Nick Mullens has been here before. This time, the expectations are higher for the San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback. With Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined with an ankle injury, Mullens gets the start Sunday against the New York Giants. Although Mullens is setting the bar high for himself, it’s not likely he’ll repeat what he did the last time he came off the bench to replace Garoppolo.
Jimmy Garoppolo goes down again
Week 2 was very unkind to the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners saw Nick Bosa, their second-year pass rusher, go down with a season-ending ACL tear. Jimmy Garoppolo left the game with an ankle injury and running back Raheem Mostert also was forced from the game. The only good news was they were playing the New York Jets and managed to come away with a 31-13 win.
In that win, Nick Mullens came off the bench to replace Garoppolo. He completed eight of 11 passes for 71 years and he threw an interception. San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner said the team rallied around those injured players and was able to post the convincing victory.
“When you have key players like those guys keep going down, we all gathered in the huddle and talked about how we have to play for them,” linebacker Fred Warner said, according to ESPN. “We played for them and made sure that we stayed locked in.”
Mullens has been here before
It was nearly two years ago when Nick Mullens came in for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and stole the show. In his first game as a starter in the league, he was setting records. Mullens became the first San Francisco 49ers quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in his debut. His 151.9 passer rating was the best in 50 years for any quarterback making his debut (20 or more attempts).
Mullens had quite a game. It was Thursday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders and he completed 16 of his 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The Niners cruised to a 34-3 victory over the Raiders.
His performance created “Mullens Mania” and also generated high expectations for the rest of the 2018 season. Mullens, however, struggled the rest of the way. He went 2-5 in his next seven starts. He finished the season with a 3-5 record and threw for 2,277 yards. He threw 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Mullens has higher expectations this time around
Fans shouldn’t expect another 151.9 passer rating and another record-setting performance by Nick Mullens this Sunday. He, however, is challenging himself. He has been the leader of the team before and his expectations are high.
“Now I just have a higher expectation for myself,” Mullens told The Mercury News. “That’s what carries me and pushes me. It’s my fourth year. There’s really no excuses to why I shouldn’t perform. And so that’s kind of what has kept pushing me.”
George Kittle, another offensive star for the 49ers who will be out this week, has full confidence in Mullens. “He’s locked in,” Kittle said Thursday, according to ESPN. “He’s got the game plan down, he’s got a rocket for an arm, he’s slinging it, he’s confident. And I know he’s just excited to get the opportunity to play. If he gets to play, I know he’s going to take advantage of that situation because that dude loves football.”