One Viking Moved to Tears over 2023 Season

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2023 Minnesota Vikings once showcased a 6-4 record and around an 80% probability of reaching the postseason.

That feels like decades ago now, as Minnesota’s season ended Sunday at Ford Field after a 30-20 loss to the playoff-bound Detroit Lions.

One Viking Moved to Tears over 2023 Season

The Vikings handed the QB1 baton to Nick Mullens one more time, and true to form, he delivered 396 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

Call it the Nick Mullens Special.

Moved to Tears
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

After the game, though, the wily veteran passer was moved to tears. Mullens told reporters Sunday evening, “I love the Vikings. I love the team. It’s like, whoa: We were 1-4, then went 5-0. Your starter goes down, and you’d love to say, like, ‘Us quarterbacks, who’s ever back there, led the team to the playoffs.’ That’s what we hoped for. Didn’t get it done.”

Mullens was then on the brink of tears.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

“It’s been fun. Like I said, I love the Vikings. It sucks. But it was a fun season. You learn a lot. You go through a lot,” he added.

Here’s the full clip:

Mullens and rookie teammate Jaren Hall are the only quarterbacks under contract for the 2024 Vikings, as Kirk Cousins’ future is fully up in the air. Accordingly, whether Minnesota reunites with Cousins or drafts a rookie passer with the 11th pick in April, Mullens could be back in 2024 as QB2 or even QB1 in a patchover capacity.

nick mullens
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Minus the interceptions — Mullens threw 7 in 4 games — the 28-year-old drove the ball downfield in Minnesota’s offense repeatedly and almost effortlessly at times. Meanwhile, Mullens took over as the starter right when the Vikings’ defense plunged to the bottom of the NFL, inconvenient timing for a backup quarterback:

Vikings Defense,
Per EPA/Play,
NFL Ranking,

First 3 Games = 26th
Middle 10 Games = 1st
Last 4 Games = 31st

Even with the interceptions, Mullens somehow finished 2023 as a Top 10 quarterback per EPA+CPOE, an efficiency metric that evaluates expected wins added per player. Mullens was sandwiched between Patrick Mahomes and Jordan Love per EPA+CPOE when it was all said and done this season:

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With Joshua Dobbs as the starter in November and early December, the Vikings used his mobility to extend drives and score touchdowns, but Dobbs lacked Mullens’ ability to throw the ball downfield and outside the numbers. Mullens took over for Dobbs, and then Mullens lacked Dobbs’ mobility but could sling the rock more productively than Dobbs. Minnesota basically needed a hybrid between the two this season after Cousins was lost to a torn Achilles, and no such option existed.

QB for Cincinnati
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Teams led by Mullens — the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and Vikings — are 5-15 (.250) with him under center.

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