It will be surprising if Nick Mullens isn’t named the starting quarterback for the Vikings in their next game, December 10 in Las Vegas against the Raiders. Head coach Kevin O’Connell declined to name a starter during last week’s bye period, but Josh Dobbs is 2-2 in leading the offense and is coming off a four interception performance against the Bears November 27.
Mullens’ back injury likely prevented him from being the starter after Kirk Cousins suffered his torn Achilles season-ending injury against the Packers October 29. Mullens has the best understanding of the offense on a quarterback roster that also includes rookie Jaren Hall.
Dobbs was acquired in an October 31 trade with the Cardinals. Mullens came to Minnesota in a trade with the Raiders in August of 2022. Both he and Dobbs are 28 years old, have been with multiple NFL teams and are considered journeymen.
Mullens’ experience with the offensive system could give the Vikings the best outcome in getting the ball to superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson in Vegas and for the rest of the season. Jefferson is expected to play next Sunday after being sidelined with a hamstring injury for almost two months. The whole offense is predicated on passing success with other superb targets in rookie WR Jordan Addison and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Likeable and soft spoken, Mullens has been a supportive backup to Cousins. If he starts next Sunday it will be his first for the Vikings during the regular season. In 24 previous games in the NFL, including 17 starts, he has thrown 27 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.
The future status of the Vikings quarterback leadership beyond this season is muddled. The club seems almost certain to take a quarterback in the first round. Minnesota could be on pace to draft around No. 20 and the best available then might be J.J. McCarthy of Michigan. He not only has passing skills but has the mobility to add another option to O’Connell’s creative schemes and play calling. He is young (turns 21 in January) and will need developmental time.
The Vikings and Cousins have to determine if they can figure out a new contract. Cousins is a free agent and a proven top 12 NFL quarterback but his bargaining power will be diminished coming off such a severe injury. Still, he would be valuable to the Vikings for a season or two while they groom a McCarthy.
But how do the Vikings determine their salary cap and budget challenges in 2024 with expensive new contracts that could start with Cousins at $35 million, Jefferson at $30 million and pass rushing whiz Danielle Hunter at $25 million.
McCarthy’s coach at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh, is likely to leave the controversies of college coaching behind and take an NFL job in the coming weeks. Harbaugh interviewed with the Vikings two years ago with a resume that included taking a so-so 49ers team to the Super Bowl. Last week Yardbarker was quoting 5-1 odds he will be the next coach of the NFL Panthers.
Speaking of quarterbacks, a lot of fans have to be rooting for Cole Kramer to have a successful game leading the Gophers in their bowl game. The former Eden Prairie star enrolled at Minnesota in January of 2019 and has seen minimal playing time during his career including brief appearances in two games this season. He’s been the definition of the “loyal trooper” and it will be interesting to see if with starter Athan Kaliakmanis in the transfer pool he chooses to use his last year of eligibility at Minnesota in 2024.
The Gophers are targeting FCS passing leader Max Brosmer, the quarterback from New Hampshire who has entered the transfer portal. He was the team’s captain and is originally from Georgia. Brosmer was a semifinalist for the 2023 William V. Campbell Trophy recognizing the best football scholar-athlete in the nation for academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.
Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule told reporters recently “a good quarterback” costs $1 million to $2 million in NIL money. Presumably he’s talking FBS, not FCS, because the Gophers can’t afford that kind of money.
Dinkytown Athletes, the official collective of Gopher athletics, is making progress in generating NIL money including with creative ideas partnering with businesses. It’s believed NIL money will first be a priority here in retaining players on the roster.
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who once had an interest in the Gophers, is in the transfer portal and leaving Louisiana Tech. Coming out of high school in California in 2019, Bachmeier was one of the nation’s top ranked pro style quarterbacks and chose Boise State.
The Gophers haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since January of 1962 when they defeated UCLA in the “grandaddy” of all bowl games. That changes next year when Minnesota plays at UCLA on the Bruins’ home field, the Rose Bowl. Stillwater-based Creative Charters is already promoting a fan-trip to Southern California October 9-13.
Bill Guerin has fired two head coaches since becoming the Wild’s GM, Bruce Boudreau in 2020 and Dean Evason last week. If new hire John Hynes doesn’t last at least a few years, scrutiny will focus on Guerin who has yet to see one of his Wild teams make a deep playoff run.
After last night’s win over the Hornets in Charlotte, the Timberwolves are 15-4, the best record through the first 19 games of a season in franchise history.
Cleveland.com reports former Gopher and Minnesota native Jamison Battle is making a career high 38.6 percent of his three-point shots. Stephen Means of the website predicts Battle’s new team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, will win 73-61 against the Gophers tonight in Columbus in the first Big Ten game for both teams on the 2023-2024 schedule.
Popular emcee and former Gophers public address announcer Dick Jonckowski had a checkup last month and continues to be cancer free from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dick was told he won’t need another checkup for a year.
David Mackay produced and directed a movie he filmed in Norway and Ireland titled “My Norwegian Holiday” which debuted Friday night on the Hallmark Channel. David is the son of Minnesota icon Harvey Mackay who has been a prominent booster of local sports and confidant to Gophers sports leaders over the years.