Earlier today, I honestly had no idea who Nick Mullens was. Well, he’s changing that tonight as the undrafted free agent who was on the 49ers practice squad all last year, and promoted after Garoppolo’s injury, just helped emasculate Jon Gruden’s Raiders. Mullens finished the game 16 for 22 for 262 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.
It’s the greatest debut start for an undrafted free agent under the age of 25 ever. I don’t even think that’s a particularly outrageous statement. Mullens, who played at Southern Miss, is only 23, and put up a near perfect game against a perfectly terrible opponent.
Here are some of the other candidates, as there are only four other undrafted free agents under 25 to have a passer rating over 90 in their first start:
—Jake Delhomme got a Week 15 start for the woeful Saints in 1999, playing on a team that violated the “never start two different guys named Billy Joe” rule and had gone 2-12. Delhomme threw for 278 yards, 2 touchdowns, and also rushed for another as the Saints upset Troy Aikman’s Cowboys. Delhomme would start the next game and throw four interceptions, and then disappear for a few years before emerging in Carolina, coming off the bench to win the 2003 opener, and go all the way to the Super Bowl.
—Matt McGloin replaced Terrelle Pryor in Week 13 of the 2013 season, and while averaging only 6.2 yards per attempt, did throw three touchdown passes and lead the Raiders to an upset of the Texans. He would start the remaining five games of that year and throw 8 interceptions to 5 touchdowns, all losses.
—Dave Krieg replaced Jim Zorn in December of 1981. He did throw three interceptions in his first start, but averaged over 10 yards per attempt and completed over 75% of his passes as the Seahawks beat the Jets. Krieg became the full-time starter two years later, and would start 119 games in Seattle.
—Ed Rubbert was the Washington starter during the 1987 lockout, and threw 3 touchdown passes and over 300 yards in his first start, and Washington went 3-0 with the replacement players, a key factor in the team getting into the playoffs and getting to host the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. He never started a NFL game again.