Coach Kevin O'Connell announced Tuesday that Mullens will start Saturday at Cincinnati after relieving an ineffective Joshua Dobbs last week and helping lead the Vikings to a 3-0 victory at Las Vegas.
“I think we’re all really excited to see what Nick can do with a week of preparation. Even on a short week, I think Nick is going to have a great opportunity,” O'Connell said.
Mullens is the fourth different starter for the Vikings (7-6), who have stayed in control of a spot in the playoffs despite losing Kirk Cousins for the season. They've never used that many QBs in the same season before in franchise history, and they haven't started three quarterbacks since 2014.
Dobbs arrived in an emergency trade with Arizona after Cousins tore his Achilles tendon. Rookie Jaren Hall got the first start in place of Cousins, but suffered a concussion early in that Nov. 5 game at Atlanta and yielded to Dobbs before he rallied the Vikings to victory.
Though the Vikings only had one field goal to show for his time in the game against the Raiders, Mullens moved the chains with third down throws three times on that decisive drive.
“Obviously there's so much room to improve across the board, but you've got to enjoy it. It's hard to win in the NFL. It's hard to win on the road,” Mullens said after that game.
Mullens made a strong impression on his teammates when he took over the huddle, even getting scolded by some of the linemen for screaming the play calls too loudly after they noticed some of the Raiders trying to listen in.
“He was just amped up, ready to go. He just came in right away like he’s been doing it all year,” left guard Dalton Risner said. “We’re walking out on the field and he’s like, ‘I need two things from you guys! I need urgency and focus! I know it’s been a long day! I know it’s been a grind! I know it’s been crazy out here!’ Kudos to him, bro.”
Mullens has 17 career starts in the NFL, including eight each in the 2018 and 2020 seasons with San Francisco as an injury fill-in for Jimmy Garoppolo. He has been with five different organizations over seven seasons in the NFL, though he's only appeared in a game with three. He started one game for the Browns in 2021. He was traded to the Vikings by the Raiders during training camp in 2022.
“Anytime you’re going out to try to find a quarterback that you feel like, when he’s one snap away, can win you some football games, you look for certain traits. Nick has them all,” O’Connell said.
Mullens would likely be making his sixth start of the season this week had he not already been sidelined by a lower back injury when Cousins went down. O'Connell said that played into his decision to start Dobbs at Las Vegas after considering pulling him from the previous game, a 12-10 loss to Chicago during which he threw four interceptions.
“You never know what the NFL is going to give you, so you've just got to deal with the cards you're dealt,” said Mullens, who went undrafted out of Southern Mississippi.
Since the Super Bowl era began with the 1966 season, according to Sportradar data, seven teams have made the playoffs while starting four different quarterbacks: Houston (2015), Green Bay (2013), Denver (2003), Cleveland (1988) and Chicago (1987, 1986 and 1984). The Bears started five different quarterbacks in 1984. They also used replacement players during the strike-altered 1987 season.
Cleveland beat Minnesota to the four-starter mark this season with Deshaun Watson, P.J. Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joe Flacco each winning at least one game. The Browns (8-5) are also in control of a wild-card spot in the AFC.
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