The Minnesota Vikings have played coy in naming a frontrunner in the QB2 battle in training camp.
Designating Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond as co-second string quarterbacks on the first depth chart of the season, the Vikings have two polarities behind Kirk Cousins — Mannion; a veteran quarterback who’s proven to lack the physical gifts to be a starting-caliber quarterback, and Mond; a young quarterback who’s yet to play and process the speed of the NFL.
The new regime has continued to encourage Mond in taking the next step in his NFL career. However, Minnesota appears hesitant to let the second-year quarterback off the leash.
The latest Vikings news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Vikings newsletter here!
Vikings ‘Fear Destroying Confidence’ in Mond, Start Mannion in Preseason Opener
Twenty-four hours before the Vikings’ season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson revealed that Minnesota plans to start Mannion.
“Source said that #Vikings are expected to start Sean Mannion at quarterback in Sunday’s preseason opener at Las Vegas,” Tomasson tweeted. “Both Mannion and Kellen Mond are expected to play plenty against the Raiders. Starter Kirk Cousins is out due to testing positive for COVID-19.”
While Mannion and Mond are expected to see plenty of action on Sunday, Mannion likely getting all the reps against the Raiders’ first-team unit could be a sign of a lack of confidence in Mond.
“It’s my belief the coaching staff doesn’t want to expose him to reps against first team players. The deeper depth chart guys Mond plays against the better,” SKOR North’s Judd Zulgad tweeted, reacting to the news of Mannion starting on Sunday.
While head coach Kevin O’Connell has spoken ad nauseam of having plans, processes and procedures in place, keeping the training wheels on Mond, who was done no favors as a rookie last season under Mike Zimmer, seems like a tentative move — especially with the Vikings already knowing what they have in Mannion.
“Let’s say Mond does well against the 2nd/3rd string guys. Do you even gain any value or knowledge from that?? Makes no sense to me. We know what Mannion is. Mond is still an uncertainty and needs to be seen against the better competition,” a fan tweeted, responding to Zulgad’s tweet.
“That’s why I think there is a fear of destroying any confidence left,” Zulgad replied.
Die-hard Vikings fan? Follow the Heavy on Vikings Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content from Skol Nation!
Mond Not Given a Fair Shake by Zimmer Regime
The Vikings’ selection of Mond in the third round of the 2021 draft came as a contingency plan put forth by the Wilf family.
“I am told by multiple people that ownership drove the bus, not necessarily on that specific quarterback, Kellen Mond, but on the idea of taking a quarterback relatively high. And if it came down to it, even taking a quarterback in the first round,” KSTP’s Darren Wolfson said on Mackey & Judd on SKOR North in May 2021. “The Wilf’s didn’t want Spielman to wait until round six to take a quarterback. They didn’t want it to be like last year: waiting until round seven, snagging, Nate Stanley.”
Had Rick Spielman or Mike Zimmer had their way, the old regime likely wouldn’t have selected a player that would play just three snaps the entire season with their second pick of the draft, especially with their jobs on the line. Developing Mond was never a priority.
“Kevin Mond [Kellen’s father] said Zimmer never was keen on then-general manager Rick Spielman selecting Mond in the draft, saying, ‘I think he wanted a defensive player (with the second pick in the third round),’ ” Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press wrote in May 2022.
Minnesota got a glimpse into where Mond was at, filling in temporarily for Mannion, who got the start against the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 while Cousins was out with COVID-19. Mond nearly threw an interception and came under fire by Zimmer, who likely knew his time in Minnesota was over after being eliminated from playoff contention in the 37-10 loss.
When asked if he’d like to give Mond playing time in a meaningless Week 18 season finale, Zimmer was curt with reporters:
Q: Do you think you want to get a look at Mond next week?
Zimmer: Not particulary.
Q: Mike, why don’t you want to get a look at him.
Zimmer: I see him every day (in practice).
Mond still has time to develop into a good player, but the Vikings’ hesitance of giving him the QB2 spot isn’t encouraging.