Cold Water Poured on Vikings QB1 Theory

Minnesota Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy at the first day of rookie minicamp on May 10th, 2024, in Eagan, Minnesota. TCO Performance Center. McCarthy was drafted by the Vikings with the 10th overall pick on April 25th, 2024 in Detroit.

Are you hoping that Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy will start right away in 2024? You might have to wait.

Cold Water Poured on Vikings QB1 Theory

Minnesota selected McCarthy in the 2024 NFL Draft three weeks ago with the 10th overall pick after a trade with the New York Jets. Since then, Vikings fans have wondered when McCarthy will win the big job, with theories all over the place.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

In March, Minnesota added Sam Darnold from free agency about 12 hours after Kirk Cousins took his talents to Atlanta. Darnold served as an insurance policy in case the draft went pear-shaped for finding a rookie passer, but then the draft arrived, and events went swimmingly. The Vikings got their guy, who will incidentally be tossed into a QB1 battle this summer.

And according to Star Tribune‘s Ben Goessling, it doesn’t seem to matter how well McCarthy plays at training camp and in the preseason. The job might belong to Darnold, no matter what. Goessling said on KFAN this week, “Because I don’t think that their approach to the job is based on is he better than Sam Darnold, if that makes sense. I think the threshold they are looking at is, is he ready to take the job and run with it and do all of the things that we want to see done by an elite quarterback in this offense? And if it’s not there yet, or if it’s not there consistently enough yet, let’s wait.”

Vikings QB
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, others have floated the notion that McCarthy could start out of the gate. Fox Sports analyst Joe Klatt outlined the improbable outcome last week, “I believe that he can and will start for Kevin O’Connell. McCarthy is hyper-competitive and really skilled. The Vikings are going to see a guy who can win them football games right away, partly because of what he does on the field, but also because he’s such a strong leader. He went 27-1 as Michigan’s starting quarterback, making plays in key moments where prior Michigan teams failed.”

Because the aforementioned Darnold was procured in March for $10 million, most believe(d) he will start the season as QB1 and eventually pave the way for McCarthy, a 21-year-old.

Minnesota Vikings 2024 NFL Draft. Watch as QB J.J. McCarthy addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Friday. The Vikings traded up one spot on the draftboard with the New York Jets for McCarthy.

“McCarthy is in a situation to really succeed early on, kind of similar to C.J. Stroud. In fact, players on the same team won the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year in the last two years. The Texans were one of them with Stroud and Will Anderson, who they traded up to No. 3 to draft,” Klatt continued.

Of course, Minnesota has a long way to go before adhering to Goessling’s prediction or greenlighting McCarthy for Week 1, as described by Klatt.

Right after the draft, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert mentioned a checklist that would be used in application to McCarthy’s game-readiness. “The Vikings will follow an individualized development plan they created for each of the quarterbacks they considered drafting, one that requires McCarthy to hit specific benchmarks and gives coach Kevin O’Connell full authority to make the timing decision,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert explained on April 26th.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Around the same time, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said about McCarthy’s upcoming development, “A lot of times when we go back over history and say, ‘These quarterbacks have missed,’ there’s a lot of hands that are dirty in that regard. And we’re going to make sure that our hands are clean and give him the best opportunity he can to be the best player he can be in this offense.”

Vikings fans will continue to see fringe theories that suggest McCarthy can be ready in September, but the safer bet aligns with Goessling’s forecast — it’s probably Darnold, at least for a while.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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