Nick Mullens played in just one game for the 49ers in 2019. He threw no passes. His only action came at the end of a 51-13 victory over Carolina in October.
So, when it came to contributing to San Francisco’s 13-3 regular season, NFC championship and Super Bowl appearance, Mullens was (on the stat sheet), a no-show.
Yet as the 49ers look toward the 2020 season, Mullens is a super-valuable commodity. He’s insurance. The backup quarterback to Jimmy Garoppolo has the faith of head coach Kyle Shanahan, total familiarity with the offensive scheme and the experience of leading a bad Niners team to three victories in 2018 after he stepped in for both Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard.
In fact, recent reports suggest the 49ers have so much confidence in Mullens’ ability to run the offense that they’ve turned down several trade offers to him – even though the team could use more draft picks (the likely payoff in a deal).
Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, who now writes for The Athletic, said on “The GM Shuffle” podcast recently that there has been interest around the league in acquiring Mullens.
Mullens, who went undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, was surprisingly good in 2018 for the 49ers when he started eight games, went 3-5, completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,277 yards and had 13 touchdown throws vs. 10 interceptions.
Lombardi found it interesting the 49ers place such value on a guy like Mullens, when – at the same time – former Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is a free agent and hasn’t found a job.
Said Lombardi: “The 49ers got a bunch of phone calls – when I say a bunch, a couple of teams – on Nick Mullens, the backup quarterback in San Francisco. Nick Mullens. They were asking about him, and they turned down every trade offer. … Think about that. Nick Mullens was like … Cam Newton had no value, Nick Mullens (is) untradeable. Just put that in perspective for a while. Digest that.”
Mullens beat out Beathard last season for the primary backup role to Garoppolo, and both Mullens and Beathard remain on the roster – for now. The 49ers already tendered Mullens a new, one-year deal for 2020.
Shanahan loves Mullens’ skill set and attitude, and how he performed in 2018 after rising from the practice squad. “He’s proved to me that he’s an NFL quarterback,” Shanahan said at the end of the 2018 season. “We like Nick a lot – we have since college. That’s why we kept him around on the practice squad.”