Rich Gannon Pounds the Table for One Viking’s Upside

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports.

The man used to play for the Minnesota Vikings — and now he has an opinion on a man who plays his position.

Rich Gannon Pounds the Table for One Viking’s Upside

He’s Rich Gannon, a former NFL MVP, and his thoughts on Vikings QB1 Sam Darnold recently turned heads.

Former Vikings QB Expects MIN
TennesseeTitans defensive end Jevon Kearse, right, sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon during first quarter action. The Titans won 21-14 before 66,357 fans at Adelphia Coliseum Dec. 9, 1999. Tennessee Titans Vs Oakland Raiders Football. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean, Nashville Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Darnold is on tap to start for Minnesota in September unless something drastically changes in July or August. The Vikings selected Minnesota’s J.J. McCarthy in April’s draft, but all signs point to the coaching staff easing the Wolverine into offensive operations, ensuring no rush to the bright lights of QB1. That’s where Darnold comes in — and Gannon is somewhat excited about it.

Gannon joined the Purple Insider podcast last week and sized up Darnold. “My overall assessment of Sam Darnold is that he’s an extremely talented player. He’s very athletic, he’s got good feet, he’s got a big-time arm, he can make all the throws,” Gannon explained. “He’s a young guy. He’s 26 years old. It’s stupid that he’s been in the league six years and he’s 26 years old.”

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) warms up on the field before facing the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, on East Rutherford. © Danielle Parhizkaran/, via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

For context, Gannon is absolutely perfect to opine on Darnold. Why? Well, Gannon’s career didn’t fully take off until age 34. With the Vikings, he performed in an average capacity and then bounced around the NFL until 1999, when the Las Vegas (Oakland) Raiders handed him the QB1 baton. Gannon was unlocked and later won an MVP.

Gannon also suggested Darnold’s would-be mindset: “If I get that opportunity and we start the season and we get off to a good start then I ain’t coming out, that’s my mindset. They don’t have to play JJ if we’re 7-2 then this is going to be my opportunity. If you’re Sam, that’s all you want. An opportunity to show people that I’m a different player and I’ve matured and developed into a quarterback who can be trusted. Reliable, dependable and consistent.”

Rich Gannon Has Almighty Comparison for Justin Jefferson
Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders (1999) Xxx Raiders Titans S Fbn USA CA. © ROBERT HANASHIRO via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

When Darnold last started in the NFL two years ago, he didn’t play poorly at all.

QB Rankings | 2022,
(min. 125 att)

  1. Patrick Mahomes (.178)
  2. Tua Tagovailoa (.148)
  3. Jalen Hurts (.143)
  4. Josh Allen (.137)
  5. Sam Darnold (.128)
  6. Jimmy Garoppolo (.128)
  7. Joe Burrow (.126)

Gannon also cautioned Darnold about turnovers, claiming that persistent fault of Darnold’s could be his career’s undoing.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Back in April, another former quarterback (one with a lesser resume than Gannon’s) seemed high on Darnold, too — David Carr, a former first overall pick. “I think as much ammo as the Vikings might have to be able to trade up in the draft, when you look at it, it’s almost like Sam Darnold is not a bad option,” Carr said before the draft.

Carr added, “I think offensively, when you look at the system that Minnesota is going to run, Sam can do a really good job, and he did a good job in San Francisco, and I think he would do a great job in Minnesota. So you’re not really in a situation where you have to stress, or you have to push the gas pedal down on this and make something happen.”

So, as the purple world awaits a long-term verdict on McCarthy’s upside — he will eventually take the QB1 job — some noteworthy former signal-callers are making sure folks don’t rule out Darnold’s reclamation.

The Vikings first regular season game is 75 days away.

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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