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2023 Vikings Position Recap: Quarterback

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings navigated challenging quarterback scenarios throughout the 2023 season that included significant injuries, trades and a rookie's debut.

Kirk Cousins started Minnesota's first eight games, making an early case for NFL MVP with a league-best 291.4 passing yards per game, 18 passing touchdowns, just five interceptions and a passer rating of 103.8. That run came to a screeching halt, however, when Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon at Lambeau Field in Week 8.

The Vikings were without backup Nick Mullens at the time, as Mullens was on Injured Reserve with a back injury, and so 2023 fifth-round draft pick Jaren Hall finished out that game, a 24-10 road win for Minnesota.

Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah managed to acquire Joshua Dobbs from Arizona just two days later before the trade deadline, and Dobbs was thrown into the fire later that week. Hall started at QB against the Falcons. He completed five passes for 78 yards and drove the Vikings offense down the field on his second possession. The rookie suffered a concussion, however, and was sidelined.

Dobbs entered the game and, after a dicey start, made multiple plays with his legs and demonstrated an ability to improvise in the victory.

Dobbs started the following week against New Orleans and helped the Vikings build a 21-point halftime lead in a 27-19 victory over the Saints.

Minnesota looked to Dobbs for the next two games, as well, but turnovers at Denver (a fumble and an interception) and against Chicago (four interceptions) proved costly in 21-20 and 12-10 losses.

Following the Vikings Week 13 bye, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell gave Dobbs the starting nod at Las Vegas but later pivoted to a then-recovered Mullens, who led the game's only scoring drive en route to a 3-0 win – the lowest-scoring indoor game in league history.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall during the 2023 season.

Mullens started at Cincinnati and against Detroit but threw a total of six interceptions (two against the Bengals and four against the Lions on Christmas Eve) across the pair of losses.

O'Connell went back to Hall to start against the Packers on Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium. After a disastrous first half, however, Mullens came in to finish the game, a disappointing 33-10 loss to the division rivals.

Mullens played the duration of Minnesota's Week 18 contest at Detroit, where the Vikings suffered a fourth-straight loss to wrap up the 2023 season. Mullens gave a valiant effort and protected the ball a majority of the afternoon but threw two late-game interceptions.

"I think you definitely learned through the second half of the season just the ebbs and flows of playing multiple guys," O'Connell told reporters during his post-season media session.

Notable Numbers:

4 – The Vikings had never before in franchise history started four quarterbacks over the course of a single season. It's generally a rare thing for other teams, as well, though the 2023 campaign proved to be especially brutal in terms of quarterback health. Minnesota and the New York Jets started four different QBs during the season – and Cleveland even started a fifth in their regular-season finale, in order to rest Joe Flacco for the team's Wild Card playoff game.

291.4 – Before he suffered a season-ending injury, Cousins was averaging 291.4 passing yards per game, putting him on pace for a career-high 4,953 yards. He currently has seven 4,000-plus seasons under his belt; but the only time Cousins has come that close to 5K was in 2016, when he racked up 4,917 yards with Washington.

Regular-Season Statistics*

*Note: Sean Mannion signed to the Vikings practice squad


Most Improbable Storyline

The "Passtronaut" craze was short-lived but very real.

While Dobbs didn't end up starting for Minnesota down the stretch, you can't take away the excitement he sparked against the Falcons.

After two dreadful drives ended in two sacks of Dobbs for a safety and a fumble, respectively, the quarterback led the offense down the field late in the second quarter and connected with Alexander Mattison for a 2-yard passing touchdown.

Minnesota's series to open the third quarter also saw Dobbs suffer a strip sack, but he didn't allow himself to get rattled. With just over 2 minutes remaining in that quarter and on first-and-10 from the Falcons 18, Dobbs blasted off to the end zone for a rushing TD.

Fast forward to the game's final two minutes, and all eyes were on Dobbs as the Vikings trailed 28-24.

He completed short passes to Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson, then launched one deep for Addison, who toe-tapped the sideline for a 24-yard gain. An incompletion, scramble for 3 yards, another incompletion. Then with 52 seconds on the clock and on fourth down, Dobbs pulled away from the rush, dodged a defender and sprinted toward the end zone, carrying two Falcons with him as he grinded to the 10-yard line.

With 27 seconds to go, Dobbs calmly and collectedly fired to Brandon Powell for the go-ahead touchdown to seal the Vikings victory.

The Lowest Low

Cousins was firing on all cylinders at Green Bay.

The Vikings held a 10-3 lead coming out of halftime, and the third quarter proved even more fruitful. Five minutes into the quarter, Cousins connected with Hockenson for a 2-yard score, followed by a successful PAT by Greg Joseph.

Green Bay regained possession after the score … but for just a short time. On the Packers third play of the series, Jordan Love was intercepted by Vikings safety Josh Metellus, who returned the pick 43 yards to the Green Bay 20.

Enter Cousins once again.

On first-and-10, he threw a deep pass to Addison for a 20-yard touchdown, netting two scores for Minnesota in under two minutes.

All seemed to be going great. The Vikings held control of the game, even after a 1-yard touchdown by Romeo Doubs on Green Bay's next drive.

But fast forward to the final 10 minutes of the game, and the Vikings season was drastically impacted by a single play. Cousins attempted to step up in the pocket on third down, and it was then his Achilles ruptured. He was sacked by Kenny Clark after the injury and hopped to the sideline.

From there, the Vikings QB carousel ensued.

2 Pressing Questions for 2024

  1. Will the Vikings re-sign Kirk Cousins?

Cousins is due to hit free agency for the first time since 2018, when he of course signed with Minnesota.

He's expressed interest in remaining a Viking, and the Vikings have been clear they wish to have him back. But it's not always that simple, is it? Salary cap must always be considered, and negotiations lie ahead between both parties.

Will Cousins' injury, and the fact he'll turn 36 this August, impact the Vikings decision?

"It is age. It's injury, but it is also performance. How do you believe the performance will go? And there's different examples through time," Adofo-Mensah said last week. "Obviously, you have to also pay attention to the person and what he puts into his body and how regimented and detailed he is. All those factors go into it.

"But, at the end of the day, we are just taking risks, and we try to measure it as best we can and protect ourselves and ensure against it," Adofo-Mensah continued. "On his side, he is trying to take less [risk]. That is his job, and they should do that, and we will try and find a place in the middle and see where we end up."

  1. Will Minnesota target a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Mullens and Hall are currently under contract for 2024.

With the Vikings scheduled to pick 11th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft and a quarterback class that already has been hyped, will the Vikings look there for their QB of the future?

It's possible, even if they re-sign Cousins.

The beginning of the new NFL year on March 13 makes it likely that Minnesota will have a decision on Cousins roughly six weeks before "going on the clock."