A Single Factor is Keeping the Vikings from Naming Nick Mullens as the QB1

HC Makes It Official
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

Truth be told, there isn’t much of a QB controversy. The debate has been settled: Nick Mullens is going to be the QB1 in Cincinnati on Saturday.

Anyone with eyesight and a heartbeat could see that the Vikings’ offense had been struggling with Josh Dobbs leading the charge. He hasn’t played good football since the second quarter in Week 10. Since then, things have been going poorly. Minnesota’s offense was barely a smoldering ember for the initial three quarters in Las Vegas. Inserting Mullens into the mix was akin to tossing a bit of gasoline onto the barely-alive fire.

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The end result is a crystal-clear choice: Mullens should be the main man. The only real question is who will be tasked with taking over as the QB2 (there’s an argument to be made for Dobbs dropping down to QB3).

Even still, O’Connell wouldn’t commit to the obvious in his Monday press conference. Reporters pressed him a bit on the topic and the head coach offered a pretty reasonable answer for why he isn’t announcing Nick Mullens as the starter just yet.

Nick Mullens Will Be the QB1…Just Not Yet

The head coach wants the chance to let his team know first.

And, to be sure, that’s the right call. Reporters and fans are important, but they don’t exist in the same realm as the team itself. O’Connell wants the opportunity to pass along the news to his coaches and then the players. That’s an admirable perspective, one that should be commended. True, Dobbs hasn’t played well, but it would be completely unprofessional of the coach to break the news in the media before having the chance to chat with his quarterback.

Warm Up to Nick
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Getting back from Las Vegas meant arriving pretty late on Sunday. The coach then started working through the aftermath of the game. He suggested that he’s doing his “full evaluation of all the plays” before getting into a “dialogue with the staff.”

Shortly thereafter, O’Connell noted the importance of “the communication with the players” and that things are “a little early to announce that but I feel like we’re on our way to making that decision rather shortly.” Essentially, O’Connell needs to work through his process. Grind through some more film and then speak with his colleagues within the building. Once doing so, the coach will have the freedom of being able to name his starting QB.

Must fix himself
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Ben Goessling of The Star Tribune is looking at things in basically the same manner: “Since the Vikings got back late last night, O’Connell said he wants to evaluate the film more completely and talk w/staff. Doesn’t mean it won’t be Nick Mullens on Saturday; could just mean the Vikings need time to communicate QB decision internally before they announce it.”

With just a couple of drives, Nick Mullens put together 9/13 passing for 83 yards. Most importantly, he pushed the Vikings toward their only points of the day, a field goal from Greg Joseph. On the other end of things was more than three quarters of Josh Dobbs football. The passing attack was mostly ineffective as Dobbs put together 10/23 passing and 63 yards.

There’s a chance that Justin Jefferson will be able to play against the Bengals. O’Connell would thus get to call an offense with a (near) full arsenal. A top trio of Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and T.J. Hockenson is the envy of the majority (all?) of the NFL. The Vikings must have a QB capable of getting the ball to these elite playmakers. The only real way to shut them all down is for Minnesota to have a quarterback who is playing horribly.

Kirk Cousins would lean on a basketball metaphor to describe what Minnesota’s QB needs to do. Cousins looks at himself as being akin to a point guard in basketball. His job is simply to distribute the ball to those capable of piling up points. Whoever replaces him is tasked with the same job.

Line QB for 2023
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Sitting at 7-6 is a good thing, especially when we remember that the Packers, Rams, and Seahawks all lost over the weekend. Minnesota has full control of its ability to get into the postseason, but the margin isn’t so large that they can be lackadaisical in their approach. Every week brings another opportunity to snag a victory; every victory is precious.

The Vikings and Bengals begin their tilt on Saturday, December 16 at 12 p.m. CST. Expect to see Mr. Mullens under center.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.