The Browns are embracing the next-man-up mentality like never before.
They need to after placing 20 guys on their reserve/COVID-19 list this week in the days leading up to their Week 15 matchup Saturday against the Raiders at FirstEnergy Stadium. QBs Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum were among them, and if they are unable to be activated before kickoff, that leaves four-year veteran Nick Mullens next in line to start under center.
Here are five things to know about Mullens, whom the Browns have full confidence in before one of their biggest games of the season.
1. Mullens was signed Sept. 1 to the Browns' practice squad, where he has spent the entirety of the season so far. The Browns liked Mullens' experience, which included eight starts last season with the San Francisco 49ers. Mullens was 2-6 as a starter in 2020 but largely worked with an injury-depleted roster — the 49ers had the second-most injuries of any NFL team in 2020 — and totaled a 64.7 completion percentage with 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
2. Mullens' 4,405 passing yards in his first 16 starts mark the second-most by any quarterback in NFL history in that span, trailing only Patrick Mahomes (5,100). Mullens has played in 19 career games with 16 starts, tossing 387 completions for 4,714 yards and 25 touchdowns.
3. Mullens spent four seasons at Southern Mississippi, where he left in 2017 as the program's career passing leader in every statistical category. Most of his records exceeded those from NFL legend Brett Favre, who also spent four years at the school. Mullens left USM with 11,994 career passing yards and 87 touchdown passes (Favre had 7,695 passing yards and 52 touchdowns) and a 137.8 passer rating.
4. Mullens' NFL debut came in 2018, his second NFL year after he went undrafted in 2017 and spent the entire season on the 49ers' practice squad. Mullens' first game was against the Raiders in Week 9 after San Francisco lost Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard due to injuries, and he put on a show with 262 passing yards and three touchdowns for a 34-3 win. Mullens started the rest of the Niners' games that season and finished the year with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
5. Here's what Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Wednesday about Mullens: "Nick is another guy who has played football in the NFL and has had success. The work he has put in with (offensive assistant) T.C. McCartney on the side, they go through the same script as Baker would on a practice day. I know he works hard in the film room and on the side at practice – stays out after practice and gets opportunities with the other guys. If something were to happen and we needed Nick to show up, I have confidence in him, as well. I know he has put the work in, and he has had success in the league, as well."