The F-Word — Not That One — Is Popping Up for Vikings Again

purple rumor mill
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) signs autographs during the national championship celebration at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Heading into the 2024 NFL Draft, where the Minnesota Vikings headlined the event with selections of quarterback J.J. McCarthy and outside linebacker Dallas Turner, the purple team’s leadership emphasized “flexibility” as a keynote perk.

The F-Word — Not That One — Is Popping Up for Vikings Again

On March 15th, Minnesota executed an out-of-nowhere pre-draft trade, grabbing an additional 1st-Round pick from the Houston Texans while offloading two 2nd-Rounders in the deal, plus a late-round pick swap. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah then held the 11th and 23rd picks in the draft. After two more trades, Adofo-Mensah landed McCarthy and Turner. Because of the deal with Houston, Adofo-Mensah and Vikings’ ownership commented on flexibility during the pre-draft process.

Minnesota 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.

Now, that term is back, this time regarding the starting quarterback in 2024. Minnesota has the flexibility to roll with Sam Darnold, who joined the franchise about 12 hours after Kirk Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons, or let her rip with McCarthy out the gate in September, not unlike those same Texans with C.J. Stroud in 2023.’s Albert Breer uplifted Minnesota’s QB1 flexibility this week: “Not for nothing, I think the Vikings are pretty comfortable with Sam Darnold playing quarterback, which gives them flexibility with J.J. McCarthy. I’d also expect that Kevin O’Connell will have a detailed set of markers for McCarthy to hit as he tries to compete to become the starter.”

Sam Darnold
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

The New York Jets drafted Darnold with the third overall pick in 2018, but the man never took hold in The Big Apple, later bouncing around to the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers — with limited success.

“So if he does, that’s great news for the team. And if he hits the normal rookie speedbumps, that’s O.K. too, with Darnold in tow,” Breer concluded about Minnesota’s evolving QB1 decision. Generally speaking, McCarthy still has a long way to go before taking the QB1 scepter in September. However, the idea is gaining more traction by the day.

The Voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen, said about McCarthy on his Nine to Noon program this week: “I’m starting to learn more about him from other people who know more about it than me and us, or putting in my own work, I’m just, I’m really, really excited about him. And I’m also not willing, I’m not gonna put a percentage on it, but, you know, I’m not, I’m closer to believing that he can play game one against whomever than I was, say, last week.”

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

There’s also the off-chance that Darnold soars in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. Since he signed on Minnesota’s dotted line, optimists have maintained that Darnold could be sitting on Baker Mayfield-like reclamation in 2024, especially in a system that is kind to quarterbacks. It helps to have Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, Aaron Jones, T.J. Hockenson, Christian Darrisaw, and Brian O’Neill on the depth chart.

Right after the draft, ESPN claimed that Minnesota had a specific plan awaiting McCarthy. “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.

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports.

Above all else, the Vikings will tout flexibility this summer — basically waiting to see when McCarthy is ready for the bright lights.

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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