Coach Kyle Shanahan won't call it a quarterback controversy, but the 49ers didn't miss a beat with Nick Mullens starting in place of Jimmy Garoppolo last week.
The 49ers crushed the New York Giants 36-9, and Mullens completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown while Garoppolo sat out with a high ankle sprain. Whether or not the 49ers' backup passed the eye and sniff tests is in the, well, eyes and noses of the beholder, but his play in parts of two games -- Mullens relieved Garoppolo after he was injured against the New York Jets in Week 2 -- has stood up among the NFL's best QBs in two advanced metrics.
Mullens ranks in the top seven of quarterbacks in expected points added (EPA) per play and completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), according to Ben Baldwin and Sebastian Carl's database. He's seventh in the former metric (0.347), which measures the value he has added to each play, and sixth in the latter (plus-7.2), which measures the difference between a QB's actual completion percentage and their expected completion percentage.
The sample measured for Mullens only includes 55 plays against two winless teams, and the rankings only included QBs tracked for at least 48 plays. So, consider that your official Small Sample Size Warning. Still, the company Mullens is keeping (so far) is impressive to say the least.
Only Garoppolo (0.357), Jared Goff (0.375), Josh Allen (0.382), Patrick Mahomes (0.424), Aaron Rodgers (0.431) and Russell Wilson (0.456) have a higher EPA per play. Allen (plus-8.0), Gardner Minshew (plus-8.7), Phillip Rivers (plus-9.0), Derek Carr (plus-9.4) and Wilson (plus-13.9) are the only QBs with a higher CPOE.
Garoppolo's standing in the former category bodes well for the 49ers' ability to reintegrate the QB when he's healthy. Mullens' high ranking in both categories, though, really speaks to how impressive he has been this season. Allen, an MVP dark horse, and Wilson, the clear front-runner, are the only other QBs in the top seven of both metrics. Mullens probably shouldn't get MVP votes, but it's clear the 49ers' offense is in capable hands for as long as Garoppolo is out.
When turning to a backup, what more can you ask for?