Backup? Vikings Have the Perfect QB for Their Offense.

Nick Mullens Is Absolutely
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Kirk Cousins was expected to throw for his usual 4,000 yards and 30 TDs in 2023, although a dropoff in the age-35 season was just as likely as an increased production in his second year in the offensive system. He started hot, producing at a career-best rate, but his season-ending Achilles tear prematurely ended his promising campaign.

Backup? Vikings Have the Perfect QB for Their Offense.

Vikings Have the Perfect QB for Their Offense
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Sans Cousins, the Vikings had one of their classic QB carousels, with Jaren Hall starting the first game and Joshua Dobbs the next five. In that fifth start, he failed to lead his team to a single point through three quarters, so head coach Kevin O’Connell pulled the trigger to replace him by inserting the original backup Nick Mullens. The veteran was injured when Cousins got hurt, perhaps triggering the Dobbs trade in the first place.

In his five quarters on the field, Mullens has been able to move the ball much more efficiently than Dobbs could, showing why the Vikings traded for him in August 2022 and re-signed him in March. The good news is that Mullens, unlike Dobbs, is the perfect scheme fit for O’Connell’s offense.

Jefferson Has Starting
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) changes the play at the line of scrimmage prior to a snap in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

He wants his signal-callers to call audibles at the line of scrimmage and then proceed to take chances by throwing into tight windows. The offense is built around the explosive playmakers, who can only shine if the ball is thrown in their direction, whether covered or not. And guess what? Mullens will fling the ball to his guys. It will sometimes be reckless, but it is what the offense requires to function.

Dobbs hesitated and then looked to run if the first read was covered. Mullens’ superior familiarity with the system allows him to process things quicker, giving him the needed confidence to give the receivers opportunities. That knowledge also empowers him to make pre-snap adjustments, a big staple of O’Connell’s operation.

HC Makes It Official
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In his first start as a Minnesota Viking, he threw for over 300 yards and two scores, making some mind-boggling and costly decisions but also showing the ability to make plays. For the first time since the first half of the game against the Saints, the offense was functioning and moved the ball. That happened because the rushing game was working but also because Mullens found his receivers to extend drives.

His Southern Miss (Brett Favre’s alma mater) gunslinger gene presented itself on a few plays when he tried to make things happen when he should’ve just moved on to the next play. Instead, he once comically threw a pass to the defender who was tackling him, and on another instance, when it was first and goal, extended the play and tossed across his body to a covered Jordan Addison. One play was an interception. The other resulted in six points. That is the Mullens experience, and it is what the offense needs.

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Nothing is more frustrating than watching Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Addison run wonderful routes on a perfectly drawn-up play by O’Connell, and the quarterback just doesn’t pull the trigger because he is scared.

The all-world playmakers need to get the ball. It is what the offense does best, and the quarterback is the man to feed them. Mullens can do that, and he proved it on Saturday when all three had decent games. It is an art to help the weapons in the passing game put up numbers, and Mullens is a mini-Kirk in that aspect.

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There will be mistakes whenever a quarterback plays that way, and Mullens should be expected to turn the ball over at least once per game. As long as it doesn’t drastically exceed that number, he should be encouraged rather than threatened with losing his job.

While Mullens isn’t Cousins, his best tendencies are perfect to replace him for this team specifically. He will make plays, he will make bad decisions, and he is the best chance the Vikings have to make noise in the final stretch of the season. Buckle up for the full Mullens adventure.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt