EAGAN, Minn. -- It’s been quite a season for NFL backup quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Allen and Gardner Minshew are among those who have had success.
The Vikings know all about facing a backup quarterback. Of their three losses, one came at Chicago after Chase Daniel replaced Mitchell Trubisky on the first series and another at Kansas City when Matt Moore stepped in for Patrick Mahones.
The Vikings haven’t used their backup this season with the exception of two September kneeldowns in a rout over Oakland, but Sean Mannion said he would be well prepared if needed. Mannion knows his role is to back up Kirk Cousins, who leads the NFL in passer rating at 114.8, but has no doubt he has what it takes to be a starter at some point with some team.
“I have total confidence in my abilities,’’ Mannion said. “I feel like I can make all the throws that are asked. … My role here is to back up Kirk and support him, but I’m doing everything to prepare for that some day, hopefully I’ll get a chance to be a starter.
“I remember something that I saw (hall of famer) Steve Young once say. He said, ‘I’m going to prepare myself for being a starter by being the best backup I can right now.’’’
For Mannion, one of his main duties in that role is to work with Cousins in the week leading up to a game. The Vikings (8-3) on Monday night play at Seattle (9-2) in a game important for playoff seeding.
“We’re in meetings, just talking football a lot, bouncing things off one another,’’ Mannion said. “Kirk does such tremendous preparation all the time, and really knows the details of the game plan, and it’s definitely rubbed off on me. I just try to take good notes and do whatever I can to help him. It’s trying to ask good questions.’’
Mannion signed a one-year, $895,000 deal with the Vikings last April after spending four seasons as a Rams backup. After being taken out of Oregon State in the third round of the 2015 draft, Mannion got into 10 games, starting one, and completed 33 of 53 passes for 258 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
Mannion’s only career start came in the final game of the 2017 season, when the playoff-bound Rams rested starter Jared Goff. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 169 yards in a 34-13 loss to San Francisco.
The Vikings, who have had salary-cap issues, signed Mannion because they could get him for a minimum deal, he had been in an offense similar to Minnesota’s, and head coach Mike Zimmer wanted a backup with at least some regular-season experience. In the preseason, Mannion beat out Kyle Sloter, who was waived after not getting into a game in his first two seasons.
“I just tried to go about my business from Day 1 and just show them I had ownership of the system, and then just going out and executing,’’ Mannion said. “I just try to get the ball to the right people and make good decisions and play fast.’’
Now, Mannion is continuing to impress the Vikings with much of his work behind the scenes.
“For Sean, I think he does a great job in that meeting room,’’ said offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. “I think it’s such an important role. We don’t take it for granted, the impact that he has on the starter during the week, during the game. I think Sean has embraced that role.’’
Cousins has been most one of the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks. Since beginning a three-season stint as Washington’s starter in 2015, he has started 75 straight games.
Cousins was behind center for all 1,051 offensive snaps last season when Minnesota’s backup was Trevor Siemian, who then left to sign with the New York Jets. Mannion laughed about having at least gotten in for the two kneeldowns in the 34-14 win over the Raiders in Week 3.
Cousins, meanwhile, believes Mannion has what it takes to be an NFL starter whether it’s down the road or he unexpectedly gets called into duty this season.
“He goes about his business the right way,’’ Cousins said. “He has a very strong arm, very accurate, and he understands the game well, which at the end of the day, your ability to process information and play quickly is so key, and he can do that. Like everybody else, he needs an opportunity, and he hasn’t had that yet, but you also know that at any moment it could come, and I’m sure he’ll be ready when it does.’’