Throughout the offseason program and the first two practices of training camp, Beathard gives the appearance of a quarterback who is ready for his opportunity – if or when it might arise.
“I’ve always thought very highly of C.J.,” Shanahan said. “I thought he played very well last year, and we put him in as tough of a situation as I think a rookie could be put in. Sometimes that breaks guys, and C.J. is mentally and physically as tough as any quarterback I’ve ever been around. He doesn’t care how many times he gets hit. If he makes a bad play, that guy believes in himself and he works at it so he always corrects his mistakes. That’s why I think he’ll always get better.”
Beathard demonstrated his toughness last season, as he was sacked 19 times in his 5 ½ games. He produced his best game in the 49ers’ first victory of the season, a 31-21 win over the New York Giants, when he completed 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
As he readies himself for his second season, Beathard looks and feels better in every aspect, including how the ball is flying out of his hands with seemingly more velocity and tighter spirals.
“He’s more decisive,” Shanahan said. “There’s zero hesitation, and that’s what we liked about him in college, too. When you’re very decisive and that’s how you are, sometimes you make mistake. And when you’re a decisive guy who makes mistakes, that can be a pick. It can be a misread.
“But, now, I think he’s doing it more consistently and seeing it more because when he does make mistakes, he learns from them because he thinks about it and learns how to correct it. That’s why I think he will always continue to improve. When he has a bad day, it usually makes him better because he learns from it.”
Beathard said it might look like he is a physically improved quarterback from his rookie season because his overall grasp of Shanahan’s offense is better. That comfort and confidence allows him to throw the ball around the field with a clear mind. On Friday, Beathard had the two best throws of practice. He hit receiver Max McCaffrey deep down the left side of the field with a pass into the wind. One play later, Beathard connected with Kendrick Bourne on a deep back-shoulder toss along the right sideline.
“This being my second year in the offense, it feels better being out there,” Beathard said. “I’m more confident with the plays and what’s going on, so the less I have to think about it.
“I remember last year, the hardest part was calling the play in the huddle -- just repeating what Kyle said. And, now, that comes second nature. As he’s telling me the play, it’s already processing through my head. It’s like learning a new language, and when you know the language better, it comes out easier.”