For the First Time in a Little While, the Vikings Have Options at Quarterback

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Dobbs didn’t have a great game last night for the Vikings.

By the end of the night, The Passtronaut put together 20/32 passing for 221 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. He added on 8 carries for 21 yards and a score. Oh, and there were the three fumbles, one of which ended up being recovered by the Broncos (the trick play where Mr. Dobbs took the toss from T.J. Hockenson, who lined up under center). So, a mixed bag for the team’s new QB1.

Nov 19, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Viking quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) drops back to pass against the Denver Broncos in the first half at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Notably, the Vikings ventured into the Sunday Night Football showdown with Nick Mullens being activated off of the IR. At no point did Mullens challenge for the starter’s role. Dobbs has mostly been playing well, leading Minnesota to a pair of victories while filling-in. Still, Minnesota’s coaching staff was very happy to have their main backup back for a game.

There’s another game before the bye and the expectation should be that Jaren Hall is healthy and active. The team will thus have a QB hierarchy consisting of Dobbs as the QB1, Mullens as the QB2, and Hall as the QB3. Sean Mannion will get shifted back to the practice squad.

Is Minnesota going to do anything with the newfound options?

The Vikings Have Options at Quarterback

After the game, Josh Dobbs lamented some of Minnesota’s mistakes.

“I thought we did some good things on offense,” Dobbs begins. But, as he goes on to explain, the Vikings made too many costly mistakes: “Looking back at the game quickly, it came down to turnovers […] At the end of the day, it’s hard in this league to go on the road and win. It’s even harder when you don’t take care of the football like you’re supposed to.”

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) warms up before the game against the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback is exactly right. Playing in a hostile environment on Sunday Night Football isn’t conducive to success — especially when the road players are dealing with the challenge of playing at elevation — so the margin for error is small. Gifting the football back to Denver further exascerbates the issue.

Not only did the Vikings need to climb a steep hill, but they needed to do so with three massive bricks on their back. In the end, the burden was too heavy.

Minnesota now finds itself at 6-5, an overall record that most would have been thrilled to see after beginning the year at 0-3 and then 1-4. And, for whatever it’s worth, the odds experts still foresee good things in Minnesota’s future. Over at The New York Times, there is the belief that the Vikings have a 78% shot at getting into the final tournament. Meanwhile, ESPN thinks Minnesota has a 79% chance.

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell celebrates with quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) after a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Those are strong odds, numbers the Vikings’ organization would have been thrilled to see after the initial five weeks of the year. Climbing to the hefty percentages is even more impressive upon considering all of the health turmoil that has been afflicting the roster.

Now, there are some important developments on that front: Mullens is back and Hall will be, as well.

Going into the Week 10 Saints game, the Vikings’ QB health was looking pretty bleak. There was Dobbs, Mannion, and a mysterious emergency QB hiding behind a player’s normal position. The situation is way more optimistic at this stage.

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) runs with the ball as offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) blocks and center Alan Ali (66) looks on against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

During the summer, the plan was for Mullens to take over Minnesota’s offense if the unlikely happened and Kirk Cousins needed to miss time due to injury. Well, that eventuality did occur, but Mullens was already dealing with his own injury. The end result was turning to the rookie 5th-round selection — Jaren Hall — while inviting Josh Dobbs into the fold (via trade with the Cardinals).

Of course, you know the story. Hall got hurt and Dobbs got inserted. Magic ensued as a completely unprepared quarterback summoned enough courage, brains, toughness, athleticism, and arm talent to overcome the Falcons and Saints in consecutive weeks. The starter’s job was thus his to lose, and nothing he has done so far suggests he should lose the QB1 crown.

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) rolls out to pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The notable detail is simply that the Minnesota Vikings now have options. The quarterback room is getting healthy as the season starts getting toward its end.

Dobbs has now had six-straight quarters of reasonably underwhelming football. The final half against the Saints didn’t go particularly well. The four quarters against the Broncos were, at best, average. Add it all together and the most recent evidence points to a QB who has been just pretty good. With Mannion as the backup, that reality didn’t matter. What about with Mullens and Hall, though?

Minnesota’s next game takes place at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Chicago Bears (a team that’s also getting healthier at quarterback). Putting together an excellent performance would mean Dobbs has complete control of the starter’s job going into the final weeks of the season.

A poor effort, in contrast, will lead to some serious questions for the Vikings’ coaching staff as the bye week arrives.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.