SF 49ers: 5 causes behind Niners 2020 playoff elimination
By Peter Panacy
No. 1: Nick Mullens isn’t a starting-caliber quarterback
Elite quarterbacks can carry an injury-riddled team on their shoulders. Case in point, the 10-4 Seahawks have suffered nearly as many injuries as San Francisco. But their quarterback, Russell Wilson, is quite the difference maker.
Good quarterbacks can keep injury-riddled teams in contention, at least navigating through the challenges similar to what the SF 49ers have endured in 2020. Perhaps one could throw Garoppolo into that category.
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Backup quarterbacks like Nick Mullens, however, aren’t typically responsible for shouldering this kind of load. Perhaps a game or two through an injury to a starter, but that’s it. It’s important we make that distinction with Mullens, who displayed that reality in Week 15 with three individual turnovers, two of them being interceptions.
Mullens has now tossed picks in each of his last six games, including three of them with multiple interceptions thrown. As a result, his interception percentage has skyrocketed up to 3.7, which is tied with Broncos quarterback Drew Lock for worst among all qualifiers this season.
Lock is envisioned to be a starter, whereas Mullens is a backup. Nothing more. So, maybe the laugh is on Denver there.
Still, the Niners were never going to have any sort of real success with Mullens playing more than just a handful of games this season. While he bears a good deal of the blame for San Francisco’s offensive failures, it’s crucial to put his struggles in the context of the situation.
Mullens is a backup. And awfully few contending teams will have any sort of success with a backup under center for a long period of time.