The Minnesota Vikings are down to two active quarterbacks as of Friday after QB1 Kirk Cousins tested positive for COVID. Cousins will miss the team’s first preseason game this weekend in Las Vegas.
Accordingly, reservist passers Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion will see ample action. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell verbally confirmed the playing-time split.
“No matter who starts, they’ll both play a ton,” O’Connell told reporters in the wake of the Cousins news.
Cousins may not have played anyway, even without COVID, as O’Connell comes from a Los Angeles Rams system that rested all starters for the entirety of the 2021 preseason. The strategy evidently worked because O’Connell and the Rams now wear Super Bowl rings.
Still, Minnesota will learn Sunday afternoon if the current Mond-Mannion combo is sufficient. The game versus the Raiders is a de facto referendum on the need for an additional quarterback.
Kevin Seifert, who covers the Vikings for ESPN, told KFAN this week, “My understanding is that internally [the Vikings] are very open to the possibility that the backup quarterback isn’t on the roster. There are two factors there; how do these guys perform [Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion] and who’s potentially available.”
This sentiment would indicate Mond and Mannion do not have a respective stranglehold on the QB spot. Otherwise, why explore a fourth quarterback? The Vikings also complicated the plot when they released Nate Staley in July.
Because of the timing — the regular season starts in four weeks — the free-agent wire is picked over for backup quarterbacks. Nick Foles isn’t walking through that door. Minnesota will have to explore Blake Bortles, Mike Glennon, Kevin Hogan, Cam Newton, or Kyle Sloter, among others, for the job if they’re genuinely interested at all. In fact, Hogan tried out for the team about 10 days ago, signaling legitimacy to the extra-QB rumors.
But here’s the deal: the preseason game in Las Vegas can change the conversation. Most onlookers of the Vikings know what Mannion brings to the table, but Mond is a wildcard. The Vikings could’ve auditioned a then-rookie Mond at the Green Bay Packers near the end of the 2021 season, but ex-skipper Mike Zimmer diametrically opposed the idea. So, Minnesota rolled with Mannion and was trounced 37-10. No one was surprised.
Mond, however, has a chance to convince the coaching staff and Vikings fans that he’s ready for the semi-bright lights of QB2. His story isn’t written yet. Of course, if he trots onto the field at Allegiant Stadium and looks goofy, well, it’s time to call Bortles, Glennon, Hogan, Newton, or Sloter.
So far at training camp, Mond has looked hot and cold, connecting on some brilliant throws and missing others — about what one would expect from a developmental quarterback. But his time is now. Cousins is guaranteed not to play at the Raiders, Mannion is his eighth NFL season, and the Vikings head coach has explained Mond will play a “ton.”
Mond alone can decide if the Vikings sign a future unnamed QB2, or he can make the job his own.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).