Sam Darnold Is the Vikings’ Starter. Full Stop.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

This is a slow time during the National Football League offseason, but that hasn’t stopped speculation running rampant about who will start for the Minnesota Vikings. Despite drafting quarterback J.J. McCarthy, it should have never been considered that anyone but Sam Darnold would be under center in Week 1, and that’s not a bad thing.

Sam Darnold Is the Vikings’ Starter. Full Stop.

When the Minnesota Vikings let Kirk Cousins take his talents to the Atlanta Falcons, the reasoning was to reset the quarterback position. In drafting J.J. McCarthy, Kevin O’Connell gets a prospect he can mold in his image, hoping that the Michigan product becomes a foundational piece for the franchise. That doesn’t need to happen right away, though, and that’s why Sam Darnold exists.

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.

Paid $10 million this season, Darnold was one of the hotter commodities on the free agent market when it came to bridge veteran quarterbacks. He wouldn’t command a premium salary, but he could play above the sample we have seen in the right situation. It’s hard to suggest there’s a better situation that was present than Minnesota, and now he’ll get a chance to prove it.

Despite highlights of McCarthy from early-offseason practices or different betting websites sliding odds on the Vikings starter, there has never been a point in which it wasn’t going to be Darnold. The rookie is coming to the pros from an offense that didn’t ask him to do a ton, and while he may be advanced, picking up O’Connell’s offense is one of the more difficult schemes in the league. Sitting and processing for at least a couple of weeks has always been part of the plan.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports | Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports.

Certainly, what McCarthy does during the preseason and training camp could influence how soon he sees the field. Darnold’s play, given his ideal scenario to finally make things work, will play into the situation as well. It’s hard to think of a non-doomsday scenario where McCarthy comes out of the tunnel as the starter for Week 1, though.

Of course, there is the baked-in bias that involves tape Darnold has already put together. He wasn’t good in stops with New York and Carolina, and it will take Minnesota a prove-it period to show that he’s a changed player. He should be expected to be given that time, though, and throwing McCarthy into the fire could very well produce the same results that the Vikings saw from their carousel a season ago.

Vikings QB
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports.

Unless something significantly jarring happens, Darnold is the starter, and it shouldn’t be seen as being close to controversial.

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.