Is J.J. McCarthy Just a Kirk Cousins Clone?

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.

The Minnesota Vikings watched Kirk Cousins take his talents to Atlanta this offseason, leaving a hole at the quarterback position. Of course, the franchise has substantial draft capital to make a move if they so choose, but are they looking to replace Cousins or for the next version of him?

Is J.J. McCarthy Just a Kirk Cousins Clone?

When considering the options available, writing off Caleb Williams is straightforward. The Chicago Bears aren’t going to give him to Minnesota, and the Vikings aren’t trading what it would require to a divisional rival. That focuses on Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, and J.J. McCarthy.

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December 31, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the pregame before the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game

Maye and McCarthy are the two most closely linked to the Vikings, but one fits the bill of a Cousins clone more than the other. Jim Harbaugh’s former signal caller at Michigan profiles very similarly to Minnesota’s last quarterback, and if Kevin O’Connell couldn’t keep the guy he had, then why not draft the one that looks the same?

The scouting report on McCarthy has so many parallels to what Cousins has been in the NFL, and while Kirk was not a first-round pick, the acceleration into a starting role could simply be a quicker move for McCarthy. While at Michigan, he was largely able to rely upon skill-position players around him while operating within an ideal system. That could serve him well at the next level or leave him in a position to be exposed.

When considering the Minnesota Vikings as his landing spot, it’s hard not to think that McCarthy would be positioned to rely on the skill position players around him as well. Aaron Jones is a back who can carry the load when healthy. Justin Jefferson is the best wide receiver in the league, and T.J. Hockenson is more than a run-of-the-mill tight end security blanket.

kirk cousins
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

McCarthy’s game has a bit more dynamic athleticism than Cousins’, but he doesn’t rely upon that to succeed. O’Connell may not be looking for a runner, and that could be why the Vikings haven’t been heavily linked to Daniels. He might see Maye as more of a project, and McCarthy representing a guy similar to someone he has already coached flattens the learning curve quite a bit.

Plenty of reasons were there to retain Cousins this offseason, but many also provided solid sensibility for him to be let go. That page has now been turned, but could a cousin of sorts be the guy to replace him?


Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.

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