Sam Darnold Can Be This Year’s Baker Mayfield

Sam Darnold
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When the Minnesota Vikings passed on paying a boatload to Kirk Cousins, they did so because the alternative allowed them multiple ways to fill out the roster. In paying Sam Darnold $10 million and drafting a quarterback of the future, there’s a path for them to still win in 2024.

Sam Darnold Can Be This Year’s Baker Mayfield

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings opened with a Week 1 tilt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seen as the superior talent and playing the game at U.S. Bank Stadium, there was no expectation that the game would result in a loss. Except Baker Mayfield stepped up and controlled the contest to the point that the opposition wouldn’t be put in a place to lose.

Vegas Odds
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Fast forward to where the Vikings are this season, and the bar for former first-round pick Sam Darnold to clear is basically that of Mayfield. The Minnesota offense has enough playmakers that should make Darnold feel more supported than he has at any point in his career. Being able to get the ball in the hands of Justin Jefferson, Aaron Jones, Jordan Addison, and others is something that the failed Jets and Panther’s signal-caller has never seen.

The opportunity to invest in defense and draft a talent like Dallas Turner in the first round also makes that unit much more stout. Another season of Brian Flores working his magic should have the Vikings unit allowing fewer points and keeping the offense within striking distance when they get behind.

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At this point, the NFL is an offensive league, and putting up passing stats is how you win ballgames. Baker Mayfield is not an exceptional talent by any means, and he blueprinted the path for Darnold to take this season just a year ago. Getting $100 million to come back for Tampa Bay suggests that his employer was plenty happy with the performance, and despite having flopped previously, he still comes out on top.

There’s no reason for Minnesota to play J.J. McCarthy until he’s absolutely ready. If Darnold can show a level of competence that wins games or has his squad in them, then he should continue to be given every opportunity to show up as the starter on Sundays. A change of scenery is enough reason to believe it could happen in this spot, and there would be nothing wrong with that outcome from Darnold, McCarthy, or Minnesota as a whole.

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Being as good as Baker Mayfield doesn’t seem like a significant bar to clear, but that’s where we are. Geno Smith did it the year before, and others have also flashed in small sample sizes. Your turn, Mr. Darnold.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.