One Outfit Makes the Case for J.J. McCarthy in 2024

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

In late April, Minnesota Vikings wondered and debated, “Who will win the summer quarterback battle? Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy.”

One Outfit Makes the Case for J.J. McCarthy in 2024

Fast forward to midsummer, and the discussion has shapeshifted to, “Which midseason game will J.J. McCarthy see the field?”

J.J. McCarthy
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.

Indeed, Darnold seems to have a stranglehold on the QB1 job, at least as the Week 1 starter. The Vikings’ coaching staff is high on the journeyman former third-overall pick. But according to CBS Sports, McCarthy shouldn’t be ruled out of significant contributions as a rookie.

Defending McCarthy’s college resume and experience, CBS Sports‘ Chris Trapasso wrote more positively than most this week about the Wolverine’s upcoming rookie campaign.

“McCarthy is young, and I have faith in Minnesota’s brain trust. They’ll be smart with him. But this isn’t some green, inexperienced passer. He started 38 games at Michigan. And the physical capabilities jumped off the film, which speaks to why he was a top-12 selection in April,” Trapasso opined. “For as much as Kevin O’Connell will want his quarterback to strictly operate within his system, McCarthy has more natural talent, thereby giving O’Connell a thicker playbook theoretically.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota spent the 10th overall pick on McCarthy in April’s draft, the franchise’s highest quarterback selection in history.

Trapasso concluded, “And it’s not as if McCarthy operated some gimmicky system at Michigan under Jim Harbaugh. McCarthy should still start right around double-digit games in 2024, and even if you weren’t completely sold on his skill set, there’s no doubting the supporting cast in Minnesota is spectacular.”

new qb
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

During the draft lead-up, from February to April, many Vikings fans and national pundits envisioned the purple team targeting North Carolina’s Drake Maye. But then the New England Patriots didn’t trade out of their third pick, and Maye became a Patriot. The “knock” on Maye — at least at the time — was that he’d likely encounter a watch-and-learn redshirt year. Many called him “raw.”

Unlike Maye, McCarthy doesn’t have to be like that. Per the draft community and specifically Trapasso’s theory above, McCarthy can be considered more game-ready than most, thanks to Jim Harbaugh’s offense and tutelage at Michigan.

NFL Draft
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Kevin O’Connell, though, has stated Minnesota will gradually ease McCarthy into the mix.

O’Connell said a couple of weeks ago that 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. He said on SKOR North about McCarthy’s development earlier this month, “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.”

Overall, the takeaway is this: just because Darnold is trending to start against the Giants in 75 days does not mean McCarthy must sit for the entirety of 2024. It can truly be a patchover situation this season.

And it may not matter how well Darnold plays. That could be irrelevant.

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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