J.J. McCarthy as Vikings QB1 Has a Caveat

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.

Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy will not be the team’s QB1 heading into training camp next month. That much is for sure.

J.J. McCarthy as Vikings QB1 Has a Caveat

Head coach Kevin O’Connell announced the obvious about McCarthy this week as minicamp drew to a close. Instead, veteran passer Sam Darnold will take the baton into training camp, a decision foreseen by virtually every Vikings fan because McCarthy is just 21 years old, and there is no rush to shove him into QB1 duties.

bleacher report
J.J. McCarthy with the Minnesota Vikings practice highlights from OTA No. 2 of 2024, which took place at the TCO Performance Center. The Minnesota VIkings used the 10th overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft to select McCarthy after a trade up the board with the New York Jets.

But more broadly, O’Connell said this week no vivid timeline exists for McCarthy’s insertion into the starting lineup. The organization wants the young passer to earn the job organically — so much so that nobody knows when he might take the reins. It’s wait and see.

O’Connell 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.”

Odds for Next Year
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, McCarthy will take over the QB1 gig before too long, no matter what. O’Connell also said earlier this week that McCarthy is the quarterback of the future in Minnesota. Yet, generally speaking, the Vikings have a 2017 Kansas City Chiefs situation afoot, with Darnold as Alex Smith and McCarthy as Patrick Mahomes, though it’s unclear if McCarthy will morph into a true superstar. Stay tuned.

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.”

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms up before Ohio State game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Others have ignored the Vikings’ insistence that a timeline doesn’t exist, tabbing a Week 7 game against the Detroit Lions as McCarthy’s possible go-live date. Josh Edwards of CBS Sports spitballed every rookie passer’s start date two weeks ago 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.”

Around the same time, Pro Football Focus‘ Trevor Sikkema wrote 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.”

Sam darnold
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during OTAs. Darnold joined the Vikings’ roster in March 2024 during free agency, on deck as a Kirk Cousins replacement and sharing the QB room later with rookie passer J.J. McCarthy of Michigan.

Right after the draft, 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.”

So, the Vikings will adhere to Adofo-Mensah’s post-draft statement, particularly as O’Connell stated no ticking clock exists. McCarthy is a TBD, undoubtedly.

McCarthy has the league’s fourth-best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, with a moneyline around +1000.

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.