SANTA CLARA -- Nick Mullens has been successful in his first seven NFL starts. And the credit for that, the 49ers quarterback says, goes to Joe Staley and Richard Sherman, two prominent veterans who have guided him along the way.
Mullens has been praised for his work ethic and his leadership skills. Even so, he knows respect isn't a given, which is why Staley and Sherman’s support means so much to him.
“Joe’s awesome," Mullens said Wednesday of the 49ers' veteran left tackle. "You never know what you’re going to get. He’s got a very dynamic personality. But he’s a great role model and great leader for the locker room. He has guided me along very well.
“Let’s me know what I do wrong, what I do right, what I do good, what I do bad, and I make sure that I get very honest answers from him.”
Sherman also has been very supportive of Mullens, lauding his leadership and production, in particular after the Week 15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the cornerback's former team.
“Nick Mullens has stepped up to the moment week-in and week-out,” Sherman said. “He’s shown he can play in this league. I hope we can keep him because teams need a quarterback. This guy's not just playing conservative football. He's making good throws under pressure.
“I’d say he’s playing like a top half quarterback in this league. You have guys that are out there right now that are not playing better football than Nick Mullens. He could be a starter for a lot of teams in this football league, and we appreciate that we have him and he's playing his tail off for us."
Sherman has been a resource for Mullens, just as Staley has. Mullens has learned a lot about what the defense watches from the other side of the ball.
“Sherm is awesome,” Mullens said. “He’s a super nice guy, great teammate, very helpful to the young guys. I love taking advantage of picking his brain.
“He’s very specific in the coverage rules, the different looks, the way he sees a quarterback when he’s playing corner, the way he sees the quarterback’s feet, whether it’s quick game, drop-back, play pass."
Added Mullens: “So, all of the things that you really don’t know how a corner thinks when he’s playing out there. You get to ask him those type of questions.”
Mullens record, since going under center in Week 9, is 3-4. He has completed 153 of his 241 passes for 1,995 yards, which is third-most in the NFL for a quarterback’s first seven starts since 1970. (Patrick Mahomes is tops with 2,149 yards, and Cam Newton is second at 2,103 yards.)
Using the veterans as sounding boards is something Mullens will continue to do.
“He’s one guy I can go to,” Mullens said of Staley, “and say, ‘Hey, how do you all feel when I do this compared to this? Hey, what do I need to do better?’ So, for him to answer those questions the way he has, it’s really helped me, and it’s definitely helped guide me along in just commanding the offense and making sure that everybody’s operating, all 11 guys, on the same page.”
The respect of both Staley and Sherman isn't taken lightly by Mullens.
“Yeah, I definitely know that he supports me,” Mullens said of Sherman. “What he said after the game meant a lot. The fact that I’ve earned his respect, I think, is the biggest thing coming into the building. For me, I’m always just trying to gain guys’ respect by the way I play, by the way I handle my business.”
It appears Mullens is on the right path to a what could be a nice NFL career.