San Francisco 49ers: Comparing Mullens’ Debut to Other Recent 49ers QBs

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Oakland Raiders at Levi's Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to their game against the Oakland Raiders at Levi's Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers got a nice surprise on Thursday night with Nick Mullens’ debut, by far the best for 49ers’ quarterbacks in recent memory.

On Thursday night, Nick Mullens became the seventh quarterback to make his NFL debut for the San Francisco 49ers since the beginning of the 2000 season. Mullens was, by far, the most impressive of that group.

The 34-3 win, just the 49ers second of the season, was jump-started by Mullens’ incredible, and surprising, debut. He was thrust into starting duty because of injuries within the quarterback room, and responded in resounding fashion.

The second-year undrafted quarterback out of Southern Miss was in complete control from the very start of the 49ers primetime matchup against the Oakland Raiders. He didn’t look like a guy taking the field for the first time, but instead looked like a player that had been doing this week in and week out for years.

He hit on the first six throws of his NFL career, and nine of his first 11 attempts on the first two drives of his NFL life, leading the 49ers into the endzone twice. The moment was never too big for Mullens, who was consistently praised by the Thursday Night Football broadcast crew for his work ethic and willingness to prepare as if he was the starter every week at practice.

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Sometimes, even with as much preparation as possible, the real game can move a bit too fast for a young player. That wasn’t the case for Mullens. He never panicked, never got antsy in the pocket, and never let his heart rate get too high. He limited his bad throws and throws into tight coverage, and when he did throw into small windows, he put the ball in good places for his receivers. He even showed off a keen ability to innovate with a couple sidearm throws with pressure in his face.

It was one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory, not just for the 49ers but for the NFL as a whole. He became the first 49er quarterback to throw multiple touchdown passes in his NFL debut, doing something that not even future Hall of Famers like Joe Montana and Steve Young could do.

When Mullens final line is compared to those other recent quarterbacks that debuted with the 49ers, he appears to have the makings of a future star. He finished his first game with 16 completions in 22 attempts, piling up 262 yards along the way. He threw three touchdowns and wasn’t intercepted, leading to a nearly perfect passer rating of 151.9.

The most recent debut before Mullens came last season, when third-round rookie C.J. Beathard took the field for the first time in week four. He played just one snap and accumulated no stats. Two weeks later he got onto the field again, replacing an ineffective Brian Hoyer, and got plenty more run. He was 19-for-36 passing for 245 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception for a 72.1 rating.

Colin Kaepernick played sparingly in 2011, his rookie season. His debut also came in week four against the Eagles, and he also didn’t earn any stats in his first official game. The next week, he completed all three of his pass attempts for 35 yards (a 115.3 passer rating) in garbage time of a blowout win against Tampa Bay. In that game, he also rushed twice, losing two yards.

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49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses
49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses /

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  • Alex Smith was the first overall pick out of Utah in 2005, but he didn’t have a banner season as a rookie. In week two of his debut year, he led the final drive of a blowout loss to Philadelphia. He threw one pass, which fell incomplete, and ran once for three yards. He made his first start three weeks later, and it wasn’t pretty. He hit on just nine of his 23 attempts for 74 yards, and was intercepted four times. His passer rating for that game was 8.5.

    The 49ers made Tim Rattay a seventh-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2000, and he made his debut that year. In week 14 against San Diego, Rattay completed his only attempt, which lost four yards. He also ran twice for -1 yards. It was his only action of the year.

    Four years later, another seventh-round pick made his debut for the 49ers. In relief of Rattay, 2003 draft pick Ken Dorsey played in the 2004 season-opener against the Chargers. He played fairly well in the second and third quarters, finishing 9-15 for 111 yards without a touchdown or interception. Rattay started that game, and would eventually finish it as well.

    And finally, Cody Pickett also made his NFL debut in 2004. Another seventh-round pick, Pickett relieved Dorsey in a week 16 blowout loss to the Bills. It didn’t go well. He hit on four of his 10 attempts for 55 yards, and was picked off twice. His final passer rating was 18.7.

    Combined, those six other quarterbacks went 14-for-27 for 162 yards in their NFL debuts. They had no touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Next. Mullens Era Begins With Blowout Win. dark

    Of course, this is not to say that Mullens is the NFL’s next big thing and is about to take the league by storm. Flashes in the pan happen all the time, and certainly at the quarterback position, and it’s definitely possible that Mullens will eventually fall into that category. This is just to add a little extra perspective as to what a special night it was for Mullens, and hopefully, it leads to a successful year, and career, for the young man.