Nick Mullens started the season on the 49ers’ practice squad and he ended up as the starter for the final eight games.
His average of 284.6 yards passing per game is the fourth-most since at least 1970 for a player in his first eight games, ranking behind only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton.
“It was a fun eight-game stretch," Mullens said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “Coach (Kyle) Shanahan let me throw it around a pretty good bit, which is always fun for me playing the position.”
Mullens originally signed with the 49ers after going undrafted in 2017 from Southern Mississippi. After one full season on the team’s practice squad, Mullens had a good grasp of the offense when he got his chance to replace C.J. Beathard for a Week 9 game against the Raiders.
Mullens said he fit in well with Shanahan’s offense because the offense is well-balanced and all the pieces fit well together to create conflicts for defenses.
“And when I say balanced, I’m not just talking about run and pass,” Mullens said. “I’m talking about the run game looks exactly like the play-action, which sets up the keeper game. And then you mix in your quick game and your dropbacks. It five different phases that all work really well together, and it keeps defenses on their toes. They never know what they’re going to get. It really gives the offense a great chance at success.
“Looking at our yards after the catch, (those) are small-scheme plays that enable George (Kittle) and the playmakers on offense to catch it and run. That’s scheme.”
Kittle set the record for most receiving yards (1,377) from a tight end in NFL history. He had 873 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the most for any player at any position since PFF began keeping statistics in 2006.
But Mullens heads into the offseason without a backup job locked up. He will compete with Beathard for the role behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo. In the meantime, Mullens is focused on getting better. He will spend time in the offseason working with former Ole Miss quarterback David Morris of QB Country before reporting back to Santa Clara for the beginning of the 49ers' offseason program.
“Like coach Shanahan said in the team meeting, ‘Always keep your mind on getting better.' Even if you’re relaxing and taking time off and getting away, you’re still thinking about getting better,” Mullens said.
“How can I get better? Whether it’s reading books or studying coverages or thinking about different plays through the year. And when your time comes to start doing field work, agility and conditioning and all that, and getting yourself ready for OTAs and stuff like that. You’re always thinking about getting better. I’m really excited about that mindset going into the offseason.”