Kevin O’Connell announced today that he’s going with Jaren Hall as starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings against the Packers on Sunday night. It’s effectively a playoff game for both teams, as the loser will be eliminated from the NFC postseason tournament and the border battle will be played in primetime on New Year’s Eve on Sunday Night Football. It will be the biggest start in Hall’s very brief NFL career so far, but O’Connell expressed his confidence in Hall saying that he’s put in the work and had a few good weeks of practice.
But for O’Connell, who said all three quarterbacks would be considered for the start against the Packers earlier this week, the decision to start Hall doubtless reflected both Dobbs’ and Mullens’ inability to protect the football. Both have been turnover machines as starting quarterbacks for the Vikings, who are 16-0 under Kevin O’Connell when tying or winning the turnover battle. I did a piece back in early December advocating for Hall, despite his very limited experience in the league, as both Mullens and Dobbs have struggled with turnovers throughout their career. Unfortunately, that continued to be the case with them starting for the Vikings.
There were some hints from player interviews earlier this week that Hall may get the nod this week, and Kevin O’Connell opening the starting job for consideration after the loss to the Lions in which Mullens threw four interceptions- and could’ve had three more turnovers- suggested that he was ready to move on from Mullens.
Vikings’ offensive coordinator Wes Phillips also weighed in on potentially starting Hall earlier this week, in comments that were not included in the press conference video the Vikings posted on their website, but were posted by Vikings’ local beat reporter Andrew Krammer:
Vikings OC Wes Phillips with a thorough answer to a question about rookie QB Jaren Hall's development and playing the position. "You're betting on traits when you're putting him in the game." pic.twitter.com/XoVZfWdWne— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) December 27, 2023
Phillips went through the mechanics of playing quarterback, and how great quarterbacks are able to adjust in small ways to stay in rhythm, adjusting tempo a bit if necessary and getting through their progressions despite some timing issues that happened during the play.
The implication was that Hall is still working on all these finer points of playing the quarterback position in the NFL as all rookies are- particularly those without much playing time- but that he has been making good progress since he played back in Weeks 8 & 9. Nevertheless, Phillips concluded by acknowledging the unknown factor in starting a quarterback with such a limited sample size of experience in the league. He said that rather than betting on the small sample size, starting Hall is simply a bet on his traits that the coaching staff has seen in practice and getting to know him since he was drafted- his character, work ethic, and preparation- and hoping those good traits show up on the football field on Sunday.
In his press conferences back when he played in Weeks 8 & 9, Hall came across as mature and that starting in the NFL wasn’t too big for him. He focused on his preparation, and how Kirk Cousins was a good mentor for him in that regard and didn’t seem flustered or lacking in confidence. He performed reasonably well in his first 22 snaps in the NFL over two games, but 22 snaps is only 22 snaps. Wes Phillips was right that this is a bet that Hall’s traits will show up on the football field at US Bank stadium in the most critical game for the Vikings this season in a primetime border battle against the Packers.
Here is a link to Kevin O’Connell’s press conference announcing Hall as the starter against the Packers:
And Hall’s press conference after being named the starter:
Will Hall play better against the Packers than Dobbs and Mullens have played over the past four games?
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