Familiar Word Returns for Vikings’ J.J. McCarthy Plan

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings will be meticulous about rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy’s development, and one buzzword continues to follow the plan.

Familiar Word Returns for Vikings’ J.J. McCarthy Plan


Vikings QB
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) takes a moment to watch TCU celebrate after Michigan lost, 51-45, at the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 31, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Those are barometers McCarthy must meet, touchstones he must accommodate, and bars he must clear to assume the QB1 job, his destiny after general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spent the 10th overall pick on the Wolverine in April’s draft.

And the word is prevalent. ESPN’s Dan Graziano was the latest to use the term on SportsCenter this week. “The Vikings have a very detailed and specific developmental plan tailored to J.J. McCarthy,” Graziano explained. “The way it works is if McCarthy hits certain benchmarks by certain dates, sure, he could be the Week 1 starter. But if not, they’re happy to go with Sam Darnold until J.J. McCarthy is ready. So watch J.J. McCarthy throughout camp, and the preseason, see how he’s advancing.”

Vikings mock draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Indiana during the second half of U-M’s 52-7 win over Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Ann Arbor. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Darnold, meanwhile, is tentatively scheduled to start the season Week 1 at the New York Giants, though it’s unclear what happens if McCarthy annihilates the precious benchmarks this month and in August. The sweet part for McCarthy is age. He’s 21, the youngest highly-coveted quarterback from his draft class, and if it takes a while for the man to win the QB1 job, well, it would be expected.

Right after the draft, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert mentioned a checklist — the benchmarks — 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,” Seifert explained on April 26th.

So, about two months apart, different sources using the same words about the Vikings’ plan for Darnold.

Saints Favored
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

What’s more, O’Connell said last month that McCarthy’s game-ready date was fluid. He said on SKOR North about McCarthy’s development, “There’s no clock in the corner of the room that is ticking down to a specific date, or game, or things like that.”

O’Connell added, “It’s about our team, but also [J.J. McCarthy] is very important to me and very important to our organization, and my experiences tell me for a lot of reasons that our plan for him is in place for a reason and we feel really good about it.”

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports Tim Fuller Photography.

Perhaps at training camp and preseason, onlookers will learn more about the benchmarks specifically. For now, they’re a mysterious set of gatekeeping achievements.

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.