One Bold Vikings Theory Dialed Back

Vikings
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings quarterback discussion has changed from “Who will start Week 1 — Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy?” to “When might McCarthy actually see the field, if at all, as a rookie?”

One Bold Vikings Theory Dialed Back

Indeed, Darnold appears poised to win the starter’s job this summer, while fans wonder when McCarthy might eventually get a crack at the first-team offense. Some, like KFAN’s Paul Allen, have been unafraid to offer bold predictions suggesting Darnold could take every single snap this season, hinting at a true redshirt year for McCarthy.

vikings
The Carolina Panthers arrive at Wofford College for their 2022 training camp. The team plans to host 12 training camp practices that are free and open to the public. This Saturday July 30, the team will hold the ‘Back Together’ event at Gibbs Stadium at the college. The Panthers’ Sam Darnold talks about working with his fellow players at training camp. © ALEX HICKS JR./SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL / USA TODAY NETWORK.

But this week, Bleacher Report poured cold water on the Darnold-every-game theory, telling its readers to sell stock pertaining to the theory. “There’s a chance Darnold rehabilitates his career thanks to the opportunity to work with elite receivers such as Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, but the cries for the Michigan product to take over will be heard quickly and loudly if the 27-year-old stumbles at all,” BR’s Alex Kay wrote about Darnold’s upside.

Darnold joined the Vikings in March about 12 hours after Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons. On paper, he’s a true patchover quarterback to McCarthy, not unlike Tyrod Taylor for Cleveland and Los Angeles in recent memory.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy at the first day of rookie minicamp on May 10th, 2024, in Eagan, Minnesota. TCO Performance Center. McCarthy was drafted by the Vikings with the 10th overall pick on April 25th, 2024, in Detroit.

“With a tough opening slate that includes a slew of strong defenses in the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets in the first five weeks, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Darnold benched in favor of McCarthy by the time the rival Detroit Lions come to town following Minnesota’s Week 6 bye,” Kay continued. “Verdict: Sell Darnold starting a full season for the Vikings.”

Meanwhile, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said last week during minicamp about Darnold, “We haven’t had to put out a depth chart or anything like that, but I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based on the spring he’s had and, really, where he’s at in his career and his quarterback journey, and what he’s been able to do coming in and [hitting] the ground running and taking advantage of the competitive situation.”

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.

That’s a surefire indicator that Darnold will start in September, with little to no fanfare about a summer battle between him and McCarthy.

And ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said about Darnold on SportsCenter last weekend, “The Vikings believe that there is untapped potential here, that there is a lot of ability. He’s never had a supporting cast quite like this. So, they believe he can not only start games but potentially thrive if everything goes well.”

“So, their plan would be to sit J.J. McCarthy to an unknown amount of games, whether it’s a full season, however many games that they believe he can learn a high-volume passing system behind the scenes at least for a little bit would be good for him,” Fowler added.

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports.

The verdict? Fully expect Darnold to take the baton out of the gate in 2024, but thinking he’ll remain the starter for 17 games should be reserved for the “bold prediction” category, at least according to Bleacher Report.

Vikings training camp gets underway in about a month.


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.