Jim Souhan
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The Vikings are choosing between Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond to be their backup quarterback.

I guarantee there is an analyst on the Jackson State football staff who finds this quite amusing.

Mannion is 30. He has been in the NFL since 2015. He has never started and won an NFL game.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. He has been trusted to start only three games.
  2. He has lost them all.

Last year, Mannion played when Kirk Cousins was ruled out of a key game at Lambeau Field because of COVID. The Vikings' incompetent performance in a 37-10 loss likely kept them out of the playoffs and cost coach Mike Zimmer, Deion Sanders' new analyst at Jackson State, his job.

In 2019, Mannion started against Chicago. The Vikings lost at home, 21-19, as Mannion threw for 126 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mannion is the reverse victory formation. He is the Surrender Cigar.

The most intriguing question at this year's training camp is if Mannion or Mond will back up Cousins. That this question even exists is a terrible sign for Mond, and for the Vikings.

Former General Manager Rick Spielman invested a 2021 third-round draft pick in Mond. Zimmer watched Mond during training camp and regular-season practices and chose Mannion to start a game that could determine the fate of the season.

Not much time has passed since then, and Mond played behind Mannion in the first preseason game and made poor decisions on his first couple of series before settling in and faring better against players who will not make the Raiders' roster.

Maybe Mond will win the backup job. Maybe he'll even prove to be a good backup. It would be wildly optimistic to think he is anything close to being the quarterback of the future, even for a franchise that doesn't know what its future is at quarterback.

Wes Phillips, the Vikings' first-year offensive coordinator, was asked Tuesday what he prioritizes in a backup quarterback:

"You're looking for a guy who's going to be great in the room, who's gonna be there for the starter as far as preparation, and then a guy who's able to play well with limited reps.

"You can't be a rep guy as a backup quarterback. You've got to be a guy that is preparing every week as if you're the starter and then be ready at any point to step in and be able to execute the offense."

If Phillips' words were tea leaves, you could read them as an endorsement of Mannion, who is Cousins' lumbar support, his neck pillow.

Mannion is affordable and makes Cousins comfortable.

That's a convenient reason to choose him over Mond. It's not a good reason.

Even if Mond isn't able to meet Phillips' qualifications, at least he offers a different skill set than Cousins. Mannion is Cousins without the arm strength and accuracy. If Mond were to replace Cousins in the middle of a game, at least the defense would have to alter its approach to account for a mobile quarterback.

Saturday, Mond and Mannion will continue their duel, in a game that will not feature the most intriguing quarterback in town — the 49ers' new starter, Trey Lance.

The 49ers and the new Vikings staff have proved what a good quarterback is worth this decade.

Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell and Phillips were part of the Rams staff that won the Super Bowl after trading two first-round picks, a starting quarterback and other assets to Detroit for Matthew Stafford.

The 49ers traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to move up nine spots to take Lance with the third pick in the 2021 draft.

If Cousins doesn't win over the Vikings' new regime this season, it wouldn't be surprising to see a dramatic trade for an upgrade next offseason.

This year it's Cousins, or busts.