Vikings Make Right Call at QB

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Indefinitely, Joshua Dobbs will remain a strange case of a quarterback who became worse as he learned the playbook better.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell announced Nick Mullens, not Dobbs, will start this Saturday at Cincinnati Bengals. Dobbs struggled against the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, and Las Vegas Raiders, so much so that Mullens took over last Sunday in a squeaker win at Las Vegas.

Vikings Make Right Call at QB

The team’s original QB1, Kirk Cousins, was injured for the season in late October at Lambeau Field, and a quarterback carousel immediately ensued. Minnesota started rookie passer Jaren Hall for two drives at Atlanta before a concussion knocked him out of the lineup. Dobbs entered the mix and dazzled — until he didn’t. Now, Mullens gets the scepter, at least for a week.

Vikings Make Right
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Mullens gives the Vikings a gunslinger attitude and skillset, essentially a watered-down version of Cousins, who hangs in the pocket and doesn’t get out in the open field with his legs. In that regard, Mullens is the anti-Dobbs. Mullens slices secondaries from the pocket only; Dobbs preferred to be on the move and was at his best while doing so.

The playbook is also made for Cousins — which means it fits Mullens. Minnesota traded for Mullens late in the summer of 2022, and in fact, Mullens was the backup option to Cousins for all of last season. Had Cousins fallen injured in 2022, Mullens would’ve been the guy, no questions asked.

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While Dobbs had several flashes of promise, excitement, and otherworldly scrambling, the now-benched passer didn’t feed wide receivers in the Vikings’ offense like Cousins. Jordan Addison hasn’t scored since Cousins was quarterback, and Dobbs left Justin Jefferson out to dry at Las Vegas with an off-target throw. Jefferson went to the hospital about 20 minutes later.

Mullens may not offer a 2017 Case Keenum spark, but he doesn’t flounder at flinging the rock downfield. If Mullens ends up “showing his true colors” like many believe Dobbs did in the last three games, it’ll be too many risky throws and subsequent interceptions. That was the knock on Mullens during his 17-game spurt in San Francisco (and one start in Cleveland).

Longshot to Start
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Minnesota employs the aforementioned Jefferson, Addison, and T.J. Hockenson. The offense — the lifeblood — is getting those three the ball. Dobbs could not do it. Mullens can, even if he throws some interceptions.

The Vikings likely won’t win a Super Bowl this season; that dream died when Cousins’ Achilles popped. Yet, there’s a glimmer of hope that Mullens’ gunslinging tendencies propel the team to a playoff appearance and postseason win (or two). He has the arm to cook on Sundays (this week = Saturdays).

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Per EPA/Play, here’s some season-by-season perspective on Mullens, Cousins, and Dobbs:

  • 2020 Kirk Cousins = 0.150
  • 2019 Kirk Cousins = 0.148
  • 2023 Kirk Cousins = 0.134
  • 2017 Case Keenum = 0.131
  • 2018 Nick Mullens = 0.113
  • 2021 Kirk Cousins = 0.108
  • 2022 Kirk Cousins = 0.081
  • 2018 Kirk Cousins = 0.066
  • 2020 Nick Mullens = 0.059
  • 2023 Joshua Dobbs = 0.020

A mix between 2017 Keenum and 2021 Cousins would be fantastic with the current Brian Flores-led defense. We shall see.

The Vikings have 67.1% playoff odds per ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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