Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell gave Josh Dobbs the start for their Week 14 matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders — but the journeyman quarterback is on a short leash.
After O’Connell announced that he would stick with Dobbs despite a rash of turnovers in his past two starts, the Vikings coach said that Nick Mullens will be ready Sunday, signaling that if the turnovers continue, a change is available.
“Nick Mullens will be ready to go,” O’Connell said unprompted in a December 6 news conference. “We’ll prepare Nick like we always do. He’s one of the most professional guys I’ve been around, always ready to roll. And our entire team knows that they can count on Nick when called upon.”
Coming out of the bye week with five games left to improve upon a 44% chance of making the postseason, O’Connell did not reassure Dobbs that he would be the starter beyond Week 14.
“Our whole mentality, coming out of this bye, is about 60 minutes on Sunday,” O’Connell said.
Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell Confident to Pivot Off Josh Dobbs
Dobbs started eight games for the Arizona Cardinals before the Vikings traded for him after Kirk Cousins‘ Achilles injury on October 29. According to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, Mullens would have been the starter ahead of a Week 9 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, but he was on injured reserve with a back injury.
Fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall got the start that week but was knocked out on the second series of the game, thrusting Dobbs into action just a handful of days in the new scheme.
Dobbs presented the highs a mobile quarterback could bring the offense, tallying three touchdowns to help the offense score a season-high 31 points in the win over Atlanta.
But the lows have been ugly. Dobbs threw four interceptions in a 12-10 loss to the Chicago Bears before the bye week, leading to O’Connell reconsidering his starter.
Dobbs has turned the ball over six times in back-to-back losses and has also struggled to protect the football at times.
If he cannot clean up his play, O’Connell is confident to look elsewhere.
“Whether it’s Nick or Jaren, I feel like we got three quarterbacks we can win football games with,” O’Connell said.
Kevin O’Connell, Josh Dobbs Meet for Film Session During Vikings Bye Week
While many Vikings players took the bye week off after a 12-week grind, O’Connell weighed the biggest decision of the season.
Dobbs, who arrived a month ago, seemingly saved the Vikings’ season in the shadow of Cousins’ injury. But after two hard weeks where defenses have keyed on keeping Dobbs in the pocket, self-evaluation was in order.
Dobbs reached out to O’Connell after the loss to the Bears, and the two met for a film session, that for the first time wasn’t hurried with the happenings of preparing for another game midweek.
The film session helped fill in the gaps between the play-caller’s intent and what was going through the quarterback’s eyes and mind.
“We’ve been in a process of trying to provide him with clarity on what we’re doing offensively and then we’re learning a lot about each other as we go,” O’Connell said of Dobbs. “That’s why I love having him here — his work ethic, spending a lot of time with him, getting to know him, and continuing to dive deeper into what helps him be the best version of himself. That’s what I know that we pride ourselves on around here, is helping our players do that.
“So whether it’s schematically, fundamentally, what are we asking him to do in what situation or phase of the game? That’s where we can continue to all elevate our ability to help each other but, more importantly, elevate Josh’s ability to sustain success.”