Joshua Dobbs Did His Job

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had a hectic 48 hours following the Minnesota Vikings’ 24-10 win in Lambeau Field on October 29. Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in Minnesota’s only two-score game this season. He was at the peak of his powers when he went down. A week earlier, he had gone 35/45 for 378 yards and two touchdowns in their 22-17 Monday night win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Suddenly, the Vikings were without their $35 million quarterback as well as Justin Jefferson, who injured his hamstring against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5. Minnesota had recovered from an 0-3 start and couldn’t tank with a 4-4 record. Adofo-Mensah listened to Creed as a tribute to Cousins while he worked the phones, trying to find his next quarterback.

Nick Mullens had a lower back injury, and the Vikings had just drafted Jaren Hall in the fifth round. The Vikings needed someone affordable with experience. Who better than Joshua Dobbs, who Adofo-Mensah knew from his time in Cleveland? The Arizona Cardinals benched him after he went 1-7 as a starter to begin the season. All it took was swapping their sixth-round pick for Arizona’s seventh-rounder, and Minnesota had quarterback depth.

“Josh gives us an experienced player who’s started some games, not only this year but last year, and has played some good football against some of the best defenses in our league,” Kevin O’Connell said immediately after the trade. “He’s found ways to move the ball. He brings a level of athleticism to go with great football intelligence. He’s a smart player, and I have always loved what he’s all about. He’s played in a variety of offenses, and I know he’s excited to get going here.”

Dobbs practiced in Minnesota for the first time on Thursday, November 2. He had just settled into his house in Phoenix a week ago. Dobbs began the year as Cleveland’s backup quarterback, but they traded him to the Cardinals, where he had an opportunity to start. It was a good football opportunity, even if it created chaos in his life. Dobbs’ possessions had just arrived in Arizona. His family watched him make his final start in Glendale before Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon announced that Kyler Murray or Clayton Tune would start their next game. Dobbs was practicing in Eagan less than a week later.

“At this point,” Dobbs said, “you’re not too surprised about anything.”

The Vikings tried to set reasonable expectations for Dobbs. They named Hall the starter in Atlanta and gave him all the first-team reps, hoping the rookie would gel enough with the starters to win on the road. Perhaps Dobbs would start the next game at home against the New Orleans Saints, but there were no guarantees. Minnesota brought him in to give themselves options. They weren’t committed to anything after the Atlanta Falcons game.

“We wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the opportunity to really go a lot of directions with the position,” O’Connell said. “But I think this immediate solution that we found provides us with a really quality player at a time where we were able to go out and get that player without potentially leaving the world of the future and the now — we were kind of able to accomplish the goal of both and help our football team.”

Maybe Dobbs wasn’t surprised that he went 20/30 for 158 yards and throw for two touchdowns in his hometown Atlanta. He also led the Vikings with 66 rushing yards and a scrambling touchdown. But everyone else was surprised by his play. Dobbs didn’t know the playbook or his teammates’ names. It didn’t matter. O’Connell instructed him through the headset in his helmet, Garrett Bradbury learned his cadence, and Dobbs led Minnesota to a 31-28 victory.

However, it was almost more impressive that he backed it up with a 27-19 win over the New Orleans Saints, who had all week to prepare for him. But the Denver Broncos came back to beat the Vikings 21-20 at Mile High, and Dobbs threw four interceptions in a 12-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. O’Connell would not commit to Dobbs after the game. Dobbs said he would not use his lack of time in Minnesota as an excuse and would like another opportunity to show he can prevent turnovers while pushing the ball down the field.

I’m learning each week. No, I think I was able to come out and play clean, efficient football, and that’s the expectation I set on myself; that’s the expectation I have on myself tonight. As you guys hopefully have seen, I don’t make excuses based on my situation just being here a month, man, because [I’ve had] the opportunity to get the reps in practice. Yeah, I hold myself to a higher standard. And no matter what happened on the other end tonight, man, I know I can play better football. I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m not running from it. I’m excited for the next opportunity to show that.

There is an argument that the Vikings should continue to start Dobbs. Some people would like to see them turn to Hall, who looked promising before suffering a concussion in Atlanta. Minnesota’s plan entering the season was to use Mullens as Cousins’ backup. He knows the offense and has made 17 starts in his career. The Vikings had to throw Dobbs into action, and he went 2-2, putting them in position to make the postseason after a 0-3 start. Minnesota acquired Dobbs to give them options and win games in a pinch. He’s done his part. The rest falls on the coaches and management to win maximize the bye week and Jefferson’s return to make the playoffs.

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