Will the Vikings look internally for a quarterback solution or shop around?
Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell talks about the team’s options at quarterback after Kirk Cousins was lost for the season with a torn Achilles
There’s a fast-ticking clock for the Minnesota Vikings to decide how to move on without Kirk Cousins.
The organization confirmed Monday that the veteran quarterback suffered a torn right Achilles tendon during the Vikings’ 24-10 win over the Green Bay Packers the day before, ending his season.
Where does that leave Minnesota in the short-term at the quarterback position?
“We’re in the process of determining the next steps and timeline,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell told reporters Monday.
“We’re all hurting this morning for Kirk, just knowing how much he’s invested into this team.”
Could rookie Jaren Hall be the short-term solution?
On Sunday, rookie quarterback Jaren Hall, the fifth-round draft pick out of BYU, filled in after Cousins left the game just minutes into the fourth quarter.
In 11 snaps, Hall completed 3 of 4 passes for 23 yards, including a 16-yard connection with tight end T.J. Hockenson on a third-and-8 play that helped force the Packers to use their final two timeouts.
The 25-year-old rookie also lost a fumble inside the Minnesota 20 when he was strip-sacked on just his third snap of the game.
O’Connell said he wanted to make sure Hall felt that he and the coaching staff were confident in his abilities when he was inserted into the game.
“I did want to see Jaren go in the game and function. A lot of the feedback I got from the guys in the huddle was that he was outstanding calling plays, cadence, snap counts, center-quarterback exchange. Those are all things that go through your mind,” O’Connell said.
“All he’s really done are scout-team reps up until this point throughout the season and he’s done a fantastic job getting our defense ready every single week.”
Hall, who had struggles in the preseason before making strides in the final exhibition game, started the year as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, until veteran Nick Mullens landed on injured reserve on Oct. 11 with a back injury.
“Didn’t have a lot of time to think about it,” Hall said about playing his first regular-season snaps, while sharing his thoughts for fallen teammate Cousins. “Just let the preparation and time before that kick in, and just try to soak it all in.”
O’Connell said he didn’t see any hesitation in Hall when his number was called, and he left open the possibility that Hall could be the Vikings’ quarterback solution — at least in the short-term, with a road game at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.
“We’ll continue Jaren’s process of getting him ready to go each and every week,” O’Connell said. “If he ends up being the guy, I know every guy on our roster has confidence in Jaren.”
Sean Mannion, a journeyman quarterback who’s started three games in eight NFL seasons and is on his third stint with the Vikings, shared his faith in Hall if he’s called upon in the interim.
“You can tell he’s comfortable in the system,” Mannion told the Star Tribune. “I know he’s just a rookie, but he’s wise beyond his years in a football sense.”
Could Nick Mullens take over at QB for the Vikings?
In addition to Cousins, the Vikings have three other quarterbacks currently on their roster: Hall, Mullens and Mannion, a practice squad player.
Per NFL rules, Mullens is ineligible for four weeks after going on IR — his first available week to return is Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints.
That’s why Hall may be a one-week solution, as ESPN suggested.
Mullens, who started the year as the Vikings’ backup, has been around the NFL since 2017. Unlike Hall, he has what equates to a year’s worth of experience as a starter, as he started 16 games for San Francisco over his first three NFL seasons, and he started one game for Cleveland in 2021.
Mullens has a 5-12 record as a starter and has thrown for 5,085 yards, 27 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in his career. He’s also been in the Minnesota system one year longer than Hall.
The question will be how — and when — Mullens returns from IR.
“We’re still working through some things, what that may look like to potentially add another player here knowing that Nick, by the rules, will be out at least another week. We’ll see where he’s at when that timetable starts,” O’Connell said.
Will the Vikings look elsewhere to add another QB?
O’Connell stayed vague when addressing whether Minnesota would try and add another quarterback externally either via trade or free agency, while adding the organization will explore all avenues.
If it’s via trade, a move would need to happen quickly since the NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday.
In free agency, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan are among the top available quarterbacks currently on the market.
“You wouldn’t want to say yes or no to that,” O’Connell said, on the possibility of adding someone who could contribute quickly. “I think it’s all based on what we feel gives us the best opportunity to beat the Atlanta Falcons. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge.”
How far of a net would Minnesota be willing to cast to find quarterback help, while keeping in mind that Cousins is in the final year of his contract?
“We want to be as competitive as possible right now while also understanding what we’re building for the future at the same time,” O’Connell said.
The head coach also reiterated that, no matter who takes over the quarterback mantle for the team, it’s the coaches who bear the burden of getting them up to speed to keep a good thing going.
After an 0-3 start to the season, the Vikings have won three straight and are 4-4, squarely in the playoff race.
“That’s our job as coaches, regardless of when a player arrives or if it’s a player’s rookie year. Whatever timeline you’d love to be comfortable with, very rarely do you get that midseason in the NFL. That’s our jobs,” he said.