Kevin O’Connell Speaks Highly of New Vikings QB — the Other One

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The Minnesota Vikings have two new quarterbacks in addition to Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. Sam Darnold joined the club via free agency in March, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy six weeks later.

Kevin O’Connell Speaks Highly of New Vikings QB — the Other One

And while everyone within the organization is high on McCarthy — he’s the quarterback of the future — head coach Kevin O’Connell made sure to sing Darnold’s praises, too.

Vikings QB
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Darnold inked a one-year deal worth up to $10 million in 2023, and he’s tentatively on tap to man QB1 duties until McCarthy is ready. However, the kicker is that O’Connell doesn’t necessarily view Darnold as a placeholder, patchover, and/or bridge quarterback. Many fans — and this website — label Darnold as precisely that, but O’Connell’s verbiage suggests otherwise.

“Just from a standpoint of his ability to absorb our offense, go out and execute with a lot of guys, when he steps into the huddle, he’s stepping in with guys that have been in this system for two years. And we’re not really slowing down from a standpoint of how we want to kind of install our offense,” O’Connell said about Darnold, 26, while chatting with Kay Adams.

Vikings QB
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McCarthy just turned 21 in January, and sometimes, quarterbacks that young watch and learn indefinitely. That may be the case for McCarthy, depending on Darnold’s performance.

O’Connell added, “Sam’s been great. The physical talent jumps out to me. His ability to throw the football. He’s really, really refined himself from a technique and fundamentals standpoint. Really playing with great balance and kind of the body position that elite quarterbacks tend to play with.”

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

Around the same time, 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.”

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports | Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports.

So, while the transition to McCarthy, at least for an honest-to-goodness trial at QB1, is inevitable, O’Connell might view the situation less black-and-white than most fans.

O’Connell is talking about Darnold exactly as he spoke about Kirk Cousins for two years. It’s all positive, with no placeholder adjectives.

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).

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