San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Nick Mullens talked about how he’s developed as a quarterback, what it means to have his teammates confidence in him, Mullens improved arm strength, and much more.
Where has your game gotten strongest over the last two years, just in terms of what have you really tried to work on, I guess, physically?
“Yeah, at first it starts with arm strength. That’s the thing everybody’s going to criticize, but it’s one thing that I’ve attacked. Just playing with the full field, that’s huge to me and I’m excited to show that on Sunday. Then being in the system for what, four years now, like coach [Kyle] Shanahan says, how automatic can you get? Just everything, how crisp, how automatic, how professional can you be? That’s one thing that I’ve focused on every single day.”
Both WR Mohamed Sanu and TE George Kittle were in here yesterday talking to us about how they’re very confident in you. What does that do for you and your confidence, knowing that you’ve got those players behind you?
“It’s huge. It really does, it helps a lot. I enjoy stepping into the huddle and just hearing encouragement from our team captains, like [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice and George, and then the veteran, like Sanu. He’s come in, done a great job. Coach Shanahan spoke highly of him before he got here and then he’s been everything that we thought he was going to be. We got a good rapport pretty quick. He’s a real cool dude and so it’s fun playing with Mo.”
You mentioned the other day that Kyle has always been very intentional about being on you guys as backups to always kind of be on top of your game. I’m wondering how does he go about that? How does he stay on top of you and, for you in particular, what has that process been like?
“Yeah, I think the biggest thing I take away is from his team meetings. The way, since day one, the way he’s motivated the team. It’s always something new and it’s always something that you don’t necessarily think about, that he pushes into the team. He gives a team life and that’s really where I take most from it. As a professional, it’s our expectation, our job to be able to step in at any time. But, his team meetings, the way he influences, the videos that he shows us, the different things he does to motivate us, it keeps us going. He always tells us you’re either getting better or worse. So, that sits in my mind every day.”
When you get to this level, there’s kind of a belief like your arm strength is your arm strength, but obviously you feel fairly confident you’ve improved that. How have you gone about doing that?
“Yeah, I think, what, after the 2018 season, you work out with the Tom House guys and they established a foundation with some very key coaching points for me to just focus on and continue to get better at. Then the coach that I work with back in Mobile, David Morris. You just work. Every drill, every ball, focus on those mechanics and things like that. Throwing programs and just relentless work in the offseason. You are what you are, but you can maximize that. That’s the growth mindset that I’ve always had and I worked very hard on it.”
QB Jimmy Garoppolo sort of made a name for himself in New England coming into play when he had his opportunities as a backup. I’m curious if you’ve had any conversations with him about that, about his mindset and maybe the competitive drive that a backup quarterback has to eventually want to become a full-time starter?
“Right, I wouldn’t say anything too specific. I feel like we’ve talked about, what the Cardinals game. I feel like in general we’ve talked about that game. Just over the course of spending time with Jimmy, I’ve learned a lot. Just the way that he operates on a daily basis, just taking full control of the team. He’s kind of the heartbeat for the offense and so I guess you get more from the daily conversations than just like one specific conversation. Jimmy’s a great role model and definitely aware of who he sat behind for four years and kind of the next best thing for me is sitting behind Jimmy, I guess.”
You won’t have George Kittle, RB Raheem Mostert, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Deebo Samuel, but you do have an array of guys out there still. What do you see in that supporting cast that will line up next to you?
“Yeah, definitely. Coach Shanahan said it. We’ve got 53 really, really good football players on our team. They’re on the roster for a reason. They’ve proved that. [RB JaMycal] Hasty and [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.], Hasty had a great camp. Caught people’s eye, very quick. Then Jeff, he’s earned every bit of what he got. He started on practice squad last year and just every opportunity he has stepped up. Then [RB Jerick McKinnon] Jet, I can’t wait for him to get the carries that he’s going to get. He’s earned every bit, got a great story. The coolest thing about last week is [WR Brandon] Aiyuk, when he finished the game, he was so excited to get back out there. That was really cool. He was, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get back out there for next Sunday.’ To see the energy behind those guys is awesome.”
What is it about WR Kendrick Bourne that it seems, you guys had some pretty good games together late in 2018. He just seems to be a guy that appears two or three times a game, but it’s always on third downs or in the red zone. What is it about him that makes it comfortable for a quarterback like you to look for him?
“Yeah, well I think his trait, his kind of ‘go to’ thing is hands in transition. He’s not the fastest guy, but he runs great routes, you always know where he’s going to be and he can separate versus man coverage. Those are key things. As we move along in this offense, his hands in transition, you give him a good throw, he’s always going to get positive yards. It’s been fun. Came in together undrafted in 2017 and so to see KB evolve and earn everything that he’s gotten, it’s awesome to see and it gives us a lot of confidence.”
How would you say you’ve matured as a player in the last couple of years, emotionally and mentally?
“Yeah, first you come into the NFL and you’re just trying to get comfortable with all the different situations and things like that, but the way that coach Shanahan has motivated us as a team, you can handle anything. You can handle anything. I feel like, that’s how I feel. You just control what you can control, you work to get better every single day. You know what you need to improve on in your game and at different times and how you can get better. That’s the daily mindset that I’ve had and that you have to have to be successful.”