Familiar Game Circled for J.J. McCarthy’s Debut

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Georgia during the second half of the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Minnesota Vikings fans will ponder and debate J.J. McCarthy’s go-live date until, well, he sets foot on a regular season field.

Familiar Game Circled for J.J. McCarthy’s Debut

The Vikings scooped McCarthy from Round 1 of last month’s draft, and since then, folks have wondered if he could supplant Sam Darnold at QB1 this summer or, more realistically, wait until midseason, assuming he sees the field at all as a rookie.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

According to CBS Sports, that first start could be Week 7 at home against the Detroit Lions, a contest now circled a few times by folks speculating about McCarthy’s ascension. Josh Edwards of CBS Sports spitballed every rookie passer’s start date this week, and on McCarthy, he explained, “By starting McCarthy Week 7 coming off the bye, it gives head coach Kevin O’Connell two weeks to prepare his rookie quarterback for his first meeting with the division rival Lions. The Vikings could also opt to wait until Week 13 when four of the final six games will be played at home.”

Minnesota has a murderous schedule before the Lions showdown, so perhaps Darnold can hold down admirably until then.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

Edwards added, “The Vikings seem pretty self-aware as they build toward the future so the expectations for this season alone should not be unreasonable. McCarthy walks into a relatively relaxed situation as far as quarterback rooms are concerned. Darnold may hold on to the job for awhile but history suggests that it is only a matter of time before the franchise looks in another direction.”

The McCarthy-in-Week-7 theory should be afforded considerable attention — because it’s all over the place. Pro Football Focus‘ Trevor Sikkema wrote last week about McCarthy’s emergence, “McCarthy will also just need time to grow as a player. That timeline might not manifest into a first start until the second half of the season, but I look at Week 7 as a date to circle for McCarthy. Yes, the Lions would be a tough first assignment, but the Vikings have a bye in Week 6 and will also play Detroit in Minnesota. Those are typically the two factors that play into when teams make a quarterback change — extra practice and a home crowd behind them.”

new qb
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

And VikingsTerritory‘s own Wes Johnson opined on May 18th, “All matchups that might be a bit much for an incoming rookie quarterback to take on initially. A Week 7 matchup at home coming off of a bye seems like a good opportunity to insert McCarthy into the fire, and the team will be doing so with the help of Hockenson, who came off of his knee injury against the very team that injured him. Sharpen your horns. It’s time to pillage.”

For context, here’s Minnesota’s 2024 schedule:

Week 1 — at New York Giants
Week 2 — vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 — vs. Houston Texans
Week 4 — at Green Bay Packers
Week 5 — vs. New York Jets (London)
Week 6 — Bye
Week 7 — vs. Detroit Lions
Week 8 — at Los Angeles Rams (TNF)
Week 9 — vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 10 — at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 11 — at Tennessee Titans
Week 12 — at Chicago Bears
Week 13 — vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 14 — vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 15 — vs. Chicago Bears (MNF)
Week 16 — at Seattle Seahawks
Week 17 — vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 18 — at Detroit Lions

The Vikings evidently have a checklist of benchmarks for McCarthy to hit before taking the big job, and according to popular opinion, that might just be by Week 7. The tricky schedule from the first five weeks would be in the rearview, the time apparently ripe for McCarthy’s introduction.

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Minnesota is on deck for about six, seven, or eight wins in 2024, per oddsmakers. If a mounting number of voices are correct, McCarthy would see the bright lights in October.

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 MIN 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.