A former NFL coach on why Nick Mullens is still so underrated

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

I called a former coach to get the scoop on Nick Mullens. To find out what it is he does so well.

Mullens is a phenomenon. He’s one of the most successful young quarterbacks currently in the NFL. His passer rating through five career starts is 93.5, higher than Baker Mayfield’s 93.4 passer rating, and Mayfield was the No. 1 draft pick this year. Mullens was an undrafted free agent in 2017.

Mullens grew up in Hoover, Alabama, 60 miles west of Tuscaloosa, the home of college football’s top program, the University of Alabama. It did not offer Mullens a scholarship, even though in 2012 he won the Alabama high school football Player of the Year Award. The Crimson Tide snubbed Mullens, as did every other school from a Power 5 conference, because he’s small for a quarterback — only 6-foot-1 — and doesn’t have a strong arm.

Mullens went to Southern Mississippi, a modest program, and passed for 11,994 yards and 87 touchdowns in four seasons. Monster numbers.

Still, the NFL wasn’t impressed. The 49ers didn’t even have Mullens on their draft board. Quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello had to convince the 49ers to sign Mullens to the practice squad, where he spent most of 2017 playing free safety for the scout team during practices.

Now, Mullens is the 49ers’ starting quarterback while Jimmy Garoppolo recovers from a torn ACL. So far, Mullens has thrown for 1,479 yards — fifth most by a quarterback during his first five starts since the NFL-AFL merger in 1966.

How did everybody miss on Mullens? What makes him good?

This is what the former NFL coach said. Here’s our entire conversation.

This article has 194 Comments

  1. Good article, but I am wondering why the coach would not allow his name to be used? He makes reasonable comments. What is the concern?

      1. heh, heh! Hostler, linebacker-turned-QB coach and the nemesis of all young QBs. Alex Smith probably stilbreaks up in cold sweat from his Hostler nightmares…

  2. Grant:

    Interesting column. Can you divulge the type of coach (i.e. head coach, offensive coordinator, linebacker coach, etc.)?

    Thanks.

  3. Grant – That has to be near the top of my favorite columns. I’ve always believed you have access to so much more than we do and that you’re not just shooting from the hip. Unfortunately you can’t always say how you arrive at your opinions. FWIW, your grade from me on this is A+.

  4. Name withheld, doesn’t lend much creditability. Why Mullens isn’t receiving the accolades is no mystery to most. Lots of us have witnessed flashes in the fire that have hot streaks and then never heard from again. The thing that impresses me most about Mullens is his preparation, outstanding in my book. I am not sold on Jimmy G and still not sold on Mullens give it some time. I will say this Mullens is already a better QB then that CK guy.

  5. When comparing QB passer ratings based on a very limited number of data points, anyone else think:

    1. The comparison is statistically meaningless; and/or
    2. A large part of the score has as much to do with the OC/system as it does the QB?

    And if you could choose between the QBs, based on their body of work, would you rather have Mayfield or Mullins leading your team?

  6. Excellent article! But it seems very strange that this coach doesn’t want to go on the record. What’s the big deal? It’s not like he’s badmouthing anyone. Rather, he’s complimentary. Still a great article but would hold a lot more credibility if you could use his name.

    1. I’m sure any former NFL coach still has hopes of being a current NFL coach. Our mystery coach agreed with many who believe that Mullens advancement was influenced by Shanahan’s possible favoring of CJ because of the investment Kyle had in him, and I don’t think that’s a compliment. So I think you’re question answers itself. Also, maybe he wants to be hired by the 49ers in the future.

  7. “goes through his progressions”

    That’s not always true.

    “GRANT: “I will. Thank you, (name redacted).”

    Name unredacted (Jack Hammer).

      1. Jack, I gotta say, that was one insightful interview. My guess is that Grant had to stay local on account of his flying restrictions.

  8. Lol. And what former NFL coach doesnt stand by his comments? I don’t know if it’s actually a crime to make up an interview, quoting an imaginary source. But this clearly is false.
    For the record anybody with a brain can see Mullens is successful because of Kyle Shanahan. Not ‘in spite of him.’ Also you know it’s not a coach because he would’ve mentioned how everybody liked JG coming out of college, and the way he ran NEs offense. How beautiful he gets the ball out…Previous seasons have shown QBs coming from NE behind Brady, do not necessarily equate success. That’s a fact that any football expert knows. Nope, the shallowness of this reveals the mind of one mind shallow enough to do it, Grant Cohn

    1. I don’t believe Grant is stupid enough to do something like that, because it would risk his career as a journalist if it ever was proven true….

  9. I’m gonna call Press Democrat in the morning and report this garbage. They allow writers to manipulate readers and make stuff up?

    1. You’re in no position to make that assertion. You have no evidence he made it up. Journalists have protected sources since the dawn of time in a democracy. You’re just making an ass of yourself.

  10. I too am a fan of Mullins. He clearly is out playing CJ and deserves to start the remainder of the season. I like our quarterback situation moving into year three of the rebuild.

    Grant’s article was very disappointing. Yes, there is a problem with the sourcing, is the coach a former NFL head coach? An assistant? Somebody of the current staff? Someone Kyle fired or refused to hire? Someone fired by his dad? An area High School coach. Or a figment of Grant’s literary imagination?

    The main problem with this dubious source is that it so closely parallels Grant’s already stated views. If this is what Grant already thinks, then write it up and own it. Do not use a suspect source as it cheapens your argument and casts doubt on your veracity.

    I suspect Grant is trying to Que up story lines for the future. I suggest not inventing stuff. Just let the story tell itself.

  11. Great interview, Grant. Nailed the CJB preference, but it was coach surmising that, after your leading question.
    .
    However, I am not buying the JG vs NM possible competition, that some others have been postulating. That coach warned about coming back from an ACL, and the need to keep Mullens. He also mentioned getting a second and fifth round pick for Mullens.
    .
    Good analysis of Mullens, and the underdog motivation is spot on.
    .
    Mullens has done so well because he was allowed to study behind JG. Mullens has developed that quick trigger throwing motion, and he has had time to digest all of the playbook, and the way JG prepares for a game. Instead of getting the Alex treatment, he got the Mahomes treatment.
    .
    Yes, Mullens should be the backup, and CJB traded away, but if a QB needy team comes calling, it would take more than a second and fifth to get him. This league has shown how important an accurate QB is, to help a team win, so I think it would take a later round first to pry him away from the Niners.

  12. Grant. Great article! Loved the interview format. To me it added to its raw authenticity.

    I come here for the great forum and these exceptional articles!

    1. Authenticity? No.

      You certainly can agree to the premise of the article, but anonymity does not lend authenticity to the Grant’s article. The dubious anonymous “coach” raises questions other than authenticity.

      1. Leo, I didn’t mention an anonymous source. I merely stated that the format of the interview gave the article greater “authenticity”.

        CNN and other news sources constantly use anonymous or unnamed sources and we don’t bat an eye. So the fact that this former coach does not want to get into a peeing contest with the 49ers FO but give his viewpoints regarding Mullens is perfectly fine.

  13. Nice piece. The answer is so obvious. Coach/GM Grant interviewed himself. After all, I think that he thinks he can coach better than at least Kyle, if not anyone, and he is “infinitely” a better GM than Lynch. All the answers fall exactly in line with his previous opinions. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining piece, though his reasoning for the supposed downplay of Mullens talent by Shanahan is malarky. What real coach is going to give an interview on the condition that his name be redacted. Why would he? What’s to hide?
    On a side note, why doesn’t the PDYNT print Coach/GM Cohn’s grades. Do they feel that they are nonsense also? Is it too much ink for the paper to expend? Just curious.

      1. Naw, an interview with an anonymous source is more forthcoming if they feel like they can say things without getting a bunch of pushback.
        .
        Any coach criticism is frowned upon in the small coaching fraternity.
        .
        If Grant did not agree to keep it confidential, he probably would not have gotten half the juicy tidbits.
        .
        Grant could have easily have just said everything that was discussed, but the un- named source gave the content more gravitas.

        1. “Grant could have easily have just said everything that was discussed, but the un- named source gave the content more gravitas.”

          No.

          When the un-named source agrees, almost verbatim, with what Grant has postulated in past articles gravitas ain’t what’s added. To me it seems a rather weak literary device to push a favored story line.

          BTW, Nick is, now, the a better qb prospect than CJ. It seems to me that Grant’s new hobby horse is trying to show up Kyle for trading up for CJ and not drafting Nick. I don’t care how they got on the team, I’m just glad they both are. I am optimistic about our quarterback situation going into year three of the rebuild.

          1. Guess we will have to agree to disagree.
            .
            Grant used an un-named source, and I think he is too professional to make it up. If not for the KS reference, I could see it being pretty mild, run of the mill thinking. However, that KS remark made it a critique on the coaching, and the coach probably did not want to inject his comment into the situation, or organization.
            .
            I will wildly speculate, and surmise Grant talked to a former Niner coach, who did not want to talk about his old team on record. Chip would not answer Grant’s questions, and the answers sound too cerebral for Tomsula, so the next coach may be the logical candidate.

            1. “Chip would not answer Grant’s questions”

              https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jan/22/tom-house-baseball-football-tom-brady

              “And of those three, the only name he will reveal is that of new 49ers coach Chip Kelly.”

              “I don’t think he’d mind me bringing his name up,” House says. “Chip Kelly has no problem sitting myself and [House’s assistant Adam Dedeaux] down with his whole coaching staff and talking through it. I’m talking conditioning coach, nutrition coach, line coach, whatever. He’s an avid learner. He’s always looking.”

              1. Hmmm, Chip would not answer Grant’s questions in the press conferences, but maybe he would answer them now that he has moved on.
                .
                That anonymous coach mentioning Tom House may be an intriguing clue.
                .
                Grant did graduate out of UCLA.

      2. That’s my guess #80.

        I am having trouble finding a compelling reason why this “coach” would have a problem attaching his name to this “interview.” First off, I don’t see anything distinctly disparaging about his comments. If all 32 teams passed on drafting Mullens, why would anyone take offense to Mullens having beat out a drafted player? Ever heard the word “intangibles”? So what if it’s those intangibles which ended up separating one player from the next? This is more common than some people realize, as natural ability only gets you so far in the NFL. Look no further than Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, or even the 49ers own Jeff Garcia, to name a few. There is a reason they call them intangibles. And let’s also recognize who the HC is who is developing this kid.

        And, for the record, the notion that Rich Scangarello had to convince the 49ers FO to sign Nick Mullens is pure fiction. Yes, it was Scangarello who initially identified Mullens as a prospect, but it was both Lynch and Shanahan (and Kyle in particular) who were swayed by Mullens during the interview process, which ultimately made the difference.

  14. Talking about underrated/overrated….K Cousins’ s on center stage is 0-7 all-time on Monday Night Football (he’s 5-13 overall in prime time)

  15. Grant,
    You lost me at the word “phenomenon.”
    I just watched the ESPN special of the Buster Douglas knockout of Mike Tyson 30 years ago.
    Now that was a phenomenon. The 1969 Mets were a phenomenon.
    The USA Hockey team beating the Russians in the Olympics was a phenomenon.

    I like what Mullens is doing, but he doesn’t come close to being on the phenomenon scale yet .
    Heck, even Jimmy G’s wins last year didn’t put him in the phenomenon conversation.

    I’ll tell you what. If Mullens beats out Jimmy G in TC next year and gets the team 10+ wins and a playoff birth, I’ll call it very good.
    If he can win a SB, I’ll be more than happy to call him a phenomenon.

    1. Heck, even Jimmy G’s wins last year didn’t put him in the phenomenon conversation.

      He got phenomenon money$$$….based on last year

    2. phenomenon
      noun, plural phe·nom·e·na [fi-nom-uh-nuh] /fɪˈnɒm ə nə/ or especially for 3, phe·nom·e·nons.

      1-a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable:
      to study the phenomena of nature.

      2-something that is impressive or extraordinary.

      3-a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.

      I think the usage was correct in that Mullens is exceptional from other QBs.

      It is interesting to see the comments being made about Mullens in contrast to the comments regarding JG last year. Not that I think either is beyond criticism, so please don’t call me a Mullens homer, because I believe the jury is still out on him and Garoppolo!

      He has been a very impressive QB in many of the games, however. I see comments like “Mullens owes his success to Kyle!” Often. Last year it was “Man, can JG play football! He throws with such zip, and he’s so handsome doing it!”

      Both QBs have pressed balls into questionable windows, but it is nice to see both flourish. Is it due to Shanahan? Maybe, or maybe these quarterbacks are working their butts off and expecting perfection from themselves. Either way, it had been a shining star in a very empty Niner universe.

      1. SY,
        So if Mullens is phenomenal what is Kittle?
        What he’s done has been good, but (imo) it doesn’t rate as phenomenal.
        Over the years we have placed outstanding titles on players that became shooting stars.
        Kaepernick
        Reuben Foster
        Even dating back to Steve DeBerg, who put up nice numbers.
        Mullens beat a raiders team that is competing with us for the #1 draft pick.
        He put up big numbers against the seahags but it was still a loss.
        The win against Denver was his diamond but doesn’t register as phenomenal.

        If the standard for phenomenal is measured by being a shinning star in a very empty niners universe, than Mullens may have earned the term.

        1. I’m not quibbling with you regarding your personal view of phenomenon. I merely pointed out that the word can and does mean more than what you believe it to mean, and in that regard it was correctly applied by Grant. Will Mullens have a phenomenal football career? Too early to tell. Had he had phenomenal games? Sure, that Raider game was pretty spectacular. Does this mean it rises to the level you said (Tyson/Douglas, ‘69 Mets, Miracle on Ice)? No, but it doesn’t need to fit your idea of phenomenon but the definition.

          I love movies and only think a handful are great (about 1 every 10 years). This doesn’t mean that when someone says, “That movie was great!” They are misapplying the word. We merely have different understanding of greatness. We could interchange the word phenomenal here and have similar outcomes.

          Mullens did win against the Raiders and that win is about as impressive as JG winning against the Rams last year. Even so, JG was hailed as a football God. Mullens, not so much.

          I, personally, don’t care because I’d like to see both succeed. But what is interesting is the viewpoint of fans, who tend to personally invest themselves in teams and players. Happens all the time. I’m not immune to this (I still have a jaundiced eye toward Richard Sherman, one I do not hold to R Wilson-because I was his fan in college).

          If you want further proof, scroll down to OneNiners remark on Kittle. If he weren’t our TE he wouldn’t say such things.

          1. SY,
            Yes, my standard of the term phenomenon is held at a much higher level than what Mullens has done.

            My (personal) use of the term is reserved for extraordinary events and occurrences that far exceed what Mullens has done.

            Can the term be applied to describe Mullens play? Yes. Is it an over the top description?
            Yes (imo).

          2. You don’t have to be a 49er to see Kittles is the best TE in the NFL…

            Dude is a beast…..everytime he catches the ball all you see is YAC……

            1. He may be the best but the best is a standard that can be argued from many points of view, longevity, production etc.

              What about Kelce, Gronk, Olsen?

              I certainly would rate those guys higher than Kittle on track record.

              Don’t get me wrong, I like Little a lot, and he’s been terrific. But the best TE? Premature in my opinion.

              1. uh, Gronk is garbage now. the past 2 seasons, Olsen hasn’t been able to stay healthy and is likely done at seasons end.

  16. Nice article Grant. Although, as many have pointed out, naming the source will lend more credibility.

    If we defeat the Seahawks and somehow mess with their playoff chances, then Mullens will become legit and the NFL will start noticing. Already some people are…..this from NFL’s Elliot Harrison:

    Kittle’s 1,103 receiving yards are the most by a TE in 49ers history, and the NFL record in said category is not exactly unreachable. Gronk holds the mark with 1,327 yards in 2011. We’ll see if Kittle gets there. If Nick Mullens performs like he did Sunday, Kittle will.

  17. I won’t be mad if Mullens is the starting QB going forward……but to be smart, Jimmy should start next year with Mullens in #2

    composure. He doesn’t have those wide, saucer eyes you see from other young quarterbacks 

    ….100% agree with this…….JimmyG had those wide, saucer eyes this season…..

    At the end of the day I think Kyle would recognize game and stick with Mullens in the near future…..

    Mullens is my Steve Young reincarnated…..

    25% of me lost JimmyG after seeing him in dating porn stars in public…..no beef against porn stars just not the kind of publicity my niner QB should be around in public……show me your friends and I can see something real about you.

    50% of me lost JimmyG after seeing him play….with all the games last season and Training camp and preseason…there was no excuse for how he played….no reason he shouldn’t have been putting up mahomes or mullens type numbers…….no excuse especially now that we know we had a all pro TE on the team…

    25% of me still with JimmyG to be the starting QB next year……..because of the $$$$ and blah blah….

    Am just happy about next year….compared to last year I have a back up of optimism…..

  18. I think it might be Sam Wyche, remember but not positive his Dad had a connection to him . If it is Sam don’t understand why he would be so secretive , it’s not like he is looking for a job.
    Secondly I believe that Jimmy G has a out at the second year of his contract , so the Niners can release him. Anybody know ?

    1. I doubt that would happen. If they wanted to go with someone else they could surely trade him for value. Someone would trade for him even with his present contract. The money for QB’s going up every year.

    1. Actually Grant is a multiple personality so it might not really count as interviewing oneself. lol.

      Also if people can identify with any sex they choose too. Grant can certainly identify with being an NFL coach or anything else he chooses too.

  19. Responding to the title:
    Because his last name isn’t Beathard who’s Grandfather is well loved in the league… I don’t know how many times I heard that while watching Beathard throw for 2 yards at a time…at most…

  20. Nice interview Grant.

    There is a level of detail provided by the coach regarding Mullens specifically that suggests some form of personal knowledge of how he prepares, etc. Makes me think the source may have worked with Mullens previously.

  21. Mullens will be starting his second game against the Seahawks. Hope he learned from his first game.
    .
    Hope he learned not to stare down his receiver.
    .
    Mullens should study the Rams-Seahawk game, to find areas to exploit. He should emulate the Ram’s play calling.
    .
    I am glad he has mastered the varied snap counts, but hope he works on his clock management.

    1. Wow Sebbie… I don’t think it’s occurred to anyone to have Nick study recent game film. Geez….you’re really good!

      Oh, oh…. Should he look one way and throw the other?

      And what about dart throwing to develop wrist flick?

      1. Cassie, he sure did not study the Rams game enough in his first game with the Seahawks. Two times more passes than run plays.
        .
        Maybe if he did not stare down the receiver, Wagner would not have a 98 yard pick six.
        .
        I already mentioned that Mullens has learned from JG, and has developed a quicker release.

  22. While this article was pleasant in that it was an upbeat piece in this otherwise down season. However, there are 2 things I don’t quite understand about it
    1. Why the leading questions or answering questions why not let him answer, without having your answers influence him? The article could still be shaped but the answers would be much more genuine.
    2. I have no problem with anonymous sources but it would be nice to get some credentials… a former qb coach of 10 plus years. An assistant coach… a collegiate opponents coach. All of these wouldn’t reveal the source but could help the readers understand his viewpoint.
    I also understand some would use whatever wording to tear him down in an attempt to disagree with you. However, they will do that regardless. The rest of us are curious to know what Hammers coaching credentials are :). That’s a joke for those of you who don’t understand them .

  23. mmmmmmm, So was it a Southern Mississippi coach or a former NFL coach….
    or was it a former NFL coach at SM? Or maybe it was a former 49er coach and that’s why he doesn’t talk about his college years.
    I think Grant talked to Harbaugh!
    Wanna bet!

    1. I thought that at first, but Chip has worked with Tom House. Too much specificity, and too little platitudes for JH.
      .
      Both are former Niner coaches, and do not want to throw any shade at KS openly.

  24. Many a discussion though the years on that illusive trait “it” also expressed as the intangible.
    Well here it is in front of us, Mr Mullens has it in spades.
    Keep him!

      1. I don’t give any creditability to any media source that uses unnamed sources. Its just not Grant its any media outlet. FAKE NEWS runs rampant in todays world. Put your name to it or shut the fk up is the way I see it.

          1. I am not accusing Grant of anything I just don’t give credence to it. I am not saying its truth or lies I give it a nothing.

    1. You do realize there’s lots of water trapped in the ice caps of Mars, right? Enough to cover the entire planet, I believe.

      This is an anonymous interview, not a source giving information we didn’t know. Besides, much of what was in the interview we already knew.

      The big thing is that a coach was giving a viewpoint on Mullens and why Shanahan may not be pushing as hard for him. In this person’s viewpoint, Mullens has faced this his entire career because his physical attributes aren’t ideal.

      1. Then what’s the problem with putting a name to it. Lots of water on Mars, that’s why I was willing to sell an island there lol.

        1. It was the coaches decision not to use his name. The journalist either agrees or he doesn’t get the information. Like Sour Yeast said, It happens hundreds of times a day and nothing is said about it. It is as common to journalism as the forward pass in football. I don’t mean anything personal to any who disagree but really can’t believe the cynicism of those who just blindly accuse him of fabricating a story. A really low blow IMO.

          1. Grant has an agenda, CNN has an agenda, Fox has an agenda, MSNBC has an agenda, as long as these media outlets have an agenda then I want to know who said what for validation. Get rid of the agenda then I am more opened to anonymous. Grant wants to prove his thoughts are correct, and yet this is the same guy that said Gore’s legs are gone. We can see that he was wrong about Gore but we cant see if he is wrong/right about Mullens because his proof is hiding.

            1. Grant has an agenda, CNN has an agenda, Fox has an agenda, MSNBC has an agenda

              under, the only agenda those listed above are ratings, viewers, and the advertising revenue that pleases their corporate ownership. In today’s saturated media space, even within the targeted demographics (we Niners fans for Grant, right political leaning for FNC, political left for MSNBC, I have no idea for CNN) sensationalism is what draws those ratings and viewers. And the more sensationalist the better. I have no idea if Grant used this coach interview as a literary device or not. That he goes along with the narrative Grant has previously laid the groundwork for is somewhat suspicious. In years past Grants used an anonymous ex-GM (i believe it was) to make commentary about Alex smith that was similar what Grant had previously written. Journalists love to be proven right.

            1. Mullens’ ability is no more hiding than Gore’ legs uc. I won’t play word games with you. Let’s move on. BTW IMO you are among those who are accusing Grant of fabricating a story when you say what he purports to be true has no credibility. I don’t want to debate logic with you either.

              1. Boy I thought you were smarter then that…who is disputing Mullens ability. Its not about that, but whatever….

              2. I meant no offense. I just think that Grant is above trying to put one over on us. If I misunderstood your comments, please forgive me.

        1. Again you go to sourcing? This is more akin to those interviews where we don’t see the guy being interviewed (because they are whistle blowers perhaps?). They are not necessarily not credible simply because they are hidden.

          In fact, this particular interview gives far more point of view information than process. In this respect, the interviewee may simply not want to have to talk more than once about the subject.

        2. Every NFL reporter uses anonymous sources on a daily basis.

          In this instance the source is giving his opinion. If you don’t want to believe what he’s saying that’s fine, but discrediting the writer and article based on that is off base.

          1. According to The Society Of Professional Journalists code of ethics, the #1 ethic rule is to identify sources whenever feasible and give the public as much information as humanly possible on source reliability. #2 is to be critical of the sources’ motives prior to granting anonymity.

            Two examples for and against that come immediately to mind would be, Deep Throat and, Janet Cooke, who concocted the child heroin addict story. Anonymous sources can work, but they can also lead you into a moral marsh….

      1. Yes, because if the “former coach” identified himself with this shocking expose of Mullen’s heinous agenda, this “former coach’s” former coaching job would totally be jeopardized by the said disclosure.
        Totally makes sense…

      2. Hammer, that article describes the NYT using a single anonymous source for an op-ed column. The column was right there in the Opinion section. And woe to the news consumer who views any news outlet’s op-ed page as “news”. Grant is basically an opinion monger, (the op-ed side of news, not reporting), so a single anonymous source is not out of line in expressing opinion.

        As far as hard news goes multiple corroborated anonymous sources is the standard for respected outlets. And Razor, multiple corroborated anonymous sources are much less likely to be proven wrong, despite what you may hear at Trump rallies.

  25. Great writeup Grant. That came together nicely. As I said, the Scangarello/Mullens, Shanahan/Lynch/Beathard connections cannot be overlooked.

  26. Enjoyed the article and I too wonder why the source isn’t identified? Either way…

    I liked what I saw from Mullins in pre-season and was wanting Shanahan to put Mullins in sooner. Then I heard about his preparations, have watched him play and I was sold. In 5 games he “gets it”.
    With more experience he will continue to improve.
    KEEP NICK as #2 going forward!

  27. I’m thinking the Seahawks will be a tad flat coming into the game and have difficulty getting getting focused. Niners will will be feisty across all four quarters, with the defense playing uncommonly well. Combined score will be < 50. If the 9ers suffer no turnovers, they win.

    Naturally, this could go badly quickly…

    1. Yes, turnovers are the key. Even in the last game there were 3 fumbles which we recovered.

      Extra day of preparation should help us.

  28. Hope the Seahawks take the Niners lightly, and hope the Niners are biting nails, thirsting for revenge.
    .
    Sure hope Sherman is effusive with praise for Wilson, or at least shuts up and does not give them any locker room motivation.
    .
    I think Pete Carroll is an excellent HC.

  29. I don’t see any problems with the article. It would be nice to know who the Coach is but if he wants ro remain anonymous that’s his business. Nothing I read here seems misleading or out of line. Mullens has some good qualities and it’s not like an udfa QB coming out of nowhere hasn’t happened before. I just don’t form opinions without a good amount of info and Mullens hasn’t played enough to draw any conclusions yet imo. If we wind up with another Tony Romo situation great but I’ve got to see more before I go there.

    Good interview Grant. This is the info I like to get from your columns.

  30. Grant manages to be amusing and infuriating at the same time. He alternates between generating headline grabbing nonsense (“Fire Lynch”) which gets a lot rise from a section of fans here and attempts at mainstream journalism. Of course, all that gets his articles the requisite clicks.

    I request Grant to name the league and level of this coach’s experience along with his or her age while preserving anonymity.

    I find it difficult to believe that any respectable coach would make a blatantly false statement like this one :”..People thought that gave Garoppolo credentials by default, as if he learned by osmosis. He got the benefit of wearing a Patriots uniform without having to perform.” Or an obtuse comment like ““Right, but his resume right now is deeper than Garoppolo’s was when the 49ers traded a second-round pick to get him. ”

    Garoppolo has won with the Pats and the Niners in two different systems. Mullens is not half the natural thrower that Kyle covets as Garoppolo is. Kyle and his coaches have studied extensive college tape of both Garoppolo and Mullens to assess them and project their performance in their system. Niners did not trade for Garoppolo based on his Pats resume (although those games did not harm his case).

    Mullen is a nice story whose success has hinged on his intelligence and hard work to absorb a proven offensive system over the last season and a half, and implement it over 4 games to a respectable 2-2 record. His success says as much about Kyle and Scang’s ability to spot and develop latent talent (Niners were the only team to invite him to a visit) for Kyle’s system, as much as it does about Mullen’s heart, skill-set and football IQ.

    I like Mullens and really hope that he can grow into a starter-quality player with trade value. To that end, the Seahawks game on Sunday is an important proving opportunity. He got overwhelmed by pressure in the first half. A good yardstick of his progress would be to see if he can deal with the pressure slightly better than he did two weeks ago. The second thing he has to prove over the next 3 games is that he can be consistent from game to game. He has shown promise in this regard despite the dip in the Bucs game when everyone played poorly (Thanks, Reuben!)

    Finally, I take issue with the following comment and the explanation:

    GRANT: “Mullens has that. It’s what’s makes him so endearing. He plays well in spite of everyone, even his own head coach, Kyle Shanahan, who has a tough time praising Mullens.”
    COACH: “You know why?”
    GRANT: “Because he preferred C.J. Beathard and the 49ers traded up to get him in the third round?”
    COACH: “Exactly. If Shanahan heaps too much praise on Mullens, people will say, ‘Jeez, you didn’t do a very good job evaluating your quarterbacks.’”

    It almost sounds like Grant is talking to himself here. It’s a dishonest explanation. Kyle has not heaped praise on any one QB in the past two seasons. He does not criticize his QB too much, either. This has been the case with all three QBs.

    1. “I request Grant to name the league and level of this coach’s experience along with his or her age while preserving anonymity.”

      Grant said it was a former NFL coach in the article. Not sure why the age matters. Some people seem to have taken this to mean HC, but that was never specified.

      At first I thought it might be Mullens old HC who is now the OC with the Bucs, but he’s still in the NFL.

      1. Yeah, I missed the NFL part. The age may be a proxy for experience. If I’d noticed the NFL coaching part, I’d have asked about how many years in the NFL this chap had coached and at what position.

  31. This was a better article than the hit pieces Grant has been writing of late, but there are some issues I have with it. However, those issues have already been pointed out by others on here, so I do not really see a need to rehash them.
    Matt Barrows wrote a great article on The Athletic that covered what pass rushers will be available, but since there are some on here that do not have a subscription to it (I highly recommend those who do not have one to get one cause it is great), I will give a brief synopsis of it.
    Basically, all indications are that the big names will get tagged or signed to a new deal by their current teams. There are still some decent options that may be available, but their overall production has been mixed or unimpressive. There a couple of old guard that could be good short-term pickups, and then there is a certain Lion who Barrows says to stay away from.

      1. Same here in regards to Ansah Razor.
        Barrows did not mention him, but the guy Scooter mentioned, Preston Smith, could be a good option for the 49ers. Mercilus could also be an option as an edge rusher if the Texans release him.

        1. Yeah, I think Smith would be a good option. He’s got experience playing as an OLB, so if they draft Bosa they could play him as the SAM and LDE in nickel. If they don’t get Bosa but instead get a smaller DE in the draft, Smith has the size to play RDE in base and athleticism to play either side in nickel. And I think he will come a bit cheaper than the top guys, though will depend on exactly who hits the market.

    1. It was a good article. Barrows talked to Joel Corry from CBS and got his input on some FA pass rushers and their possible availability. Predictably he doesn’t think the best options – Lawrence, Clowney, Clark and Ford – will be available, but there are some interesting options that could be like: Graham, Fowler, Barrett, Irvin etc. Any of these guys would be an upgrade to what the Niners have, but they have to also get somebody with that first round pick to really improve the pass rush next year.

      1. “Any of these guys would be an upgrade to what the Niners have, but they have to also get somebody with that first round pick to really improve the pass rush next year.”

        Yeah, exactly. Getting a FA DE shouldn’t change their draft plans.

        1. Scooter McG

          If you’re looking for an edge rusher in the ’19 draft….don’t overlook Jalen Jenks University of Oregon DE…check him out….

            1. Raz

              I’M NOT SURE JUST HOW YOU MEANT THAT…(+ OR -) but I’d have to agree on both Jelks is one clean-living ‘stud’…I’ve seen Jordan totally dominate a game…’wish he was a niner….

    2. Basically, all indications are that the big names will get tagged or signed to a new deal by their current teams.

      This comment makes me wonder: when was the last time a 10+ sack per season lineman or OLB became available in FA (not trade)? Does anyone recall off-hand?

    3. It was a great article. Among those that might see free agency, I would consider Brandon Graham and Preston Smith. I actually think Dante Fowler, Jr. hits free agency because the Rams have other individuals they need to sign or give the franchise tag to, but I’m suspect of Fowler’s consistency.

      In terms of edge rushers in the draft, everyone has already mentioned Bosa, Burns, Polite, Ferrell (who I prefer based on my belief the Niners should trade out of pick 1 to about pick 5 through 7 to pick up more picks later given the Niners currently only have 6 picks in this draft). Later rounds (Round 3 or later), should the Niners decide to draft 2 edge rushers, I really like Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion (3rd round would be the latest most likely), Carl Granderson, Wyoming (4th round grade?), and Porter Gustin, USC (5th round and later).

    4. Hope they find another gold nugget like Justin Smith. He struggled because did not their system, but once he got to the Niners, he excelled.
      .
      I agree, all of the elite free agents will never hit the market. Players become free agents because there is s superior player in front of them, they are not good enough or have a flaw.

      1. Gary would, and could, play end, but the bigger issue with Gary is the fact he is inconsistent and most importantly, is an edge setter as opposed to a true go and get him rusher. I.e. another Solomon Thomas type.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it will happen because of the amount of alleged compensation the team was willing to give Oakland for Mack. We absolutely need edge rushers as our top priority.

  32. https://www.49erswebzone.com/articles/121888-transcript-shanahan-discusses-preparing-seahawks-mullen-already-earned/

    “”I think you look at everything we’ve done. We drafted a running back in the fourth round and we played an undrafted guy over him the whole year. Then, let him go the next year. I think we’ve done that. [DL] Solomon [Thomas] hasn’t played the whole year. There’s times we’ve put [DL] Sheldon [Day] above him and things like that. All you’ve got to do is look at our track record. We do what we think is right and a lot of things go into that.”

    But, but, Grant said…

    1. This is Age of Trump — there are many realities. As Larry Krueger said on KNBR — there truly is an alternate Grant Cohn reality :)

  33. From KS transcript:

    Question: The mic had you mic’d up saying to CB Richard Sherman, “You’re two away from free safety.” Can you elaborate on what exactly he’s two away from?

    Answer: Just knowing K’Waun didn’t work out before the game and that one of our safeties was playing nickel. I knew a couple injuries and we’re going to have to put someone back there. So, it was Sherm. Sherm likes that, that stuff excites him. So, I was telling him that it might happen. We were just two away and he was telling me that it was also two away at receiver, too. So, that’s what he said back. That’s just us having fun with each other.

    1. Yea, I knew that was a tongue in cheek comment. Sherman isn’t getting moved anytime soon. I think they’re setting up Robinson to compete with Colbert next year, but I hope that doesn’t preclude them from signing Thomas as well….

      1. Yeah, I took the bait on that one. But one good thing I noticed from watching the KS “mic’d up” video is that he and Sherman seem to have a really good relationship. I get the feeling that Sherm really respects Kyle and that it’s not just lip service.

  34. For those that keep saying we shouldn’t forget about Kentavius Street as an edge for next year, Shanny has just outlined the plan for him. Big end and inside. Exactly what I said he would be, which is why I have been saying he shouldn’t be considered an answer at edge. He was drafted to replace Tank Carradine.

  35. My best comp for Nick Mullens is Jeff Garcia.

    Both are guys who set records in college, went undrafted, needed someone to convince the coach to bring them in and once given the opportunity made the most of it.

    Even as he was making Pro Bowls there was a good amount of the fan base that snubbed their noses at Garcia.

    1. I have immense respect for Garcia. He almost singlehandedly saved the franchise from an even more rapid decline.

      And the personal records, draft path or lack thereof are very similar, but that’s where the similarity ends.

      Jeff was at his best when everything broke down and went into scramble drill. His ability to hit receivers on the run or doing his best Fran Tarkenton, was amazing to watch. He wasn’t always as good in the pocket and he used to drive Mooch crazy when he did leave the pocket.

      Also, I think Mullens has a stronger arm. I was friends with a college buddy of Greg Knapp. Knapp told him that Garcia couldn’t throw a ball further than 45 yards.

      Garcia got a ton of passing yards because of what TO could do after the catch. TO could turn a 20 yard pass into a 35-40 yard gain.

      Mullens is more measured and cool. Garcia was manic at times and as exciting as hell.

    2. I wish to differ. I believe the best comparison to Mullens is Drew Brees. Jeff Garcia was a mobile QB who scrambled a lot. Mullens seems to be content to deliver the ball from the pocket like Brees does.
      .
      Brees set records in college, and was regarded as too small, had a relatively weak arm, but was accurate. Mullens needs to be in the league for 18 years to equal Brees’s accomplishments, but Brees also became a free agent, and was not expected to be the starter when the Chargers drafted Rivers.

        1. Griese may not be the best comparison. He never threw for 400 yards, I think, or 214 yards to his TE in one half.
          .
          Griese excelled when he handed the ball off to Czonka and Kiick, and let his no- name defense win it all.
          .
          However, I do like Bob Griese, and fondly remember those Dolphins teams. Paul Warfield, Mercury Morris, Nick Buoniconti, Jake Scott, Larry Little and of course, Garo Yepremian, the kicker.

    3. Jack…. because he could never come through in the clutch. With that said I will say his one crowing achievement was the playoff comeback vs NY.

  36. My Mullens comp is Bob Griese, even though Griese was a lefty. They’re both the same size and Griese, while good wasn’t gifted with a cannon for an arm. He was cerebral, and for the day, had a decent TD to Int ratio. In the old days of the AFL, those QBs were almost always around 50% completion. Now the level is 60% plus and easier to reach because of the rule changes.

    1. Hey Grant, I spoke with a former NFL coach friend of mine yesterday about your article. This coach has over 25 years coaching in the NFL primarily o-line and TE. Here’s the conversation:

      Me: You know I’m a big 9er fan and I’ve been reading a 49er blog for probably over 10 years. The current writer interviewed a former NFL coach and posted the interview on the blog. (I pulled up the article on my phone and paraphrased this section.):

      GRANT: “…Kyle Shanahan, who has a tough time praising Mullens.”

      COACH: “You know why?”

      GRANT: “Because he preferred C.J. Beathard and the 49ers traded up to get him in the third round?”

      COACH: “Exactly. If Shanahan heaps too much praise on Mullens, people will say, ‘Jeez, you didn’t do a very good job evaluating your quarterbacks.’”

      My friend – Former NFL Coach: Wow. That’s amazing. My first reaction is any coach who said another coach refuses to praise a player because it would make him look bad as a talent evaluator is a total POS. That guy doesn’t know what goes on in practice. That guy doesn’t know the interaction between the player and the coach in film study. That guy doesn’t know the coaches assessment as to how to get the most out of his players. Some players thrive on praise and other players thrive if they feel like you refuse to compliment them. Man oh man. That dude is a grade A a-hole.”

      I submit this without judgment or comment. Just wanted to relay what one NFL coach said about another NFL coach in your interview.

      1. Which may be exactly why he did not want his name mentioned.
        .
        Interesting. You did not mention the name of the coach you talked to. I wonder why?

  37. http://www.knbr.com/2018/12/12/film-review-how-shanahans-ingenuity-helped-kittle-enjoy-career-performance/

    “I think (Shanahan) has recognized the versatility and utilized it really well,” Carroll said on a conference call Wednesday. “When you look at the highlights of last week’s game, the variety of places (Kittle) caught the football, and style of routes and all, were totally spread across the board.”

    “Shanahan’s play-call freed Kittle for the 85-yard touchdown you’ve probably seen by now.”

    “He was wide open, again, by virtue of crafty play design and some miscommunication on the Denver side.”

    “Kittle’s prolific half highlighted how creatively Shanahan has used the second-year tight end. Kittle has 712 yards after the catch, the second-most in the NFL. That’s as much a testament to Shanahan’s play-calling as Kittle’s ability. Carroll agrees.”

    “I think that’s just Kyle’s ingenuity and creativity that really helps a player like Kittle do so well,” he said.”

    1. https://www.49erswebzone.com/articles/121904-transcript-mullens-discusses-rematch-seahawks-playing-shanahans-undrafted/

      “It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed learning and playing in Kyle’s system since I got here. They really do a great job of doing that, disguising different looks every week about what we’re trying to do and just giving me good opportunities to sit in the pocket, progress and make quick decisions. So, a lot of the success is definitely a credit to the coaches, 100-percent.”

      “Definitely aware of the reputation Kyle’s offense has. Coach has a great reputation, and he has earned that through the way he, and the entire staff, teaches the offense and the way they manipulate it each week to be successful.”

    1. Only if we trade out of the #1 pick with the strong possibility of getting Allen in the 5-7 range.
      Otherwise it’s Bosa if they stand pat.

      It’s a win, win either way, because if we trade, it will likely be for an added 2nd Rd pick.

    2. Haven’t seen Josh Allen before, but watched some highlights today. Definitely impressive and he has great stats. To me, though, he would be the next option if Bosa is not there when the team picks.

    3. In the event that both were there and SF doesn’t trade the pick I would be pretty hot. Bosa is younger, bigger and has a bigger skill set.

  38. In his presser today Shanahan says he’s excited that the competition is close between Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard going forward.

    This goes pretty good with the piece here and makes you wonder what the heck he’s watching.

    1. He said that based on practices as well as games. But, yeah, I think he is still hanging onto his ego because he moved up to get CJB. Still he moved on from Joe and I think he can also move on from CJB, it’s just gonna take more time. I don’t want them to trade Mullens unless we can get a first. We need a capable backup QB because without one, if Jimmy goes down, it’s another lost season.

      Also, what good does it do to trash CJB’s confidence at this point. They aren’t going to get rid of him since he’s the only backup. They can do that during the offseason, if appropriate.

  39. I don’t think there’s any coach during this conversation if you ask me I think it’s Grant Cohn talking to himself lol Grant hates the Shanahan’s because they always whoop on his Raiders and Kyle does praise Muellens like he did today in his presser.

  40. Nice article, Grant….

    Just FYI readers, Grant’s material gets checked over by an editor, who asks the same questions as you do (i.e. source) so if the article is printed, everything was checked out. Grant, FYI, the NFL / AFL merger occurred in 1970, not 1966. The first 3 Super Bowls were also called the NFL / AFL Championship Game. Back to the Niners…If I were their GM, I would hold onto both CJ and Mullens until the end of the exhibition season next year. Usually, a team will lose a QB due to injury in those games and that is when the Niners can get the most value in a trade. Cheers!

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