Even Outsiders Know the Vikings’ Most Burning Question

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Kevin O'Connell

If you haven’t realized it, one matter will soon dominate all things regarding the Minnesota Vikings: “Who will start Week 1 at quarterback?”

Even Outsiders Know the Vikings’ Most Burning Question

Minnesota used Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft to select quarterback J.J. McCarthy of Michigan and outside linebacker Dallas Turner from Alabama. Nobody really thought both men were attainable, as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was expected to trade his 1st-Round assets for a quarterback of the future. But on draft night, McCarthy dropped to pick No. 10, where the young GM pressed the button on a trade with the New York Jets — while retaining his 23rd overall pick. He then picked Turner after a costly trade to the 17th spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

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.

That evening signified a new era in Minnesota, with Kirk Cousins now employed in Atlanta and McCarthy on the way to QB1 duty. Now, Vikings fans — and even national eyes — wonder how soon McCarthy will take the baton.

CBS Sports recently analyzed the biggest question facing each NFL team, and for Minnesota, that was “Is J.J. McCarthy ready to start on Day 1?”

Tyler Sullivan wrote, “Minnesota didn’t need to leap into the top five and was still able to come out of the NFL Draft with J.J. McCarthy. With him as the clear future at the position for the Vikings, now the question turns to whether or not the Michigan product is capable of taking on the starting role as soon as Week 1. The team does have Sam Darnold as a veteran option if they decide to take a more conservative approach with McCarthy.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

In short, the answer is probably no. Minnesota has the advantage — luxury, even — of letting McCarthy mature on his clock and not forcing him into Week 1 duty. Darnold will earn $10 million this season, also known as high-end backup cash. Most Vikings fans realize the 2024 campaign doesn’t have Super Bowl stakes, so letting Darnold start out of the gate is a reasonable option.

Right after the draft, ESPN claimed that Minnesota had a specific plan awaiting McCarthy. “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.

Sam Darnold
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Seifert added, “The approach is designed to avoid the worst-case scenario — ruining McCarthy’s career by exposing him before he is ready — and is a big reason the Vikings spent $10 million in March to sign veteran Sam Darnold as a bridge starter. It’s a process O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah have been planning since meeting for the first time in 2022 during one of O’Connell’s final job interviews.”

Too, 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.”

The question about McCarthy’s QB1 timetable is valid and unbelievably intriguing, but he likely won’t start in Week 1.

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Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after the 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

That won’t stop folks from thinking about it, demanding it, and hoping for the best, though.

McCarthy turned 21 four months ago.

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.