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The 49ers Just Got the Performance They Expected From Jimmy Garoppolo—From an Undrafted Free Agent

Rookie QB Nick Mullens dismantled the Oakland Raiders on Thursday as he put up the second-best passer rating in a career start since the merger

Oakland Raiders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Here is what football fans knew about Nick Mullens before today:

Here is what football fans need to know about Nick Mullens now:

  • He is Joe Montana.
  • He is signed through 2019.
  • It will only cost the 49ers $13.1 million to release Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason.

Mullens led a 34-3 evisceration of the Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders on Thursday night with 16 completions on 22 attempts for 262 passing yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions or sacks, and a sterling 151.9 passer rating, officially giving him as many games with a passer rating over 150 as Montana had in his career. Mullens’s passer rating was the second-highest ever for someone with more than 10 pass attempts in their pro debut since the NFL-AFL merger.

The night was made possible because of injuries. Jimmy Garoppolo, the wonder boy signed this offseason to a contract worth as much as $137.5 million, tore his ACL in Week 3 and is out for the season. Garoppolo’s replacement, C.J. Beathard, suffered a wrist injury that kept him from starting, and San Francisco released quarterback Tom Savage earlier on Thursday afternoon. That left Mullens, the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama and an undrafted free agent quarterback signed out of Southern Miss in 2017. Of course, nobody could have told you any of that—or anything at all—about Mullens before Thursday. (If someone claims they knew about Mullens before Thursday, they are either a Southern Miss football fan, literally Brett Favre, the woman Troy Aikman and Joe Buck said was the sole person spotted in the stadium wearing Mullens’s jersey, or a liar.)

On the very first drive of his career, Mullens went 3-for-3 for 41 yards and tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garçon.

On his second drive, he orchestrated a 13-play, 66-yard drive where he converted three third downs, including a third-and-goal where he found receiver Kendrick Bourne for a 4-yard touchdown.

Mullens led one more field goal drive before the half ended to extend the lead to 14. With the first possession of the second half, Mullens found George Kittle for an impossible throw, catch, and run for 71 yards.

Two plays later, he found Kittle again for the touchdown pass, giving him three passing touchdowns for the night —that’s the same number the Buffalo Bills have this season. It was right around here when Mullens received a verified checkmark on Twitter, which he did not have entering the game.

After 49ers running back Raheem Mostert put the game out of reach with a 52-yard touchdown run to make the game 31-3 with nine minutes to play in the third quarter, the announcer’s booth quickly ran out of things to talk about. Aikman described Mullens as a “grinder” and a “gym rat,” and said that Kyle Shanahan told him that Mullens knew the offense better than anyone in the organization other than Shanahan himself (a bit of an indictment of Garoppolo and Shanahan’s assistant coaches). Erin Andrews revealed that Mullens practices with headphones playing crowd noise when he makes calls at the line. Buck suggested that Taylor Kitsch has already signed on to play Mullens in the movie. The camera crew even found the fan wearing the only no. 4 jersey in the stands.

The night ended with Mullens on the postgame set of Thursday Night Football, fielding a congratulatory phone call from Brett Favre on live TV while Michael Irvin asked him whether he was old enough to shave.

The only person who wasn’t surprised by the performance was Mullens himself.

“[I] prepare like I’m the starter every week,” Mullens told Erin Andrews after the game. “This was my week.”